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    Magnificent 1861 7-Piece Proof Set

    1861 7-Piece Proof Set NGC. In 1861, President Lincoln appointed James Pollock director of the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Prior to this appointment, Pollock was chairman of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Washington Peace Convention, which unfortunately failed to prevent the Civil War. He served as mint director from 1861 to 1866 and then was reappointed by President Grant in 1869. From 1873 to 1879, he served as superintendent of the Mint when that agency became part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
    Pollock's leadership at the Mint led to the adoption of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on U. S. coins, which coincided with increased religious sentiment during the Civil War. The initial impetus for the motto apparently emanates from a November 1861 letter from Reverend M.R. Watkinson, Minister of the gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase urging the recognition of the Deity on United States coins. Regardless of who should receive credit for the inscription of the motto, we know that it first appeared on the two cent piece in 1864.
    All 1861 silver-minor proof coins from cents to half dollars saw the same 1,000-piece mintage as in 1860. Silver dollar proof production declined from 1,330 pieces in 1860 to 1,000 coins in 1861.
    Walter Breen writes in his 1977 proof Encyclopedia that all 1,000 silver-minor proof sets were struck April 15. He also contends that: "Probably only three to four hundred in all sold as sets, others as individual coins, the remainder (at least 600 sets, per R.W. Julian) melted in 1862."

    1861 Cent PR65.
    Most of the original 1,000-piece 1861 proof cent mintage was apparently unsold and may have been melted or simply released into circulation. Indeed, Richard Snow, in his 2009 Guide Book of Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents, says: "This is the key date in the Proof series, partly due to low mintage, but also because of poor quality of the dies and poor striking quality." Moreover, it is in high demand because of the relatively low business strike mintage (10.1 million, the lowest of the Type Two Indian Head series).
    This Gem specimen reveals no visible planchet flaws or issues resulting from worn dies. The design elements exhibit a sharp strike, including crispness on all four diamonds and most of the reverse wreath. The feather tips, however, are just a tad soft. Golden-tan surfaces are devoid of marks or flecks, and what appears to be a small strikethrough is noted at 7:00 on the obverse rim. Census: 19 in 65, 6 finer (11/09).

    1861 Three Cent Silver PR66.
    Breen (1977) writing of the 1861 proof trime says that: "... survivors are only a minority of the original mintage (1,000 pieces). Fewer known than of 1862 and later years despite the mintage."
    This Premium Gem is exquisitely impressed, including fullness on the radials and outlines of the prominent star. Blushes of gunmetal-blue, lavender, yellow-gold, and powder-blue cover the obverse, while the same color palette gravitates to the reverse border, leaving the center color free. Impeccably preserved and revealing great eye appeal. Census: 8 in 66, 4 finer (11/09).

    1861 Half Dime PR64.
    Variegated blue, gold, orange, and bluish-gray take on slightly deeper hues on the reverse of this near-Gem. A well directed strike leaves strong definition on the devices that are accentuated on the obverse by the semireflective fields. Reverse reflectivity is subdued by the depth of the toning. There are no contact marks worthy of note.

    1861 Dime PR64.
    Breen (1977) implies two varieties of 1861 proof dimes. The example in this set lacks a rust pit on the I of UNITED but displays this feature on the right upright of the M in DIME.
    Soft cobalt-blue and lavender patination covers the obverse of this near-Gem, while the same colors are joined by purple and deep bluish-purple on the reverse center. The design elements show excellent detail, save for softness in the upper left wreath. The obverse displays more field-motif contrast. Light obverse marks deny Gem status.

    1861 Quarter PR65.
    Larry Briggs opines in his Encyclopedia of Liberty Seated Quarters that 600 or more of the proof quarters struck in 1861 were melted.
    Russet, lilac, and golden-tan freckles cascade over the delicately colored cobalt-blue obverse while deeper sky-blue and orange-gold reside on the reverse of this attractive Gem. Sharply struck design motifs and well cared for surfaces round out the coin's pleasing eye appeal. A solitary small mark on Liberty's left (facing) arm is mentioned solely for identifying the coin. Census: 13 in 65, 10 finer (11/09).

    1861 Half Dollar PR64.
    Bright aqua-blue clings to the margins of both sides and outlines Liberty's portrait and the stars. Champagne-silver dominates the central areas on both obverse and reverse along with lavender accents, and an exacting strike imparts strong definition to the design elements. Wispy handling marks preclude the attainment of Gem designation.

    1861 Dollar PR65.
    David Bowers, in his 1993 Silver Dollars treatise, says of the 1,000 proof dollars minted in 1861: "... it is believed that only about 350 were ever sold." He goes on to write: "Today, 1861 Proof dollars are very elusive. Not only was the distribution low ... but those sold seem to have had an unusually high attrition rate."
    Delicate sky-blue, golden-brown, lavender, and grayish-tan visit the obverse of this gorgeous Gem, while soft silver-gray dominates the reverse. A sharp strike uniformly graces the design elements, and impeccable preservation characterizes both sides. These attributes combine to generate magnificent eye appeal.
    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
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