Experimental 1868 Aluminum Proof Set
1868 Complete 16-Piece Aluminum Pattern Proof Set, Cent Through
Double Eagle, PR63-PR67 Cameo NGC. R.8 as a Set. This lot
includes a complete 16-piece experimental proof set, illustrating
all the denominations minted in 1868, struck in aluminum from
regular dies. Also included is the original velvet-lined morocco
presentation case that housed the coins when they were produced at
the Philadelphia Mint.
Cent Through Double Eagle, 16 Pieces
Finest of Only Three Sets Known, Ex: Garrett
1868 Indian Cent, Judd-612, PR66 ★ Cameo NGC. The design elements are richly frosted and sharply detailed, providing bold cameo contrast with the pristine reflective fields.
1868 Two Cent Piece, Judd-614, PR66 Cameo NGC. A sharply detailed Premium Gem with brightly reflective surfaces that show distinct elements of contrast with the frosty devices.
1868 Three Cent Nickel, Judd-621, PR67 Cameo NGC. The fields of this delightful Superb Gem show an unusual depth of reflectivity, causing the sharply detailed devices to stand out in exquisite cameo contrast.
1868 Three Cent Silver, Judd-622, PR65 Cameo NGC. A few hints of light gold and lavender toning enliven the mostly brilliant mirrored fields of this boldly contrasted Gem.
1868 Shield Nickel, Judd-636, PR63 Cameo NGC. This sharply detailed Select Cameo specimen displays deeply mirrored fields that show just a couple of minor contact marks near the lower-right obverse rim.
1868 Seated Liberty Half Dime, Judd-639, PR66 Cameo NGC. The deeply mirrored surfaces of this impressive Premium Gem are graced by light traces of champagne-gold and lavender patina, and the frosty design elements provide excellent field-device contrast.
1868 Seated Liberty Dime, Judd-649, PR66 Cameo NGC. Razor-sharp definition is evident on all design elements, and the deeply mirrored fields contrast starkly with the frosty devices.
1868 Seated Liberty Quarter, Judd-650, PR63 NGC. A few minor contact marks and hairlines are visible on close inspection, but they tend to get lost in the deep mirrors of this sharply detailed Select specimen.
1868 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Judd-651, PR67 Cameo NGC. The design elements exhibit pinpoint definition throughout, and the deeply mirrored fields create a stunning black-on-white cameo flash when this magnificent Superb Gem is tilted in the light.
1868 Seated Liberty Silver Dollar, Judd-652, PR66 ★ Cameo NGC. The design elements of this spectacular Premium Gem are exquisitely detailed and richly frosted, creating a stunning cameo effect with the deeply reflective fields.
1868 Gold Dollar, Judd-653, PR66 Cameo. Pinpoint definition is apparent on all design elements, and the mostly brilliant fields show just a few hints of golden-tan toning to enhance the startling field-device contrast.
1868 Liberty Quarter Eagle, Judd-654, PR66 Cameo NGC. This spectacular Premium Gem possesses incredible eye appeal with deeply mirrored fields and boldly contrasted frosty design elements.
1868 Three Dollar Gold Piece, Judd-655, PR66 Cameo NGC. This well-detailed Premium Gem shows a little doubling on the 3 in the denomination, and the devices seem to float on the liquid mirrored fields.
1868 Liberty Half Eagle, Judd-660, PR64 Cameo NGC. A few minor hairlines in the obverse field are all that prevent a Gem designation for this sharply detailed and boldly contrasted Choice example.
1868 Liberty Eagle, Judd-664, PR65 Cameo NGC. This delightful Gem is deeply mirrored and sharply detailed throughout with readily apparent cameo contrast and outstanding eye appeal.
1868 Liberty Double Eagle, Judd-665, PR65 Cameo NGC. This majestic coin displays vivid cameo contrast between the sharply detailed frosty design elements and the deeply mirrored fields, with extraordinary eye appeal.
The experimental 1868 aluminum proof sets were produced at the request of Mint Director Henry Linderman, ostensibly for presentation to the Bank of England and other European entities, to demonstrate the advantages of aluminum as a coinage metal. However, it now seems more likely that the sets were actually intended as numismatic delicacies for sale or presentation to favored collectors and influential parties in this country. Four cased sets were officially requested, and we can trace the history of four sets in numismatic holdings in the United States, including one set in the possession of Hugh McCulloch, Secretary of the Treasury in 1868, and another in the collection of Mint Director Linderman himself. Officials at the Bank of England inform us that there is no record of a set being sent to their collection in the 19th century, and it seems unlikely that any sets were sent to other European destinations.
The 1868 aluminum proof sets have a fascinating but checkered history. In a scenario reminiscent of the curse of the legendary Hope Diamond, grave misfortune befell many of the owners of these coins, including bankruptcy, public disgrace, and early death. At one point in 1887, the U.S. government declared the coins illegal to own, and confiscated and destroyed one of the sets. Thankfully, the government has softened its position on pattern ownership in recent times, and the sets now sell readily, with no official interference. A roster of known 1868 aluminum proof sets is included below.
The set offered here is probably the finest known, overall. With one of the original four sets destroyed, and another impounded in the Eric Newman Foundation, only two sets are available to collectors today. The majority of the coins in this set are in higher grades than the corresponding coins in the other set, which Heritage handled in January 2007. This incredible proof set, with a combination of extreme rarity, breathtaking eye appeal, and highest available technical grade, should find a home in the finest pattern collection or Registry Set.
Roster of 1868 Aluminum Pattern Proof Sets
1. Philadelphia Mint; Mint Director Henry Richard Linderman in 1868; Linderman Collection (Lyman Low, 6/1887), lot 55; seized by the U.S. government, presumably destroyed.
2. Philadelphia Mint; Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch in 1868; McCulloch's heirs; Eric Newman; Eric P. Newman Educational Foundation and Museum.
3. Philadelphia Mint; William Fewsmith, before 1870; Fewsmith Collection (Ebenezer Locke Mason, 10/1870), lot 1381, bought in by Mason for $102.50; Catalog of Several Collections (Mason, 2/1871), offered as separate coins in lots 703-718, not sold; Centennial Sale, Part V (John W. Haseltine, 9/1876), lot 571; unknown intermediaries; Waldo Newcomer; offered in Numismatic Gallery Monthly (Kosoff and Kreisberg), May 1950 edition at $850; Commodore Perry Collection (Bowers and Merena, 1/1995), lot 1367; ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/1997), lot 7289; FUN Signature and Platinum Night (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 1353.
4. Philadelphia Mint; A Collection of American Coins and Medals (H.G. Sampson, 2/1882), lot 956; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 396; Jascha Heifetz Collection (Superior, 10/1989), lot 3283; the present set.
A. A specimen reportedly sent to the Bank of England by Mint Director Linderman in 1868, not traced since.
B. A specimen reportedly sent to the government of France by Mint Director Linderman, not traced since.
C. George Woodside Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 4/1892), lot 217, apparently retained by Woodside after the sale; purchased privately by Virgil Brand in 1895. This 16-piece aluminum set was not described as a cased set, and the eagle was a Judd-663 specimen, rather than the regular dies Judd-664 included in the regular cased sets requested by Linderman. Despite some similarities, we believe this set represents a different issue from the cased sets above, possibly assembled by Woodside piece by piece. The coins were probably dispersed individually when Brand's collection was parceled out.
D. Mathew Stickney Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1907), lot 540; Virgil Brand. Like the set in C above, this 16-piece lot was not described as a cased set, and it may not be the same issue as the sets requested by Linderman. Likewise, the coins were probably sold as individual pieces when Brand's collection was dispersed. Several collectors have attempted to assemble an 1868 aluminum proof set piecemeal in recent times. In the Arnold and Romisa Collections (Bowers and Merena, 9/1984), a partial set of 14 pieces was offered in individual lots. John Jay Pittman also attempted to assemble a set, and succeeded in acquiring 12 of the necessary issues, which were sold in David Akers' sale of his collection in October of 1997. The coins in these partial sets may be the remnants of the sets earlier owned by Stickney and Woodside.
From The Douglas Collection.
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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