1878 Half Eagle, PR65 ★ Cameo
    Only 20 Pieces Struck
    Ex: Bass

    1878 $5 PR65 ★ Cameo NGC. CAC. The 1878 proof Liberty half eagle is one of the rarest coins in the series, from a minuscule mintage of just 20 pieces. Proof gold mintages were uniformly low during the 1870s, with three other dates of that decade claiming an identical 20 piece production figure. Mintages began to increase toward the end of the decade, and were considerably higher in the 1880s. Most experts estimate less than 10 examples of the 1878 proof half eagle are extant today.
    The low demand for proof sets probably derived from several sources, including the fact that the government would not exchange gold coins at par with paper money until January 1, 1879. Collectors had to pay for gold proof sets with other gold coins that could only be purchased from bullion brokers at a steep premium, and sent in insured packages. That few collectors were willing to participate in such an arduous and expensive process is not surprising. Writing in 1907, Samuel Hudson Chapman said, "These proof sets are exceedingly rare, and my estimate would be that there are not over five sets in existence of the years prior to 1890." Of course, a number of coins survived individually after the sets were broken up, accounting for the 10 or so examples we know about today. The number of coins available to collectors is further reduced by the presence of one specimen in the Smithsonian and another in the ANS.
    The coin offered here traces its history to the famous Harry Bass Collection, a mark of distinction for any gold coin. This piece is an impressive Gem, with dramatic Cameo contrast between the frosty devices and the mirrored fields. The design elements are strongly impressed, except for a touch of softness on the arrow fletching and eagle's head. The attractive orange-gold surfaces are free of mentionable blemishes. Census: 1 in 65 Cameo, 0 finer (11/11).
    Ex: Paramount Rare Coin Company, purchased by Harry Bass on August 10, 1971; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/2000), lot 531.
    Seller is donating a portion of their proceeds, and Heritage is donating the same portion of the Buyer's Premium, from the sale of this lot to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. See page 3 for details.
    (Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 3Z2S, PCGS# 88473)

    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
    January, 2012
    3rd-8th Tuesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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