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    1879 Liberty Five, PR66 Cameo
    Rare, Underrated Proof Issue
    Finest-Certified Example, Ex: Trompeter

    1879 $5 PR66 Cameo NGC. Ex: Trompeter. The 1879 proof Liberty half eagle is an underrated issue from a reported mintage of just 30 pieces. Because several proof issues of the 1870s had even smaller mintages, some numismatists have speculated that the 1879 is not quite as rare as other dates of the decade. This perception seems to be incorrect, however. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth note:

    "Despite a slightly higher mintage, the Proof 1879 half eagle is of about the same rarity as the 1877 and 1878 issues. There have actually been fewer examples offered at public auction than either of those two issues ... There are probably fewer than 10 survivors in all grades, and the 1879 half eagle is a great rarity in Proof."

    We have compiled a roster of all 1879 proof half eagles known to us below, which agrees closely with the quoted estimate from Garrett and Guth. The roster accounts for eight separate examples that have appeared publicly in recent times, including a specimen in the Smithsonian Institution and another in the collection of the American Numismatic Society. A few of the earlier untraced appearances, like the coin in the Garrett Collection, may represent additional survivors, but they could just as easily be earlier appearances of the coins in the main roster. There may also be a few examples hidden in old-time collections that we are not aware of but, on the whole, a surviving population of about 10 specimens seems most reasonable. While the 1879 proofs enjoyed a higher mintage than some other issues of the decade, it seems likely that collector demand remained fairly constant and the extra coins were probably never distributed and were melted after the close of the year.

    The present coin is the finest-certified example at either of the leading grading services. This spectacular Premium Gem exhibits razor-sharp definition on all design elements and the frosty devices contrast dramatically with the deeply mirrored fields. The pleasing yellow-gold surfaces are impeccably preserved. Two minute flakes in the left obverse field, near star 2, are the only useful pedigree markers. Overall eye appeal is terrific and this coin is pedigreed to the prestigious Trompeter Collection. Proof gold specialists and Registry Set enthusiasts alike will find no suitable alternative to the coin offered here. Census: 1 in 66 Cameo, 0 finer (4/15).

    Roster of 1879 Proof Half Eagles
    1. PR66 Cameo. Ed Trompeter; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection. The present coin.
    2. PR65 Cameo PCGS. Possibly Theodore Ulmer Collection (Stack's, 5/1974), lot 455; Genaitis Collection (Heritage, 8/2001), lot 7850; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2006), lot 1195; Ohringer Family Trust (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 5/2008), lot 4439; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2012), lot 5274, realized $63,250.
    3. PR65 Cameo PCGS. Pre-Long Beach Sale (Superior, 6/2000), lot 780; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3568, realized $60,375.
    4. PR64+ Deep Cameo PCGS. Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2011), lot 2133.
    5. PR64 Deep Cameo PCGS. FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3771; Tuesday Internet Coin Auction (Heritage, 2/2007), lot 13720; Sunday Internet Coin Auction (Heritage, 4/2007), lot 24559.
    6. PR64 PCGS. Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 10/1970), lot 954, part of a complete gold proof set; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Merena, 11/2000), lot 534; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/2011), lot 4670.
    7. PR63 Deep Cameo, per Garrett and Guth. Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
    8. Proof. Robert C.H. Brock; J.P. Morgan; American Numismatic Society.

    Additional Appearances
    Note: The following citations may represent earlier appearances of the coins listed above, but minimal pedigree markers, lack of detail in catalog images, and terse physical descriptions make it impossible to conclusively link them to any of the pedigree chains in the primary roster.
    A. Choice Brilliant Proof. Purchased directly from the Philadelphia Mint on September 4, 1879 by T. Harrison Garrett as part of a six-piece gold proof set; Robert Garrett, John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 489.
    B. Brilliant Proof. Possibly Phineas Adams; William J. Jenks; 69th Sale (John W. Haseltine, 6/1883), lot 481.
    C. Proof. Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 954, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    D. Proof. Thomas Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 430, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    E. Proof. William B. Wetmore Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1906), lot 162, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    F. Proof. David S. Wilson Collection (Samuel Hudson Chapman, 3/1907), lot 339, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    G. Proof. James B. Wilson Collection (Thomas Elder, 10/1908), lot 63, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    H. Proof. Charles H. Conover Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1914), lot 1, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    I. Perfect Brilliant Proof. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1700.
    J. Brilliant Proof. Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 378.
    K. Superb Brilliant Proof. Thomas Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 2160; Garland Stephens.
    L. Impaired Proof. Samuel Wolfson Collection (Stack's, 10/1962), lot 522.
    M. Brilliant Proof. ANA Convention Auction (Paramount, 8/1969), lot 1999.
    N. Brilliant Proof. ANA Convention Auction (Stack's, 8/1971), lot 2223.
    O. Brilliant Proof. Dr. Charles Ruby Collection (Superior, 2/1974), lot 1819.
    P. PR63. ANA Convention Auction (Bowers and Ruddy, 8/1978), lot 1510.
    Ex: Ed Trompeter Collection; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection.
    From The Ed Trompeter Collection of Proof $5 Liberties.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28CG, PCGS# 88474)

    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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