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    Astounding 1866 Motto Half Eagle
    PR66 ★ Ultra Cameo, Tied for Finest Graded
    The Only Star Ultra Cameo

    1866 $5 PR66 ★ Ultra Cameo NGC. Ex: Simpson. The 1866 half eagle issue is the first with the motto displayed on a scroll above the eagle's head on the reverse, a product of the swell of religious belief during and after the bloody Civil War. The 1866 Motto proof half eagles are, however, just as rare as, or rarer than, the preceding No Motto proof issues. The 1866 is also popular as a first-year type (or subtype), although opportunities to acquire a nice proof example are fleeting.
    Garrett and Guth note that the population figures for the 1866 Motto half eagle are inflated and (as always, in our opinion) should be viewed with considerable skepticism. They posit that no more than 10-12 examples survive today of the original recorded proof mintage of 30 coins. Two of those examples, furthermore, reside in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Numismatic Society, where they will likely remain. A couple of the examples that have appeared in the last two decades are heavily impaired proofs.
    The Breen Proof Encyclopedia is not far from that survival estimate, either: After providing a brief census, Breen notes that the examples cited "probably include some duplications; most likely under ten survive."
    The business-strike mintage for the 1866 half eagle was itself an impossibly low 6,700 pieces, and today those business strikes are rare in all grades; when encountered, which is seldom, they are usually Very Fine to Extremely Fine at best. Mint State business strikes are very rare, adding to the pressure on the few proofs surviving.
    Examining the online NGC Census Report, we find that this piece is one of two PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC examples and the only one certified with the extra Star kicker for superior eye appeal. This coin is also tied for the finest numerically certified at NGC, regardless of contrast level. We offered the other coin, a PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC without the Star designation, in our Exclusively Internet auction 21073 of July 2001, lot 3727. That example failed to sell.
    This remarkable coin is also among the finest certified at NGC and PCGS combined, as the latter service has graded a single non-Cameo PR65 as the finest of the issue.
    The quality of this Premium Gem Ultra Cameo Star proof 1866 five dollar is simply astounding in every respect. The contrast alone is an incredible spectacle, with sharply textured and thickly frosted devices rising from carefully preserved liquid-gold mirrors. For the provenance-minded enthusiast, only a handful of tiny markers are visible: minuscule planchet flakes between stars 12 and 13, and a couple of tiny alloy dots in the fields. The strike is a trifle less than full on the highest hair curls at the immediate center, but sharp elsewhere. This marvelous specimen astonishes the viewer when first seen; afterwards it lingers in the memory, a coin that will be viewed by its next collector-owner again and again.
    From The Bob Simpson Collection.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 37WZ, PCGS# 98461)

    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 [Selections from The Bob Simpson Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,081

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