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    Extremely Rare 1861 Quarter Eagle, PR66
    Sole Finest Certified at PCGS

    1861 $2 1/2 PR66 PCGS. CAC. The reported mintage of the 1861 quarter eagle is 90 proofs, but it appears that most of them were melted or otherwise lost to attrition. The onset of the Civil War in April 1861, of course, turned the nation's attention to matters far more important than coins, but the conflict had the unintended consequence of driving any precious metal currency out of circulation by 1862. First gold, then silver, and finally copper coins were hoarded, necessitating the issuance substitutes of all kinds -- Civil War merchant tokens ("store cards") and patriotic tokens, federal postage currency, private scrip, and federal paper currency, which was distrusted and traded at a discount. The lowest-denomination notes from one to 50 cents, called "shinplasters," wore out quickly and often circulated in tatters.
    According to the Breen Proof Encyclopedia all of the recorded 60-plus gold proof sets of 1861 were delivered on April 5, exactly one week before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, signaled the start of the war. Breen writes that "some of these remained unsold along with, probably, the majority of the extra gold proofs of the three lowest denominations, and the unsold coins were sent to the Melter & Refiner in January 1862." Breen notes that few complete gold proof sets survive, save for one set each in the Smithsonian and ANS collections.
    The recorded mintage of 90 proofs does not at all square with the facts today -- but then, neither does the recorded mintage figure for proof 1861 gold dollars, 349 coins, a figure that is clearly wildly inaccurate. Searching though our Permanent Auction Archives reveals no previous offerings of this issue, save for a single PR65 Deep Cameo, a coin that realized $44,850 in our Long Beach Signature some seven years ago (Heritage, 9/2005), lot 4408. The current PCGS Population Report shows only five unimpaired proofs -- the present PR66, the numerically finest graded at that service; the previously mentioned PR65 Deep Cameo; two submissions in PR64; and one PR63. NGC shows one PR66 Cameo; one PR65 Cameo; and one PR65 Ultra Cameo, with almost certain duplications between the two services (6/12).
    We could easily see the present PR66 PCGS specimen attaining a Cameo or possibly Deep Cameo designation, although there is none on the holder. The deep reddish-gold fields complement fully frosted devices, save for tiny traces of reflectivity: on Liberty's coronet below BER; in the recesses of the mouth and ear; and faintly on the truncation of the neck. The fields show scattered minor contact, but the only mentionable marks are a luster graze to the left of STATES and a small indent in the field below the last S. This piece offers incredible beauty and technical quality in an extremely rare package. Population: 1 in 66, 0 finer (6/12).(Registry values: P6)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 287F, PCGS# 7887)

    Weight: 4.18 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2012
    2nd-5th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,328

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
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