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    Famous 1936 Proof Set With
    Brilliant Finish Cent and Nickel

    1936 Five-Piece Proof Set NGC. William Woodin, first Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is the most famous coin collector associated with that administration, but another, more behind-the-scenes player also had considerable impact on the story of American coinage. Louis McHenry Howe, a reporter turned FDR campaign manager who became the president's personal secretary and ultimate confidant, spent nearly the last eight months of his life hospital-bound, yet remained a meaningful influence.
    Howe may be little-remembered outside historical and political-science circles, but a near-contemporary document makes his power clear. The June 1936 edition of The Numismatist quotes a "press dispatch" discussing the return of proof coinage: "Secretary [of the Treasury Henry] Morgenthau has announced he had authorized the mint to resume the practice of issuing "proof" coins ... It was understood at the Treasury that the resumption of such minting was ordered on a suggestion of Louis M. Howe, secretary to President Roosevelt, a few weeks before his death."
    What Howe wanted was made so, but collectors, not having learned their lesson from two decades earlier, immediately complained about the satiny finish found on the early runs of proof cents and nickels, prompting the editor of The Numismatist to write to the Mint about the newly restarted proof striking process. Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross replied, forwarding information from the Superintendent of the Mint. Her reply appeared in the July 1936 edition of The Numismatist. The Barber silver and Liberty gold denominations' dies had been prepared by "basining" the fields; as expressed by Ross, "the field was polished to a perfect radius on a revolving disc," creating strong "definition between motif and field."
    By contrast, "All the present coins [i.e. coins current in 1936] are made from sculptured models without retouching with a graver in any way ... This gives a more or less uneven background with less sharpness in the details." Further, "With the present coins, the models were never prepared with the intention of 'basining' and it could not be done without many radical alterations to the present design."
    The Director's statements notwithstanding, brilliant proofs did come about later in the year, creating two distinct varieties for proof cents and nickels. David Lange writes in his Complete Guide to Mercury Dimes that while both satin and brilliant proof dimes were struck in 1936, the satin pieces are both rare and rarely distinguished from their brilliant peers: "Since silver is among the more reflective of metals, the visible difference between satin proofs and brilliant proofs is too subtle for the hobby to make an official distinction."
    A last important note is that starting with 1936, the various proof denominations were offered individually, with each piece commanding its own premium. Whereas pre-1936 proof coins had matching mintages or nearly so, the mix-and-match nature of proof ordering in 1936 resulted in disparate production: 5,569 proof cents were struck versus 5,769 nickels, 4,130 dimes, 3,837 quarters, and 3,901 halves. The quarter's mintage of 3,837 specimens places a hard cap on the number of possible five-coin proof sets issued.

    1936 Brilliant Finish Cent PR64 Red. This coin's bright copper-orange surfaces also show a slight lemon cast. Decisively detailed with only a few stray hairlines accounting for the grade.

    1936 Brilliant Finish Nickel PR66. Faint blue and lavender toning elements over otherwise pale nickel-gray surfaces. An exquisitely struck and carefully preserved specimen with remarkable visual appeal.

    1936 Dime PR65. Exactingly struck with gleaming mirrors, this Gem proof offers outstanding eye appeal. Green-gold toning elements stick largely to the rims, leaving the centers minimally toned.

    1936 Quarter PR64. Echoes of pale green-gold toning visit the rims, but the centers are bright silver-white on this first-year Washington quarter specimen. Decisively detailed and thoroughly appealing, though light hairlines preclude a finer designation.

    1936 Half PR64. Both sides show appreciable contrast, though not enough for a Cameo designation. Strongly mirrored, faintly hairlined surfaces are silver-white save for dots of rose and sage that are present close to the rims.
    From The Boca Collection, Part One.

    View all of [The Boca Collection, Part I ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2010
    6th-10th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 20
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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