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    1874 Five Dollar, PR66 Ultra Cameo
    Clearly the Finest Known of This Rare Proof Issue

    1874 $5 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. Ex: Simpson. Half eagles are avidly sought out from the Dahlonega, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Carson City mints. But only the most diehard collectors have made an attempt at a complete set from Philadelphia. The reason is readily evident from glancing at the mintages in the Guide Book. From 1861 through 1873, those two bookend years are the only ones in that 13-year period that are reasonably obtainable. Mintages for the other Philadelphia dates range from 1,270 pieces for the 1865 to a "high" of 6,870 examples for the 1867. The mintage spiked in 1873 to a total of 224,985 pieces, representing both Close and Open 3 varieties. Then mintages dropped again in 1874 to 3,488 business strikes and continued to be low until 1878.
    Proofs could be of help to the collector of half eagles during this low point in production, but their production was comparably low. However the output of proofs was also in a narrow range of 66 pieces (1861) to a low ebb of only 20 examples (1874, 1875, 1877, 1878). In the nineteenth century, before attention was paid to collecting coins by mint, a proof was often more desired and substituted in a date set. That was a workable solution for collectors of that era, a time when ANA conventions were numbered from 25 to 50 participants. However, with the increase in the number of collectors, especially after the 1930s, and with the increased awareness of the relative rarity of various mint marked issues, the number of proofs available became less and less a factor for collectors. Of course, added to that is the relatively recent pursuit of "the finest." When one looks at the Condition Census of most of these P-mints in these low-mintage years, "the finest" available may be a nice XF or AU example. If a few Uncirculated pieces are known, they are usually locked up in major collections.
    In the case of the 1874 five dollar, proofs are of no aid to the collector of business strikes as they are much rarer and significantly more expensive. In mint condition, the two major services have certified seven pieces, the finest an MS64. But proof strikings number only three examples, including non-Cameo, Cameo, and Ultra/Deep Cameo. These three proofs include two non-Cameo PR64 pieces and this single PR66 Ultra Cameo. This is clearly the finest proof example known of this major rarity in the half eagle series.
    This is a magnificently contrasted coin. The surfaces are mostly bright yellow-gold with very little of the usual reddish patina evident. A few light hairlines can be made out with the aid of a loupe, and there are obvious die striations in field also. The striking details are strong throughout, but slight softness can be seen on Liberty's trailing hair curl and on the neck feathers of the eagle. A curious area of very light porosity can be vaguely made out on Liberty's chin. Each side has a couple of shallow lint marks. These were created when the coiner wiped the die, and static electricity caused these tiny pieces of lint from the cloth to adhere to the die and they were subsequently struck into the surface of the coin. Of course, none of these mint-made "defects" detract from the powerful visual impression of this rare piece of proof gold.
    From The Bob Simpson Collection.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28CB, PCGS# 98469)

    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
    August, 2010
    11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
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