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1839-O 10C No Drapery SP65 NGC. Fortin-106....

2012 October 18-21 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas #1175

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Auction Ended On: Oct 18, 2012
Item Activity: 8 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Dallas Convention Center
650 S. Griffin Street
Dallas, TX 75202


1839-O Branch Mint Proof Dime
No Drapery, Large O, Fortin-106, SP65
Early State of 'Shattered Cobweb' Reverse
1839-O 10C No Drapery SP65 NGC. Fortin-106. Large O. This is our second time handling this piece, truly an enigmatic coin. It is much easier to state what we do not know about this apparently unique striking than what we do know. It is not mentioned in the Greer reference (1992) on Seated dimes. It is also only obliquely mentioned in the 1989 Breen proof Encyclopedia: "WGC:675. Unseen, die variety data lacking, unconfirmed." The fact that Walter Breen never saw this piece in his 40-plus years as the preeminent numismatic scholar in America tells us this coin must have been in strong collector hands for many years.
What is known about this piece is the above reference from Abe Kosoff's 1945 "World's Greatest Collection." The dimes were listed by mint. Under NEW ORLEANS MINT (1838-1909), lot 675 simply reads: "1839. K.1. Perfect die. Proof." It brought $19 on an estimate of $22.50.
Examination of the coin itself speaks volumes. The die pairing is one known for business strikes as well, the Fortin-106, with the obverse showing repunching on star 1 and, blatantly, on star 5. A die crack runs from Liberty's head to star 8 to the cap and from stars 9 through 11. The reverse die shows an early state of what specialists would call in later states (Fortin-106a) the "Shattered Cobweb" reverse, with a faint, branching crack showing through the right stem end, part running left, part running down, while other faint cracks appear at S OF A. The devices are fully defined on each side. While this might be considered a given on a proof (Specimen) coin, in 1839 it was not always the case. The fields are deeply mirrored throughout and show evidence of extensive die polishing. This is less obvious on the obverse, but the reverse displays numerous heavy die striations.
While many branch mint proofs were struck for a special occasion, there is no obvious commemoration associated with this coin. The Fortin-106 die combination is fairly common on business strikes, and this piece is certainly not among the first struck. This is consistent, however, with other branch mint proofs examined. Branch mint personnel were not familiar with the proofing process. When asked, they produced coins they thought resembled their Philadelphia counterparts. Close examination, such as that done by today's numismatists, can discern these differences, but at the time of manufacture what was important was intent. Did the New Orleans Mint intend to produce a special coin? Clearly it did. It is obvious from proofs struck in the Philadelphia Mint during this same time period that the personnel there would have polished away the die cracks. But quality control in New Orleans never approached that in the Mother Mint, and it appears that die cracks were only a problem when they impaired further use of the die.
The surfaces are toned deep blue and gray with reddish undertones. The fields flash forcefully through the layers of toning on each side. Numerous crisscrossing striations account for the brightness in the fields on each side. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this New Orleans Mint proof. Collectors of branch mint proofs and Seated dimes will both need this piece, and, as in its last offering at Heritage, we predict a surprisingly high price when it is sold.
Ex: Dallas Signature (Heritage, 10/2008), lot 542, which brought $74,750.
From The Greensboro Collection, Part I.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 237Y, PCGS# 4572)

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