Seldom-Seen 1864 Proof Half Eagle
    Gem Ultra Cameo

    1864 $5 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. This proof half eagle from 1864 is another member of our offering of a complete six-piece 1864 gold proof set, also including the gold dollar, quarter eagle, three dollar, eagle, and double eagle, each coin certified by NGC as Ultra Cameo in grades ranging from PR64 to PR66. Each coin in the set is offered as a separate lot in relevant sections throughout this auction.
    Speaking in terms of gold denominations, the half eagle series overall has more separate entries than any other U.S. gold series. Gold dollars and three dollars were only made from 1849/1854 respectively through 1889, quarter eagles had sporadic mintages for most of their existence, the ten dollar gold coins were not produced from 1804 until 1838, and the twenty dollar denomination only debuted in 1850. The gold five dollar denomination, however, was minted almost continuously from 1795 through 1929.
    Proof half eagles nonetheless tend to be somewhat underrated in the context of 19th century proof gold overall, as their mintages for the most part were quite a bit lower than the proof gold dollar and quarter eagle.
    Garrett and Guth write of the 1864 proof half eagle:

    "Although the 1864 half eagle is more common than the issues of the previous few years, it is still a very rare coin. The population numbers can be ignored for the 1864 Proof half eagle. It is certain that the numbers are highly inflated by resubmissions. The true number of known examples is probably in the range of 15 to 20 coins. While very rare, the 1864 half eagle is the most available No Motto half eagle in Proof."

    The authors conclude by noting that among the survivors are two pieces in the Smithsonian and one in the ANS. Although we maintain copious auction records, the last Gem Ultra Cameo proof example of the 1864 that we are aware of changing hands at auction is a piece in an American Numismatic Rarities auction at $57,500 (ANR, 1/2004, lot 479). Cameo and non-Cameo examples are equally elusive and seldom traded.
    The present Gem Ultra Cameo NGC specimen displays exquisite mint frost on both the broad expanses of the portrait and the intricate details of the sharply struck eagle. The deeply mirrored fields throughout render marvelous contrast that is well within the Ultra Cameo level. The prime pedigree marker is a curling lint mark just to the left of star 12 on the obverse. The diagnostic die scratch common to all proofs appears here as well of course, just below Liberty's ear. There are no singularly mentionable post-striking flaws, although a handful of wispy lines in the fields combine to account for the PR65 grade. Census: 3 in 65 Ultra Cameo, 3 finer (9/11).(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.

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    Auction Dates
    October, 2011
    13th-16th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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