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    1870 Liberty Half Eagle, PR64 Cameo
    Rare, Underrated Proof Gold Issue
    Ex: Eliasberg-Trompeter

    1870 $5 PR64 Cameo NGC. CAC. Ex: Trompeter. The Philadelphia Mint increased its production of gold proof sets in 1870, with a normal-sized delivery of 25 sets on February 3, followed by an extra delivery of 10 more sets on June 1. The reason for the increased production is unknown, but it seems unlikely that collector demand was responsible. In fact, the number of proof sets sold was probably smaller than usual, judging from the availability of 1870 gold proof coins throughout the years. In all probability, most of the larger-than-average proof mintage went unsold, and the coins were melted after the end of the year.

    In any case, the 1870 proof half eagle is one of the most elusive and underrated issues of the entire series. Experts estimate fewer than 10 examples survive in all grades, including two coins in institutional collections and at least one in impaired condition. NGC and PCGS have combined to certify a total of just four specimens between them (4/15). We have compiled a roster of the nine examples known to us below, along with a number of earlier citations that may, or may not, represent duplicate appearances of the coins in the main roster. Of these nine coins, four reliably trace their history back to the 19th century (numbers 2, 4, 5, and 8). Letters A through E in Additional Appearances are complete gold proof sets that were included in collections formed during the 19th century. It is possible that the five coins we know about today that cannot be positively traced back to their 19th century origins were included in these sets, which were all later broken up. Of course, it is possible that we have overlooked some early appearances, and there may be some coins extant in oldtime collections today that we are not aware of. Still, the available evidence indicates the number of coins known to the numismatic community at any one time has never been much greater than 10, despite the increased reported mintage of 35 pieces.

    The present coin is an attractive Choice specimen with an impressive pedigree to both the Eliasberg and Trompeter Collections. The design elements are sharply detailed, with more definition in the eagle's neck than is usually seen on this issue. The date is diagnostically high and slightly left of center, slanting down. The deeply mirrored fields contrast boldly with the frosty devices to produce a delightful cameo effect. The outstanding eye appeal is augmented by well-preserved orange-gold surfaces, with a tiny planchet flaw between stars 11 and 12 that serves as a pedigree marker. The record price realized for any 1870 proof half eagle is an impressive $109,250 brought by the PR66 Cameo NGC specimen in the Goldberg's Pre-Long Beach Sale in 2007, but we believe the true rarity of this issue was not understood before the present time and we would not be surprised to see an even higher total when this coin crosses the block. Census: 1 in 64 Cameo, 1 finer (4/15).

    Roster of 1870 Proof Half Eagles
    1. PR66 Cameo NGC. Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2007), lot 2325; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg, 5/2008), lot 4437; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg, 9/2011), lot 2032.
    2. PR64 Cameo NGC. New York Coin & Stamp Company; purchased by John M. Clapp in 1896; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. in 1942, via Stack's; Ed Trompeter, Heritage Auctions, circa 1998, private collection. The present coin.
    3. PR64 PCGS. George F. Scanlon Collection (Stack's, 10/1973, lot 2334; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Merena, 11/2000), lot 504; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5461.
    4. PR64 PCGS. Heman Ely, part of a six-piece gold proof set; W. Elliott Woodward; purchased by T. Harrison Garrett in 1883, Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection (Stack's, 3/1976), lot 436; Greenwald and Jackson Collections (Bowers and Merena, 9/1995), lot 1418; Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 1457.
    5. PR63 Cameo, per Garrett and Guth. Mint Cabinet, part of a complete proof set; National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
    6. PR63 PCGS. ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/1995), lot 7818.
    7. Brilliant Proof. Amon Carter Family Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 683.
    8. Proof. Robert C.H. Brock, part of a six-piece gold proof set; J.P. Morgan; American Numismatic Society.
    9. Impaired Proof. James A. Stack; Prominent Numismatist (Stack's, 3/1990), lot 1001.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Proof. George F. Seavey, part of a complete proof set probably purchased directly from the Mint in 1870; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 832; Lorin G. Parmelee; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1371.
    B. Proof. Thomas Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 420, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    C. Proof. Thomas Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 421, part of another six-piece gold proof set.
    D. Proof. Major William B. Wetmore Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1906), lot 154, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    E. Proof. David S. Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 330, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    F. Brilliant Proof. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 424; Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 372.
    G. Perfect Brilliant Proof. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1691.
    H. Brilliant Proof. Million Dollar Sale (Harmer, Rooke, 11/1969), lot 510.
    Ex: Ed Trompeter Collection; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection.
    From The Ed Trompeter Collection of Proof $5 Liberties.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 3ZLK, PCGS# 88465)

    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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