1896 Dollar, PR69 ★ Ultra Cameo
1896 $1 PR69 ★ Ultra Cameo NGC. In our experience, proof
coinage from 1896 and 1898 is consistently of the highest quality
and aesthetic appeal of any 19th century U.S. coinage. This
observation is borne out by both Q. David Bowers and Wayne Miller,
as seen on page 2563 of Bowers' 1993 Silver Dollars and Trade
Dollars of the United States:
Sole Star Coin at This Level
"Proofs are usually very attractive. Wayne Miller wrote that Proof dollars of 1896-1898 evidence the most awesome cameo contrast of any Proofs in the Morgan series. Even Proof-62 and 63 coins are apt to have a special degree of aesthetic appeal. Proofs of this and the next two years show that the Mint could turn out exceptional products if it wanted to."
One explanation for the high quality seen on many 1896 proof dollars is that two obverse dies were used to produce the 762 proofs struck. Assuming that the first few dozen coins struck from a fresh pair of dies would be cameos, the fact that two dies were used should double the number of cameo coins produced. And that appears to be just what happened in 1896, even though other dates (the 1895, for instance) had two or more dies used to strike proof dollars. One can then surmise that Bowers' statement "Proofs of this and the next two years show that the Mint could turn out exceptional products if it wanted to" is not only true, but it also points to a conscious desire on the part of Mint employees to turn out a superior product.
With the reputation 1896 has for attractive proof coinage, at the PR69 ★ level, this coin represents the best of the best. The surfaces are suggestive of Ultra Cameo proofs that the Mint produced beginning in the 1980s. It is truly remarkable that such a coin predates those coins by some 80 years. The fields are extraordinarily deep in their mirrored reflectivity. This, of course, is in part from the sharply contrasting frost on the devices, but it is also simply because the fields on the dies were so heavily polished prior to striking and the planchet heavily polished also. Again: a "conscious desire ... to turn out a superior product." The devices are heavily frosted and balanced in appearance from side to side. This combination of thick mint frost and deep mirrors gives the coin its Ultra Cameo status. The surfaces appear perfect to the unaided eye. However, perfection would be unrealistic for a coin that was struck 110 years ago. Magnification reveals very light hairlines (definitely not from cleaning) on the cheek of Liberty. Again, magnification is required, and these "imperfections" do not impair the overall appearance or eye appeal of this stunning proof dollar. Simply outstanding quality in a proof Morgan and a coin that is sure to be of great interest to both Morgan specialists and collectors of 19th century proof type. Of the three submissions that NGC has certified at the PR69 Ultra Cameo level, this coin with the added Star designation is the only such (5/13).
Ex: Atlanta ANA Signature (Heritage, 4/2006), lot 1202, which realized $126,500.
From The Greensboro Collection, Part IV.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 27ZT, PCGS# 97331)
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 Greensboro Collection, Part IV ]
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