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    Aluminum 1869 Shield Nickel, PR66 Cameo, Judd-688

    1869 5C Five Cents, Judd-688, Pollock-769, High R.7, PR66 Cameo PCGS. CAC. Aluminum is a common element, the third most widely found in the Earth's crust after silicon and oxygen. But because of its extreme reactivity it is rare in its pure, free form, instead found in more than 270 mineral compounds, most abundantly as bauxite ore.
    The use of pure aluminum--even more so the use of pure aluminum in coinage--is a recent phenomenon. Pure aluminum used to be considered a precious metal, more prized than gold. The Emperor Napoleon is said to have given a banquet at which only the most honored guests were given aluminum utensils; the others had to settle for gold.
    When the Washington Monument was completed in 1884, its 100-ounce pure aluminum capstone was the largest single piece of aluminum cast at that time, and the lightweight metal was considered more expensive than gold, silver, or platinum at that time. The Hall-Héroult process for extracting aluminum from its ore was discovered around 1884, making the pure metal much less expensive than before and widening its commercial availability.
    That greater availability, of course, also extended to coins and medals, and only during the late 1880s and early 1890s are such pieces generally seen. In fact, a famous series of so-called dollars from the 1892-93 World's Columbian Exposition touts the many newly discovered attributes of aluminum for coinage: "malleable, tasteless, sonorous, ductile, untarnishable."
    It is against the above background that the present pattern Shield nickel in aluminum, Judd-688, must be viewed. Dated 1869, this piece was produced at a time (presumably the year it bears, or not much later) when aluminum was among the most precious of metals. The design is the same as the regular-issue Shield nickel, although in the pure aluminum context this piece is starkly silver-white, rather than gray. The thickly frosted devices and splendidly reflective fields that show the coveted black-on-silver appearance of cameo proof coinage at any angle.
    According to the website, this pattern in aluminum, Judd-688, is part of a series of similar 1869-dated patterns that, despite their listing as die trials, were actually deliberately struck for sale to collectors as part of complete off-metal sets.
    Apparently only two or three pieces of the Judd-688 in aluminum are known. The PCGS Population Report shows three pieces certified at that service, one each in PR63, PR65, and PR66, this piece the finest of the three. Besides its status as a fabulously rare pattern, it is a quite beautiful and interesting one--like so many patterns, little is actually known concerning its manufacture, but much research remains to be done, and much will likely remain the subject of conjecture ...

    Coin Index Numbers: (PCGS# 60913)

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Apr-May, 2010
    28th-2nd Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
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    15% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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