1887 Half Eagle, PR63
    Highly Sought-After Proof-Only Issue
    Only 35 to 40 Coins Believed Known

    1887 $5 PR63 PCGS. The San Francisco Mint struck nearly 2 million half eagles in 1887, but the Philadelphia Mint produced only 87 proofs. This was actually a fairly substantial proof mintage for the period, following 72 proofs in 1886 and preceding 95 proofs in 1888, but the 1887's status as a proof-only Philadelphia issue produces unusually high demand for this date, regardless of grade.

    Remarkably few examples are known to survive, likely as few as 35 to 40 coins, though even this number may be generous. A significant number were likely spent shortly after their release, accounting for the low survival rate and the unusually high number of slightly impaired coins (compared to other proof issues of the period) that are among the surviving population. In all grades, PCGS reports 18 grading events, with four coins in circulated condition; NGC also reports 18 pieces overall, with two in impaired grades (11/14). A number of Gem examples are reported in the certified population data, but these make only rare appearances at auction, which supports the likelihood that the census data is skewed by resubmissions, mostly in the upper grade ranges.

    Despite its scarcity in the absolute sense, the 1887 proof seems to appear auction with some frequency when compared to other proof issues of the same period, but this is largely a product of immense demand for the date which creates strong incentive among owners to sell their examples. Such market activity might normally make this issue seem more plentiful than it actually is, but in the case of the 1887 proof half eagle, it has a strong affect on creating increased collector interest in the prospect of obtaining this date, which only heightens the demand.

    The present Select example boasts the razor-sharp strike and deeply glassy fields that are the hallmarks of 19th century proof gold. No contact marks are present, and only minor hairlines in the fields limit the grade. Immensely appealing lemon-gold and honey patina blankets each side. Subtle contrast is evident between the fields and the relief elements, though it is not quite bold enough to qualify for a Cameo designation from PCGS. Still, this is a beautiful, unimpaired example of this elusive and important proof-only rarity. Population: 1 in 63, 2 finer (11/14).(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 28CR, PCGS# 8482)

    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, 2015
    7th-12th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
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