PR64 Cameo 1831 Quarter Eagle
1831 $2 1/2 PR64 Cameo NGC. BD-1, R.7 as a proof. The
1831 quarter eagles are at the top of the list when it comes to
confusion about prooflike business strikes versus true proofs, and
the present piece is a case in point. Before we go further, let us
state categorically that this piece is an undisputed proof. Going
all the way back to Numismatic Gallery's "Memorable" sale of 1948,
this piece was cataloged as a proof, where it was purchased by one
of the most astute buyers of the middle 20th century, famed
collector John Jay Pittman. This piece is also listed (from the
Memorable sale) in Breen's Proof Encyclopedia, although the
other pedigree information is garbled.
BD-1, Ex: Pittman Collection
This coin remained with Pittman for 50 years until it was auctioned in the Pittman Collection Part Two (Akers, 5/1998), lot 1717, which brought $88,000. That is a remarkably strong price considering that David Akers was clearly on the fence about this coin, calling it in the headline a "Very Choice Prooflike Uncirculated 1831 Quarter Eagle," but then immediately below adding a subhead "Possible Proof" and mentioning the proof appearance in the Memorable sale and the listing in the Breen Proof Encyclopedia. Akers says, "The fields are fully prooflike and this is one of those prooflike coins that really does look like a Proof ... ." Akers also mentions the "Eliasberg coin, Lot 97, was catalogued in 1982 as a Proof and realized a Proof price, but it was exactly the same as the coin offered here and not, in my opinion, a true Proof. (Others, however, obviously must have considered it a true Proof.)" Further in his description of the Pittman coin (the present piece), Akers makes a final note:
"When this coin was on display at several numismatic conventions, some very knowledgeable individuals who examined it felt that it is a Proof. I do not agree, but readily admit that it is a coin over which expert opinions might legitimately differ. Therefore, I suggest that interested bidders examine it closely and form their own opinions concerning this coin's method of manufacture."
We note that in the intervening years since the Pittman sale, this piece was, obviously, certified as a PR64 Cameo by the experts at NGC. A few identifiers pedigree this piece as the Pittman coin; specifically a shallow mark across Liberty's cheek, a tiny tick between stars 4 and 5, and a small planchet flake in the left reverse field below the E in UNITED. We also note a small patch of mint frost below the eagle's left (facing) wing, an identical attribute that also appears on the Eliasberg Collection proof sold in 1982, cataloged by Q. David Bowers as a "Choice Brilliant Proof-65."
The catalogers at Heritage who have viewed this coin also believe it to be an unequivocal proof. With all due respect, we believe Akers has it wrong in this instance. But his words in the Pittman sale remain true today: Interested bidders --and we think there should be many -- should certainly view this lot and form their own opinions. Census: 1 in 64 Cameo, 0 finer in Cameo; 1 PR66 numerically finer (2/12).
Ex: J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 1944), lot 97; Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 91; John Jay Pittman Collection (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1717; Heritage Internet (11/2001), lot 1497, bought in; Heritage (1/2002), lot 7973, bought in.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# BFWH, PCGS# 7686)
Weight: 4.37 grams
Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper
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