Impressive Branch Mint Proof 1884-CC Dollar
1884-CC $1 Branch Mint PR66 Cameo NGC. The extreme rarity of
the four branch mint proof 1884-CC dollars is well known to
specialists. What is not as well known, and is in fact
extraordinary, is that Jack Lee owned two of the four known pieces.
At first we thought this must be the same coin we sold in the
Morris Silverman Collection in 2002. However, when we compared it
to the plate in the Silverman catalog we came to the startling
conclusion that they are clearly two different coins with
distinctly different pedigree markers.
In his 1986 book The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook, Wayne Miller termed the 1884-CC dollars as Class III coins, meaning little was known but these coins might be proofs. Other Class III branch mint dollars include the 1881-O and 1884-O. However, after we have examined two of 1884-CC dollars we are of the opinion these coins can be "promoted" to Class II strikings, i.e., "unauthorized but definite branch mint proofs."
The four criteria set out by Wayne Miller for proof strikings include: a bold strike, square rims, virtually perfect surfaces, and mirror-like fields. This coin fits three of the four criteria listed. The only exception are square rims, which one really would not expect on a branch mint proof dollar, almost all of which were struck from dies intended for circulation. (The only exception we are aware of is the 1879-O).
In 1995 we handled the Anita Maxwell Trust of Morgan Dollars, a collection that included eight branch mint proofs. This provided a singular opportunity to study these coins in depth and publish the findings. One of the most important features we found:
"All branch mint proof dollars, except the 1879-O, were struck from regular production dies that had been heavily polished to produce a proof surface in the fields. All were struck more than once, giving the coins a crispness of strike not found on regular production coins. While the fields were polished to a depth that is comparable to Philadelphia proofs of the period and striking details are usually comparable also, the overall quality of branch mint proofs is not fully comparable to Philadelphia coins. From examination of the eight coins it seems that this is true for two reasons. First, all coins show incomplete die polishing, especially in areas where there is little blank surface between the design elements. Second, small patches of die rust are seen on several of the coins--a curious and surprising discovery that indicates that in some cases mint personnel heavily polished discarded or worn dies--dies that had lain around the mint long enough to rust slightly. From these observations we may also conclude that branch mint personnel were not familiar with Philadelphia proofs and what was required to produce such coins. The presence of die cracks indicates that most branch mint proofs were either struck during a production run or at some time afterward, but not before as one might suspect (except for the 1884-O and 1921-S)."
The 1884-CC branch mint proofs were struck from VAM-3 dies. According to the VAMworld website, these heavily used dies are characterized by: "Doubled 18 in date. 1 doubled below top crossbar and to left of bottom crossbar. Die chips at inside right of top and bottom loops of first 8 and slightly doubled right outside of upper loop. Second 8 slightly doubled at top inside of bottom loop. Slightly doubled nose, lips, chin and back of Phrygian cap." The proofs were struck from an advanced state of these dies with extensive die cracks noted around the periphery on the obverse. Also, the die chipping in the top of the loop of the 8 appears to have diminished from die lapping, and the chipping in the bottom loop of the 8 is more sharply defined here, now an arc in that part of the digit rather than generalized chipping. As seen also on the earlier Jack Lee branch mint proof, this piece shows an area of heavy die polish in front of Liberty's eye. Also common to both coins, and branch mint proofs in general, there is an unpolished area between the eagle's neck and right (facing) wing. This is common to these pieces because of the branch mint's unfamiliarity with striking proof coinage. It appears an attempt was made to try and strike coins that closely resembled Philadelphia proofs; however, lacking actual proof dies there were necessarily limitations to how "proof" these pieces could be.
Allegedly there are four branch mint proof 1884-CC dollars known. We have not traced the pedigree of these four pieces but this would make an interesting numismatic research project for someone with an extensive numismatic library. The fields on this piece have mirror-like reflectivity that goes well beyond that seen on a prooflike dollar. The surfaces are nearly perfect, lacking the usual small abrasions from coin-to-coin contact. Similar to the other Jack Lee proof sold in the Morris Silverman Sale (Heritage, 4/2002), close examination with a loupe reveals tiny lint marks, an obvious attempt by mint personnel to wipe the dies prior to striking, but tiny lint marks adhered to the dies from static electricity. Both sides are evenly matched in color with a reddish undertone that is overlaid by rich cobalt-blue. A curious feature of this coin is seen over the ear of Liberty. It shows faint remnants of roller marks. This is most likely from setting the dies too far apart rather than a lack of striking pressure.
The 1884-CC branch mint proof is one of the great rarities in the Morgan dollar series. So few pieces are known that most dollar collectors are not even aware of their existence. For those who do know, this lot represents a rare opportunity to acquire this important coin.
From The Estate of Jack Lee Collection. (NGC ID# 3X6U, PCGS# 107319)
Weight: 26.73 grams
Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
View all of [The Jack Lee Estate Collection ]
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