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    1864 Liberty Half Eagle, PR65 Deep Cameo
    Early Proof Gold Rarity
    Only One Finer Coin at PCGS

    1864 $5 PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS Secure. CAC. Ex: Friend. The 1864 proof Liberty half eagle claims a relatively large mintage of 50 pieces, but it is unlikely that anywhere near that many were ever distributed. In researching his upcoming book on gold proof coins, John Dannreuther discovered some interesting information about early proof mintages which he shared with us via e-mail.

    The Mint began its commercial proof offerings in 1858 and the program proved immensely successful in the first two years because there was no extra charge for proofing. Collectors and dealers were able to speculate on proof sets with little or no risk, since the coins could be acquired at face value, plus shipping. Dannreuther discovered correspondence between Mint personnel in December of 1859 indicating some new charges imposed on proof coinage, beginning in 1860. A surcharge of 13 cents per coin was added to silver proofs and gold proofs had a whopping 25 cent proofing charge attached for each coin. Of course, this resulted in a drastic decline in proof set orders in following years, but the Mint failed to realize this initially and continued to strike relatively high numbers of proof coins in 1860 and 1861, based on the old demand.

    The Mint had learned its lesson by 1862, however, and the mintage of gold proofs was reduced to a more realistic level from then on, with a typical yearly mintage consisting of 25-35 sets. The 50 sets produced in 1864 were something of an anomaly, but there is no reason to believe any more coins were actually sold in 1864 than in surrounding years, probably resulting in an unsold surplus of coins that were melted after the end of the year. PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population of the 1864 proof half eagle at 18-22 examples in all grades. Three examples are secured in institutional collections at the Smithsonian Institution and the American Numismatic Society.

    The present coin shows the diagnostic high date, placed to the left, with the left base of the 1 over a space between the dentils. The right base of the 4 is over the right edge of a dentil (or at least very close to it) and a horizontal die line shows below Liberty's ear. The design elements exhibit razor-sharp definition, with a rich coat of mint frost that creates intense cameo contrast with the deeply mirrored fields. The lemon-yellow surfaces show no mentionable flaws and eye appeal is terrific. Among Deep Cameo examples certified by PCGS, this coin is tied with the Bob Simpson specimen for second finest, behind a single PR67 specimen, making this an extremely attractive opportunity for Registry Set enthusiasts as well as series specialists. Population: 2 in 65 Deep Cameo, 1 finer. CAC: 2 in 65, 1 finer (11/16).
    From The Dale Friend Collection of 1864 Proof Coinage.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28BZ, PCGS# 98454)

    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 Dale Friend Collection of 1864 Proof Coinage ]

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