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    1845 Half Eagle, PR64 Cameo
    One of Only Three Proofs Known
    Ex: Pittman

    1845 $5 PR64 Cameo NGC. It was not until 1858 that the Mint began marketing proof gold coins to collectors, and the rare earlier pieces (with a few exceptions) were likely all at one point part of complete proof sets, which the Mint struck and encased chiefly for presentation to foreign dignitaries and U.S. political officials, and not initially for direct sale to American collectors. By the 1840s, however, proof sets could be purchased from the Mint for face value, plus a three dollar, eight and one half cent, additional charge for a plush-lined morocco leather display case, and some of these sets were purportedly also used as trading material to enhance the Mint Cabinet Collection. All were produced only in limited quantities, and surviving individual coins are exceedingly rare and highly sought-after.

    The exact number of 1845 proof sets made that contained an example of the half eagle is unknown, though popular estimates put the total at only four or five sets. One such set is known to have been placed in the Mint Cabinet Collection, likely immediately following production, and now resides intact and unobtainable in the Smithsonian Institution. Another set remained hidden from the numismatic world in an English bank vault for over a century, until it was finally discovered and sold in 1979, though the coins have now been dispersed. No other sets containing the gold denominations are known to have survived intact, but during the 1940s and 1950s, John Jay Pittman succeeded in reassembling a complete 1845 proof set of individual pieces in all denominations, and also acquired an original Mint presentation case (possibly via Abe Kosoff) in which to house them, though this set was also dispersed, in the 1998 sale of the Pittman Collection.

    The three 1845 half eagles represented in these sets are the only known examples of the proof issue, but there is an additional proof eagle of 1845 known to exist, which could mean that a fourth example of the half eagle also existed at one point. Of the three known half eagles, however, the two privately owned pieces (particularly the Pittman coin) have been submitted to the grading services on multiple occasions, and some of these submissions have not been removed from the population reports, making the 1845 proof, to the novice, seem more obtainable than it actually is.

    The exceptional piece here offered is the Pittman specimen, and this is the first time it has appeared at auction since 1999. Short horizontal die lines at the edge of the eagle's left leg and lower three wing feathers are diagnostic of the proof reverse die, which was also used to strike the proof half eagles of 1844, 1846, and 1848, according to Akers. The date is boldly punched, with all four numerals connected. The frosty devices are struck to full definition, and boldly contrast with the deeply mirrored fields. A moderate number of hairlines are detected in the fields, but deep yellow-gold color continues to deliver seemingly unrivaled visual appeal. This coin represents an important piece of numismatic history, and a rare link to the humble beginnings of United States proof gold coinage.

    Roster of Proof 1845 Liberty Half Eagles
    1. PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. British collector in the 19th century as part of a three-piece gold proof set, held in a bank vault for more than 100 years; Paul D. Williams Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 9/1979), lot 1816; Auction '84 (Paramount, 7/1984), lot 906, realized $35,750; Ed Trompeter; Dennis Mendelson Collection (Superior, 2/1991), lot 2596; Baltimore Auction (Bowers and Merena, 7/2004), lot 3070, realized $139,500; Exclusively Internet Auction (Heritage, 9/2004), lot 14601; Atlanta Signature (Heritage, 4/2006), lot 1931; Tacasyl Collection (Bonham's, 9/2013), lot 1013, realized $292,500.

    2. PR65 Deep Cameo. Mint Cabinet in 1845; National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, grade per Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.

    3. PR64 Cameo NGC. Lorin G. Parmelee; purchased privately by William H. Woodin, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; Waldo Newcomer; "Col." E.H.R. Green, via B. Max Mehl circa 1931; B.G. Johnson; Jacob Shapiro (a.k.a. J.F. Bell); Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 347; John Jay Pittman; Pittman Collection (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1711, as part of an assembled, but complete, 1845 proof set in the original case; Dr. Carl Minning Collection (Bowers and Merena, 8/1999), lot 2189; the present coin.(Registry values: P2)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 25ZH, PCGS# 88435)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2014
    4th-8th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,343

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