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    Charming 1859 Silver-Minor Proof Set

    1859 7-Piece Proof Set NGC. Mint Director Snowden assumed that the plethora of new collectors in America would result in a ready market for proof sets. Thus 1859 was the first year of serious proof coinage, which showed significant increases over previous years. The 2010 Guide Book lists a proof mintage of 800 pieces each for the 1859 cent through silver dollar denominations. This compares with 300 coins each for the 1858 cent, half dime, quarter, and silver dollar, and 300+ pieces each for the 1858 dime and half dollar. The Guide Book gives a mintage of 80 coins for each of the six 1859 proof gold denominations. The mintage of proof gold prior to 1859 is unknown.
    The demand for proof coins in 1859 did not match the relatively large mintages. A recent article posted on the Web by American Gold Exchange says of the proof gold coins: "Most of the 80 proof sets were melted, as only a dozen or so actually sold." As might be expected from these figures, 1859 proof gold coins are rare. Silver-minor proof coinages, despite the relatively high mintages, apparently fared little better and are quite scarce in their own right.

    1859 Cent PR64.
    The 1859 copper-nickel Indian Head cent with a laurel wreath reverse is a one-year type. Proof examples especially are under high demand by type collectors. Highly attractive golden-tan coloration adorns this near-Gem specimen, and a well executed strike delivers virtually complete detail to the design elements. Rotating the coin ever so slightly beneath a light source results in stunning contrast between the fields and devices. Scattered reverse flecks preclude Gem designation. Census: 78 in 64, 53 finer (10/09).

    1859 Three Cent Silver PR65.
    This was the first year of the Type Three three cent silver design type (1859-1873). It features two outlines on the obverse star instead of the three of the previous design type. A medley of electric-blue, lavender, and orange-gold toning bathes the obverse of this exquisitely struck Gem, while yellow-gold patination dominates the reverse. Luminous surfaces are flawless and loaded with charming eye appeal. Census: 21 in 65, 11 finer (10/09).

    1859 Half Dime PR63.
    The 1 and 9 of this Select specimen show strong repunching at their bases, the 8 and 5 only slight repunching at bases. Also, the pendant is centered between the 5 and 9, and the shield points to the flag of the 5. This variety is likely V-3 as described by Al Blythe in The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dimes. Blythe writes of the V-3: "Repolishing of the die caused only the 1 and 9's bases to show, with even these eventually disappearing."
    Delicate apple-green and violet patina covers both obverse and reverse, and is slightly deeper on the former. The design elements exhibit crisp definition, including Liberty's head and foot, the shield and stars, and the leaf ribbing. The surface reflectivity is somewhat subdued on both sides.

    1859 Dime PR67 ★ Cameo.
    NGC has assigned the Star designation to only four 1859 Cameo proof dimes--two Superb Gems, including the one in this set--and two Premium Gems. Exceptionally mirrored fields highlight the frosty devices, and gorgeous cobalt-blue, lavender, and orange-tan patination in the fields further accentuate the silver-white central motif on the obverse, while dappled violet and sky-blue colors run over the reverse. Immaculately preserved surfaces reveal some small die-polish areas on the left (facing) arm. This coin has phenomenal overall eye appeal.

    1859 Quarter PR64.
    Breen-4018. Type One obverse and reverse, which Walter Breen in his Complete Encyclopedia describes as very rare. The variety is attributed by a single hair ribbon, nearly straight fingers on pole, no vertical shield lines above the E in LIBERTY, a hollow or concave eagle's eye, and closed claws.
    Warm aqua-green and bluish-purple toning decorates the obverse while soft cobalt-blue and beige visit the reverse. The rims are squared-off and feature bold dentilation; likewise, the remaining design motifs are fully delineated. Impeccably preserved surfaces reveal a faint unobtrusive linear field mark above the left (facing) wing.

    1859 Half Dollar PR63 Cameo.
    Breen-4888. Type One Reverse. The tops of LF in HALF are close and the arrowheads are large. Breen contends many proofs were melted as unsold.
    Cameo contrast is evident at all angles of observation and a powerful strike imparts razor-sharp definition to all of the design elements. Soft violet patina and reddish-brown freckles concentrate in the right obverse field while deeper violet occurs around the lower and right reverse margin. Wispy handling marks in the obverse fields limit the grade. Census: 3 in 64 Cameo, 12 finer (10/09).

    1859 Dollar PR64.
    Discussing the 800-piece 1859 proof silver dollar in his Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States, David Bowers writes:

    "... today the issue is quite rare, and it is likely that 450 or fewer were actually distributed. Even that figure might be on the high side. There were hardly 450 numismatists in 1859 interested in buying Proof dollars from the Mint. However, enough survive today to indicate that 450 is a reasonable estimate of distribution. "


    Along a similar vein, Breen, in his Complete Encyclopedia, opines that many 1859 silver dollars were melted as unsold.
    The broad rims and sharp dentils on this near-Gem complement the exquisitely struck design features, and reddish-gold and sky-blue peripheral toning is more extensive and displays deeper hues on the obverse. Fine hairlines in the obverse fields barely deny the attainment of Gem classification. The base of the 1 in the date is repunched. Census: 41 in 64, 37 finer (10/09).
    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: 17
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