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    1878 Half Eagle, PR65 Cameo
    Only 20 Examples Struck
    Ex: Kaufman-Trompeter

    1878 $5 PR65 Cameo PCGS. The U.S. government suspended specie payments in 1861, due to widespread hoarding of precious metal coinage and other economic stresses brought on by the Civil War. Specie payments were not resumed until January 1, 1879, meaning that the government would not exchange gold coins for paper money for almost two decades. During this period, collectors had to pay for gold proof sets with other gold coins, which they could only obtain by purchasing them from banks or bullion brokers at a steep premium. The Mint also instituted a proofing charge in 1860 and proof sets were delivered in insured packages, resulting in further expense. As a result, collector demand for gold proof sets was minimal during the 1870s and the reported mintages certainly reflect this lack of consumer interest.

    Only 20 proof Liberty half eagles were struck in 1878, all for inclusion with the gold proof sets, which were delivered on February 9. Probably no more than 10-12 examples survive today, including one coin in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and another in the collection of the American Numismatic Society. The two leading grading services have combined to certify a total of 16 coins, but that figure undoubtedly includes some resubmissions and crossovers.

    The present coin traces its history to the famous collection of Nathan M. Kaufman. Kaufman was a 19th century numismatist from Marquette, Michigan, who was visited by Dr. Heath, founder of the American Numismatic Association, in 1902. Heath noted:

    "We found him a very genial gentleman much interested in the U.S. series and territorial gold of which he has many of the prized specimens. Mr. Kaufman is president of the Marquette County Savings Bank and a director of the First National Bank of that city."

    Kaufman gave or sold his collection to his brother Louis sometime in the early 20th century and Louis maintained the collection until his death in 1942. The collection was long-stored and displayed in the directors' room of a Marquette bank, of which Louis was president. The collection was discovered there in the 1970s by Harry X Boosel and many of the gold coins, including the present specimen, were auctioned by RARCOA in August of 1978. Proof gold specialist Ed Trompeter acquired this coin at the auction and it became a highlight of his fabulous collection.

    This piece shows the diagnostic low placement of the date, open mouth, die polish in ERT of LIBERTY and on the scroll with the motto, and a small chip below E in LIBERTY. The design elements are well-detailed, with just a touch of softness on the eagle's neck and the fletching. The devices have a frosty texture that creates bold cameo contrast with the deeply mirrored fields, and the well-preserved orange-gold surfaces add to the outstanding eye appeal. Population: 1 in 65 Cameo, 0 finer (9/15).
    Ex: Nathan M. Kaufman; Louis G. Kaufman; N.M. Kaufman Collection (RARCOA, 8/1978), lot 842; Ed Trompeter Collection; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection.(Registry values: P4)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 28CF, PCGS# 88473)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Oct-Nov, 2015
    29th-1st Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,274

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