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    1880 Half Eagle, PR66 Ultra Cameo
    Significantly Underappreciated Proof Rarity
    Ex: Norweb-Trompeter

    1880 $5 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. Ex: Trompeter. The proof 1880 half eagle is an extreme, significantly underrated rarity, even in the context of 19th century proof half eagles. Mint records report a mintage of 36 coins, but little definitive research regarding the number of pieces extant has been offered in the past. The most comprehensive study of this issue's rarity was David Akers' 1979 analysis of auction records:

    "Proofs are very rare, more so than any of the dates that follow. They have also appeared at auction less often than any date after 1859 except for the extremely rare and underrated 1861, 1870, 1871 and 1874."

    The cataloger of the Norweb coin (here offered) estimated that fewer than 10 pieces were extant, including a coin each in the Smithsonian Institution and the American Numismatic Society. In his Proof Encyclopedia, Walter Breen said of the 1880 proof five: "Exceedingly rare, no recent records. ... Do as many as nine survive?" Modern population estimates by PCGS suggest 18 to 22 examples are known, but this belies the combined certified totals which list only 11 coins, including resubmissions (4/15).

    Our exhaustive study of auction data going back as early as 1883, definitively confirms the validity of Akers' research. We have been able to definitively identify only nine proofs, and an extensive examination of earlier appearances reveals that most of these (with perhaps the exceptions of the coins that were singularly listed in Haseltine's 69th sale and Woodward's sale of the Randall Collection) originated in six-piece gold proof sets. This coincides favorably with the number of proof eagles and double eagles known of this date -- just seven and eight coins, respectively. Poor quality plates or the absence of entirely slightly hinders definitive research, and it should be acknowledged that one or two additional proof fives may have been omitted from the roster given below, but even if that is the case, the 1880 proof half eagle is nonetheless revealed to be a major rarity, much more so than we believe has been recognized by modern collectors.

    The Norweb-Trompeter coin is the second-finest example known, trailing only the Superb Gem Garrett-Bass specimen. It is also the sole example certified with an Ultra Cameo designation by either service, essentially putting it in a class by itself. Deep honey-gold surfaces deliver beautiful mirroring in the fields around sharp, frosty relief elements, offering a degree of eye appeal that is arguably unrivaled for the issue. The surfaces are largely devoid of flaws, although a tiny speck to the right of star 3 will serve as a pedigree identifier. This is the first time the Trompeter coin has been offered at auction in nearly three decades. Such an event should not be overlooked.

    Roster of Proof 1880 Half Eagles
    1. PR67 Cameo NGC. Purchased directly from the Mint by T. Harrison Garrett on February 10, 1880 as part of a complete six-piece gold proof set; Robert Garret; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 12/1979), lot 490, which realized $18,000; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Merena, 11/2000), lot 536, which realized $41,400; Good River Collection; Denver Elite (Superior, 8/2006), lot 785; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2015), lot 5356.
    2. PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. Norweb Collection, Part I (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 904, which realized $28,600; Ed Trompeter; Heritage via private treaty, circa 1998. The present specimen.
    3. PR65. Purchased by John H. Clapp from U.S. Coin Company (1915); John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate to Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 551.
    4. PR64 Deep Cameo. Mint Cabinet, part of a complete proof set ordered from the coiner on January 10, 1880; National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, grade per Garrett and Guth.
    5. PR64 PCGS. FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2001), lot 8239; New York Signature (Heritage, 11/2003), lot 7594.
    6. PR64 PCGS. Collectors' Auction 2006 (Scotsman, 10/2006), lot 365, which realized.
    7. PR63 PCGS. Auction '88 (Stack's, 7/1988), lot 1407; February Sale (Superior, 2/1991), lot 2807, which realized $18,535; Chicago Sale (Superior, 8/1991), lot 726; May/June Auction (Superior, 5-6/1993), lot 1497.
    8. PR62 PCGS Cameo. Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/1995), lot 6881; Long Beach Signature (10/1995), lot 6228; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/1999), lot 8146; Long Beach Signature (9/2005), lot 4684; Houston Signature (Heritage, 11/2012), lot 5028.
    9. Proof. R.C.H. Brock, part of a complete proof set ordered from the Mint; J.P. Morgan; American Numismatic Society, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Brilliant Proof. Haseltine's 69th Sale (John W. Haseltine, 6/1883), lot 417.
    B. Proof. Heman Ely; Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 955, as part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    C. Brilliant Proof. Randall Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 6-7/1885), lot 956.
    D. Proof. Thomas Cleneay Collection (Chapman Brothers, 12/1890), lot 431, as part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    E. Proof. Major W.B. Wetmore Collection (Chapman Brothers, 6/1906), lot 163, as part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    F. Proof. David S. Wilson, Esq. Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 340, as part of a six-piece gold proof set, bought by Henry Chapman at $125.00.
    G. Proof. James B. Wilson Collection (Thomas L. Elder, 10/1908), lot 64, as part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    H. Brilliant Proof. World's Greatest Collection (Kosoff-Kreisberg, 1/1946), lot 434, which realized $55.00.
    I. Brilliant Proof. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1701, which realized $70.00.
    J. Brilliant Proof. Memorable Collection (Kosoff-Kreisberg, 3/1948), lot 379.
    K. Brilliant Proof. King Farouk Collection (Sotheby & Co., 2/1954), lot 257, as part of a multiple coin lot which contained 17 other half eagles in proof and circulation-strike format.
    L. Superb Brilliant Proof. Melish Collection (Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 2166; New Netherlands.
    M. Brilliant Proof. N. M. Kaufman (RARCOA, 8/1978), lot 844, as part of a six-piece gold proof set, with the coins offered individually. Possibly the same as 5, 6, or 7 above.
    N. Brilliant Proof. Auction '84 (Stack's, 7/1984), lot 1436. Possibly the same as 5, 6, or 7 above.
    Ex: Ed Trompeter Collection; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection.
    From The Ed Trompeter Collection of Proof $5 Liberties.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28CH, PCGS# 98475)

    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
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 14
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