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    1909 'Bright Proof' Five Dollar, PR66
    Only 78 Pieces Struck

    1909 $5 PR66 NGC. CAC. The new matte proofing process was introduced on the Indian-design gold coins in 1908, as well as the Saint-Gaudens-designed ten and twenty dollar pieces, because it was recognized that these coins had fields that would not readily accept die polishing because of the texturing in the design. They were looked at by Mint employees more as medals for proof striking purposes, and the Mint had a distinguished history of producing medals with a matte surface. So it was a relatively simple process to strike the new designs with a hydraulic press to bring out complete definition of the dies. The result was what the Mint called a "bright proof." But this just an intermediate step in 1908. Then these fully struck "bright" proofs (that greatly resembled fully struck business strikes) were then given a quick blast of fine grit from a sandblaster. But what was widely practiced and appreciated on medals was not understood, and definitely not appreciated, on regular-issue U.S. coinage. After only one (unpopular) year of sandblast proofs, the method of proofing was changed. For the next two years, in 1909 and 1910, the initial "bright proofs" skipped the sandblasting process and were sent out to collectors in their untreated state.

    These "bright proofs" proved more popular with collectors than their sandblast counterparts from 1908, but only marginally so. It was a short-lived experiment and matte proofing resumed in 1911. Because the so-called Roman Finish proofs from these two years were untreated, they had a brighter appearance and generally show pronounced yellow-gold color. Only 78 half eagles were struck in 1909, and of that number it is estimated that only 30 or so examples survive today in all grades. The present PR66 is about as fine as one is likely to encounter a 1909 five dollar. PR66 half eagles this date are seldom encountered and there is wide variability in the prices they have achieved at auction. Over the past nine years the lowest price realized was $40,000 in 2007, while one example (also an NGC coin) brought $161,000 in 2006.

    This is indeed a "bright proof," but also one that has remained untampered over the past century. The surfaces have taken on a mellow reddish patina with a couple of minor areas of lilac on the face of the Native American and in the field in front of the eagle. There are no observable contact marks. The only pedigree identifier is Mint-made, a shallow planchet flake out of the upper obverse field below the Y in LIBERTY. Census: 6 in 66, 12 finer (3/15).
    From The New Orleans Collection.(Registry values: N7079)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 25ZS, PCGS# 8540)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

    View all of [The New Orleans Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    22nd-26th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,039

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