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1876 Three Dollar Gold, PR64 Cameo
Famed 19th Century Proof-Only Rarity

1876 $3 PR64 Cameo NGC. CAC. The 1876 three dollar has been the source of much misinformation when one reads what was written about it shortly after striking and until recent decades. Scholarship, mostly done by Harry Bass, has greatly advanced our understanding of this enigmatic date. However, one thing has not changed: It is a proof-only issue. All else seems to have come under question, including the mintage and restrikes.
The official mintage was 45 proofs, delivered on February 19 and June 13. Prior to third-party grading and the population data each certification company published, dealers and auctioneers knew the mintage could not tell the entire story, because 1876 threes turned up more often than the mintage would indicate. Today we know the combined population data from PCGS and NGC is 70 pieces as non-Cameo, Cameo, and Deep/Ultra Cameo. When the inevitable resubmissions are factored out, one must conclude that the mintage was more than the officially stated 45 pieces.
Even though Walter Breen stated in his 1977 proof Encyclopedia: "No rumor of restrikes" this is an obvious error. From close examination of 1876 proof threes Harry Bass concluded there were two die states of one set of dies, coins he called originals, and there was another different set of dies employed for other pieces, called restrikes.
Using Bass' notes, we conclude that the present piece is from the second original striking period, with slight evidence of die rust on the neck of Liberty. The field-to-device contrast is immediately apparent on each side of the orange-gold surfaces. We see no singular contact marks that might aid in tracing the pedigree of this rarity.
Akers states the 45 proofs officially struck were for inclusion in gold proof sets for the year. The possibility that a small but unknown number were produced at a later date does not alter the 1876's desirability or collectability, as there are no circulation strikes. How many proofs were struck will probably never be known, but it is generally believed that between 45 and 60 individual coins exist today. No studies have been done regarding the relative availability of originals vs. restrikes. (Indeed, the rarity of this date precludes such a study.) The importance of this issue was not lost on collectors in the late 19th century, and it will once again be reaffirmed with the offering of this impressive coin. Census: 11 in 64 Cameo, 7 finer (12/10).
From The Henry Miller Collection.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 28AJ, PCGS# 88040)

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Auction Dates
January, 2011
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 11
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