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Description

Legendary Proof-Only 1875 Three Dollar Gold Piece, The Single Finest Certified Example

1875 $3 PR 65 PCGS. No business strike three dollar gold pieces were produced in 1875, but Mint records indicate that 20 proofs were produced, probably for inclusion in proof sets. According to Breen (1977), these coins were delivered on or before February 13, 1875. The author also states that he and Wayte Raymond were able to trace 31 different representatives of this proof issue. The answer for this is simple (at least in Breen's mind): the Philadelphia Mint produced an unknown number of restrikes at a later date to satisfy collector demand. After all, such activity was not uncommon in the U.S. Mint of the late 19th century. Per Breen, the diagnostics of the originals are:

1. Microscopic die scratch from the upper left serif of the F in OF.
2. Lower half of the first S in STATES filled.
3. Well formed leaves at both sides of the date.
4. Heavy point on bottom of upper serif on S in DOLLARS.
5. Microscopic lump on the outer curve of the S in DOLLARS.
6. Extra outline within the 3 in the denomination.
7. Die scratch running through the reverse denticles above the two maple leaves in the upper right side of the wreath.
8. Left bow mostly filled.
9. Right bow clear.
10. Sharp striking definition over the bottom of the wreath.

The present example displays all of these features. For comparison purposes, however, we also include Breen's diagnostics for the restrikes:

1. Prominent rust pits around the OL in DOLLAR.
2. Lower wreath softly defined.
3. Extra outlines on the 3 in the denomination, as well as on the right ribbon and the right side of the wreath.

It is also interesting to note that Paul F. Taglione, in his 1986 book A Reference to United States Federal Gold Coinage, disagrees with Breen's theory concerning the restrike 1875 three dollar gold pieces. In his opinion, these coins may have been struck at a later date in 1875 and simply not included in the Mint's records. David Akers agrees with Taglione, as does Bowers in his catalog description for the Eliasberg specimen that sold in the United States Gold Collection (10/82), lot 301. We leave it to the bidder to decide if Breen's diagnostics differentiate between two die varieties of the originals, or whether they distinguish originals from restrikes.
The number of surviving examples of this issue is approximately 31-33 coins. We have been unsuccessful in tracing the pedigree of the present example. We do know that two proof 1875 three dollar gold pieces are impounded in museums, specifically the Smithsonian Institute and the ANS Museum. We also know that this coin is not the aforementioned Eliasberg specimen or the Byron Reed example (Spink, 10/96, lot 174). We know of several other examples that Stack's handled in such auctions as the Delta Sale (9/61, lot 244), the Samuel Wolfson Collection (10/62, lot 303), the R.L. Miles, Jr. Collection (10/68, lot 294), and the Theodore Ullmer Collection (5/74, lot 421). Unfortunately, the quality of photography in these catalogs is such that we cannot accurately compare those coins to the present Gem.
NGC and PCGS have certified only nine examples of this rare issue in grades that range from PR 45 through PR 65 (10/00). This is the single finest coin known to both grading services, and it is a special coin. The thickly frosted devices are set against a backdrop of mirrored reflectivity in the fields. The color is a deeply set, reddish-gold hue, and the strike is expectantly bold for the die variety. There are no noticeable post-production distractions on either side. Pedigree purposes compel us to mention the following small planchet voids in the reverse field: below the S in DOLLARS; and to the left of the date near the wreath. Over the past decade, we have offered only one other 1875 three dollar gold piece, a PR 64 Cameo NGC specimen. That coin realized $83,375 as lot 6412 in our 1998 ANA National Money Sale.
From the Mike Crudginton Collection. (NGC ID# 28AH, PCGS# 8039)

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Auction Dates
January, 2001
4th-6th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 1
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