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    1869 Liberty Half Eagle, PR65 Cameo
    None Numerically Finer
    Ex: Trompeter

    1869 $5 PR65 Cameo NGC. Ex: Trompeter. The 1869 proof Liberty half eagle claims a mintage of just 25 pieces, an extremely small production total, even for proof gold issues of the 1860s. The coins were all struck for inclusion in the gold proof sets of the year, delivered on February 19. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth estimate 10-12 examples survive today in all grades, with one coin in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and another in the collection of the American Numismatic Society. Current population data shows a total of 12 coins certified between the two leading grading services, with one of those in impaired condition (4/15). This issue has always been under extreme pressure from date collectors, as only 1,760 business-strike half eagles were produced and high-grade examples are very rare.

    We are aware of 9 proof 1869 half eagles included in complete gold proof sets that first appeared in collections that were formed in the 19th century:

    1. George Seavey, part of a complete silver, copper, gold proof set purchased from the Mint in 1869; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 831; Lorin G. Parmelee; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), set dispersed with the half eagle part of lot 1366; possibly William Woodin; the half eagle was exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition.
    2. Hebbeard Collection (Harlan Page Smith, 4/1883), lot 381, part of a six-piece gold proof set; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett, Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection (Stack's, 3/1976), proof set dispersed, with the half eagle in lot 430.
    3. Heman Ely, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 949.
    4. Thomas Cleneay, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 419.
    5. William B. Wetmore, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Wetmore Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1906), lot 153.
    6. David S. Wilson, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 329, the set realized $170, to Henry Chapman.
    7. Nathan M. Kaufman, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Louis G. Kaufman; Kaufman Collection (RARCOA, 8/1978), set dispersed with the half eagle in lot 921.
    8. Mint Cabinet, part of a complete copper, silver, gold proof set, purchased from the coiner on 3/8/1869; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution.
    9. R.C.H. Brock, part of a complete gold proof set; J.P. Morgan; donated to the American Numismatic Society in 1908.

    With the possible exception of numbers 5 and 6 above, all of these citations represent different gold proof sets. Indeed, we suspect that they are all original sets purchased from the Mint by collectors or coin dealers at the time of issue. In addition, we know of one other proof 1869 half eagle that appeared in the 19th century and was purchased from the Chapman brothers by John M. Clapp in 1896, along with a proof eagle and double eagle of the same date. These coins were all later acquired by Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., in 1942. This suggests at least 10 complete gold proof sets were on the market or in institutional collections in the 19th century, very close to the number of individual proof 1869 half eagles we know about today. We have not been able to link all the present-day coins to their 19th century appearances, before the sets were broken up, but it seems likely that there have always been around a dozen examples of this issue known to the numismatic community, at any given time. We suspect, but cannot definitely prove, that only about half of the small reported mintage of 1869 proof half eagles was ever distributed, with the remainder being destroyed after the close of the year.

    The present coin is a no-questions proof, but Walter Breen suspects business-strikes were also struck from these dies. This delightful Gem displays the razor-sharp definition, squared-off edges, and deeply reflective fields expected from a 19th century proof. The frosty design elements contrast boldly with the mirrored fields to create a stunning cameo effect. The well-preserved surfaces are free of mentionable distractions and eye appeal is terrific. Census: 2 in 65 Cameo (1 in 65 Cameo), 0 finer (4/15).
    Ex: Ed Trompeter Collection; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection.
    From The Ed Trompeter Collection of Proof $5 Liberties.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 3WUS, PCGS# 88464)

    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 Ed Trompeter Collection of Proof $5 Liberties ]

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    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    12th-16th Wednesday-Sunday
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