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Seldom-Seen Gem Proof Ultra Cameo
1877 Three Dollar Gold

1877 $3 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. The 1877 three dollar gold occupies a chronological position within the series about two-thirds of the way towards the end, but the proof mintage of 20 pieces (according to the Guide Book and Garrett-Guth) was nonetheless among the lowest in the series, at least for the post-1858 coins.
The 1877 proof threes are an issue that apparently has stirred, if not controversy, at a minimum disagreement among some of the leading numismatic researchers. In a nutshell, Garrett and Guth argue that only 20 proofs were struck, all from a single obverse die, in two deliveries of 10 pieces each, one on February 24 and one on May 31, "all from the same die pair. Later versions show evidence of die rust on the obverse. Proofs ave a very low date compared to the nearly centered date on circulation strikes."
An opposing view is put forth by Q. David Bowers and Doug Winter, who write that "two obverse dies were used. On one, less than 50% of the J.B.L. initials are visible on the neck truncation, and there is no evidence of rust. The other obverse die, with a rust spot below Miss Liberty's ear and a 'teardrop' near the eye was used to coin Proofs of 1877 to 1880." Bowers and Winter posit a total proof production of 30 pieces, including the later restrikes from the apparently different (rusted) die.
In either scenario, however, the 1877 proof threes turn out to be remarkably rare, especially in the high grade of the present Gem Ultra Cameo proof. Even the circulation strike threes of 1877 are rare; Bowers writes that "of all circulation strike issues in the $3 series (excluding 1870-S) the 1877 in Mint State has appeared less often in early auction catalogs."
This Gem Ultra Cameo proof is the sole such certified at NGC, although there is one finer in PR66 Ultra Cameo. There is an obvious rust spot on Liberty's lower hair which would intersect a line drawn from the E in UNITED to C in AMERICA, and some other small rust spots appear elsewhere on the portrait. The initials JBL are largely discernible. Blatant cameo contrast prevails on orange-gold surfaces that seem free of distractions. Even in this complete 1877 proof set sold as individual lots, this piece stands out as a coin of remarkable quality.
From The Dr. James Olsen Collection.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28AK, PCGS# 98041)

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Auction Dates
January, 2013
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