Elusive 'Lucky 1888' Half Eagle, PR65 Deep Cameo1888 $5 PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS. The practice of the Mint for much of the 19th century was to produce a certain number of gold proofs during a relatively short-term proof run and offer them to collectors in sets and as individual pieces. The number of proofs produced was recorded. What was almost never recorded, however, was the number melted as unsold at the end of the year. In the case of the 1888 half eagle proof, for example, the number manufactured was recorded as 95 pieces, but the date seldom appears at auction. Although the certified population at NGC and PCGS combined totals nearly 50 pieces, Garrett and Guth opine that only 25 to 30 separate coins are known today--a factor that is reasonable when one deducts a percentage of the certified totals in recognition of the fact that those appearances are submission events, not necessarily individual pieces. The Breen Proof Encyclopedia says simply, "Much rarer than its mintage figure suggests ..."
The present cataloger was unaware of another potential rarity factor until the 8/8/08 (8:08 PM China Standard Time) start of the Summer Olympics in Beijing: The "triple 8" is a symbol of good luck and prosperity to the Chinese. Is it possible that Chinese buyers are buying up various 1888-dated U.S. coins, further contributing to the status of the proof 1888 half eagle as a seldom-seen auction offering? While this is just speculation, it is also not a disproven theory ...
This is a simply splendid Gem example of this issue regardless, one that neatly sums up all the many attractions of cameo proof gold coinage. The surfaces are a deep, rich orange-yellow, with the limitlessly mirrored fields and thickly frosted devices that characterized U.S. proof gold until 1902. Neither side reveals much perturbance even under a loupe, and indeed this coin appears high-end for the grade, a fact with which CAC concurs. The lower loop of the last 8 shows a bit of frostiness on the left side, with prooflikeness a thin sliver on the right side, a pedigree identifier. In PR65 Deep Cameo this is the single finest certified at PCGS, while NGC has graded two each in PR66 Ultra Cameo and PR67 Ultra Cameo (9/08).
This is a coin that will prove a fortunate acquisition for some lucky bidder.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28CS, PCGS# 98483)
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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