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    Memorable 1857 Silver-Minor Proof Set

    1857 9-Piece Proof Set NGC. Mintage figures for 1857 proof coinage, as with all proofs made prior to 1858, are unknown but certainly small for most denominations. The Flying Eagle cent is the only 1857 proof that the Guide Book gives a mintage for: 485 pieces. Even this estimate must be considered highly suspect, as Richard Snow (2006) indicates: "Perhaps no more than 50 were struck." NGC/PCGS population data are probably more reliable than mintage estimates. The two services have to date (11/09) certified a little more than 90 1857 proof small cents, some of which are undoubtedly resubmitted or crossed-over coins.
    We can provide more definitive information on the rarity of some of the silver proof issues on which we have conducted research. For example, while Al Blythe (1992) estimates 16 to 20 1857 proof half dimes are known, we would put an estimate of perhaps 30 to 40 pieces. For the 1857 proof dime, we suggest that about 20 to 25 pieces are extant; for the proof quarter between 15 and 50 specimens; and 25 to 40 or possibly as many 45 examples of the half dollar. David Bowers' (2006) estimate of 30 to 50 extant 1857 proof dollars is probably on target.
    Walter Breen (1977) writes that early silver-minor proof sets of 1857 contained the half cent and large copper cent. He says that they must have been made up in January, as that is when the copper coins were manufactured. These early sets would not have included the 1857 proof small cent.
    David Bowers, in his Flying Eagle and Indian Cents Buyer's Guide, writes of the 1857 proof small cent that: "The known proofs of 1857 are with the (new) Style of 1857 letters." This new letter-style was initiated in a May 27, 1857 letter from contractor Anthony Paquet (appointed assistant engraver in October of that year) to Mint Director Snowden asking for approval of the new punches. It may be deduced from this that any silver-minor proof sets containing the 1857 small cent must have been minted after this date. Moreover, as Bowers, Breen, and Snow all estimate the mintage of 1857 Flying Eagle proof cent to be around 50 pieces, the number of proof sets made after May was probably around the same number.

    1857 Half Cent PR64 Brown. Cohen-1, Breen-2.
    Breen writes in his half cent Encyclopedia: "Reverse B (First Restrikes) is the die found on most proof half cents dated 1856 and 1857." It is identified by double impressions on the right side of CENT and the ribbon. The outline of T in CENT is distorted, its upright sloping down to the right, its right foot elongated. Spurs are also visible within the M and R of AMERICA, and the top of the crossbar in E is doubled. Breen assigns this proof a Rarity 4.
    Bluish-purple patination covers most of Liberty's portrait ceding to yellowish-green in the fields. Sky-blue, purple, and yellow-green colors run over the reverse. The design elements are exquisitely defined, and close inspection reveals no mentionable contact marks or flecks. Census: 12 in 64 Brown for the issue, 6 finer (11/09).

    1857 Cent PR65 Brown. N-3.
    The strong, slightly curved line up to the right on the bust with a weaker vertical line down from its right end, and defects at the right top of the E in ONE and under the serif of its crossbar confirm the N-3 variety. John Grellman in his The Die Varieties of United States Large Cents gives this proof-only variety a low R.5 rarity rating.
    Breathtaking patination consists of a melange of yellow-green, orange, aqua-green, faded red, lavender, and reddish-orange, joined by a splash of light blue on the central obverse. Reflective fields highlight the crisply defined motifs when the coin is tilted slightly under a light source. No blemishes are evident, though a moderate-size spot is visible beneath Liberty's ear. Census: 5 in 65 Brown for the issue, 6 finer (11/09).

    1857 Flying Eagle Cent PR62 Cameo.
    As mentioned by Bowers in the introduction above, all known 1857 small cent proofs are with the "new" Style of 1857 letters. This style differs from that of 1856 in the following ways: the bases of A and M in AMERICA are solidly connected, the center serif of E is not connected to the upper arm of that letter, and the outer edge of the diagonal in N of UNITED is perfect instead of being notched toward the bottom as in the Style of 1856.
    Both sides of this PR62 Cameo specimen yield soft bluish-gold in the fields accented with slightly deeper golden-tan, which is also the color of the motifs. This subtle variance in color palette serves to further enhance the contrast between the mirrored fields and the mildly frosted, boldly impressed devices. Faint hairlines in the fields are all that stand in the way of a higher numerical grade. One of only five proofs certified as Cameo by NGC (11/09).

    1857 Three Cent Silver PR65.
    A medley of medium intensity bluish-purple, gold, sky-blue, and apple-green bathes the luminous surfaces of this Gem, and a powerful strike delivers crisp definition to the design elements. The shield, leaf ribbing, and arrow feathers are fully delineated. Only a couple of radial lines on, and outlines to, the prominent star are slightly less than complete. Both sides are impeccably preserved. Census: 13 in 65, 8 finer (11/09).

    1857 Half Dime PR64.
    Breen (1977) indicates that the only Valentine variety "ordinarily encountered" in proof is V-3, which shows the shield point over the left upright of 1 in the date, the skirt pendant over the right tip of 5, and a dent on the inner point of star 3.
    Splashes of cobalt-blue, lime-green, violet, bluish-purple, and orange toning adorn each side of this gorgeous near-Gem. The design elements are exceeding well brought up, including the foot-sandal separation and the reverse leaf ribbing. Both faces have been well cared for. A light U-shaped lint mark connects the inner points of stars 2 and 4. Census: 8 in 64, 13 finer (11/09).

    1857 Dime PR64.
    Soft golden-orange and champagne patina dominates each side of this lovely near-Gem, displaying lavender and electric-blue accents around the obverse margin. A sharp strike characterizes the design features, and close inspection reveals just a few trivial handling marks that barely preclude Gem classification. Census: 11 in 64, 15 finer (11/09).

    1857 Quarter PR65.
    Splashes of cobalt-blue, lavender, and gold-orange toning occupy the lower and left obverse fields, ceding to light champagne-gold over the remaining obverse and on the reverse, which is accented with occasional dapples of reddish-gold and bluish-purple at the margins. The design elements are exquisitely defined and stand out against the reflective fields at various angles. A handful of grade-consistent reverse marks is undisturbing. Census: 5 in 65, 3 finer (11/09).

    1857 Half Dollar PR62.
    Golden-tan patina resides in the obverse fields flanked by deeper violet, purple, and gold-brown at the peripheries. Liberty's portrait displays a brighter silver-violet appearance. Aqua-green, sky-blue, orange-tan, and lime-green run over the reverse. A solid strike brings out sharp definition on the design elements, including Liberty's hair and foot-sandal delineation. Only the left (facing) eagle's leg and claw reveal minor softness. Faint wispy handling marks limit the numerical grade.

    1857 Silver Dollar PR63.
    David Bowers, in Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States, writes that at least two pairs of dies were used to strike proof dollars in 1857. The current offering displays a "beard" below Liberty's chin, and the shield point right of the left upright of the 1 in the date. The reverse, according to Bowers, is from the die used in 1854 and 1856 and shows die rust on the L in DOL.
    Champagne patina dominates both sides of this Select specimen, accented with whispers of soft sky-blue and tan-purple. A well executed strike emboldens the design features that exhibit a degree of contrast with the mirrored fields, especially on the reverse. Close inspection reveals no mentionable abrasions, just a few inoffensive hairlines that mingle with die polish lines in the fields.
    From The Boca Collection, Part One.


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Boca Collection, Part I ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2010
    6th-10th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 23
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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