1887 Liberty Half Eagle, PR65 Cameo
1887 $5 PR65 Cameo NGC. Ex: Trompeter. Only 87 proof Liberty
half eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1887 and no
business-strike examples were produced. When the proof-only status
of the 1887 half eagle became known, it instantly became one of the
most sought-after issues of the series, although it has been
somewhat overshadowed by its double eagle counterpart, also a
proof-only issue, in recent years. Gold proof sets of this date
began appearing at auction at least as early as lot 438 of the
Thomas Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890).
Business-strike mintages of all the gold denominations were quite
small at the Philadelphia facility, putting great pressure on the
small supply of proofs from date collectors. Most of the six-piece
gold proof sets were promptly broken up, to supply collectors with
examples of these rare issues. The elusive nature of the 1887 half
eagle was noted by B. Max Mehl when he offered an example in lot
1708 of his William Cutler Atwater Collection catalog in June of
Legendary Proof-Only Rarity
"1887 $5.00 Gold. Perfect brilliant proof, sharp, with slight raised borders and wire edge. Perfect gem. Total coinage only 87 pieces. Of extreme rarity and value. Record $355.00 but has sold for much more at private sale. I know of one specimen which sold privately for $500.00. It is one of the very rarest Half Eagles."
The lot realized $360, a new record for an example sold at auction at the time. Today the record price realized for an 1887 half eagle is $126,500, brought by the PR65 Cameo NGC specimen in our January 2011 FUN Signature event.
When the proof sets were broken up, many of the coins were lost to attrition and the 1887 is seen in impaired condition more often than any other proof issue of the decade. PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population at 35-40 examples in all grades and the two leading grading services have combined to certify a total of 36 specimens, including resubmissions and crossovers (4/15). Two coins are included in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, and another is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society.
The present coin is a spectacular Gem that traces its history to the famous Eliasberg Collection. It may have been in the Clapp Collection before that, but records are not conclusive. It was acquired by prominent coin dealer Julian Leidman at the sale of the Eliasberg coins in 1982. It later passed to legendary proof gold specialist Ed Trompeter. The date slants up just a little, with the base of the 7 farther away from the dentils than the 1, and the top of the 7 relatively close to the bust truncation. The design elements are sharply detailed except for some slight incompleteness in the area of the arrow fletching and lower shield stripes, probably caused by die polishing. The frosty devices contrast boldly with the deeply reflective fields and the well-preserved surfaces are free of mentionable distractions. A tiny planchet flaw at star 5 and a lintmark behind the eagle's head serve as reliable pedigree markers. Overall eye appeal is tremendous. Census: 8 in 65 Cameo, 0 finer (4/15).
Ex: Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 570; Julian Leidman; Ed Trompeter Collection; Heritage Auctions, circa 1998; private collection.
From The Ed Trompeter Collection of Proof $5 Liberties.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 3YPF, PCGS# 88482)
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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