With Motto 1908 Double Eagle, PR66+
1908 $20 Motto PR66+ NGC. The U.S. Mint was not alone in
producing matte proofs beginning in 1908. Canada's Ottawa Mint
opened in that same year, producing specimen coinage in sets,
similar to U.S. proof sets. The Charlton Catalog says:
An Elite Matte Proof
"The finish imparted to [Canadian] specimen coins has varied over the years. During the Victoria period, it consisted of frosted, raised elements with bright, mirror fields. In the reigns of Edward VII and George V an overall satin (sometimes called matte) finish was in vogue."
This sounds remarkably similar to the United States' transition during the same time to matte proofs, although the term "matte" is a relatively recent one. "Sandblast proof" is an older and more descriptive term, although that is not the whole story either. Walter Breen writes in the first chapter of his Proof Encyclopedia, beginning on page 17 of the 1989 edition:
"Early in the 20th century, apparently owing to the influence of the Paris Mint ... medals and proof coins began experimentally to be made by a new process yielding no longer the old and tired brilliant mirrorlike fields, but instead a uniform granular sheen. Russell Nering has traced the process back to about 1896, in which year -- if memory serves -- Belgium and possibly some other small European countries issued a few proofs by the new processes. Britain introduced it on the Coronation proof sets of 1902, and Canadian sets of 1908. ...
"Regrettably, the story here is not yet complete. At least five different variations on the matte and sandblast proof technique were experimentally used on regular proofs between 1909 and 1915. At the moment it is hardly possible to give verbal descriptions, or to tell exactly how they were made (the relevant records have not been released to the National Archives). What I do know is that the finish in each instance had to be applied after striking, and that in some instances it involved pickling the coins in weak acid and in others it involved spraying them with a stream of fine sand in compressed air."
With so many slightly different possible production methods, varying surface textures and colors can be found among high-grade matte/sandblast proof gold, even among coins of a given date. The present piece is a case in point. This PR66+ 1908 double eagle displays the usual khaki color, but the high points of the knee, breasts, and nose show a slightly different texture or color from the rest of the coin. These areas are neither wear nor cabinet friction, or anything else of the sort, but clearly could have been caused by the angle of the spray of sand hitting the device high points, for example. A complete wire rim encircles the reverse but not the obverse, and there are no shiny spots or any visible contact marks. An interesting example of this classic proof gold coinage. Census: 25 in 66 (1 in 66+), 12 finer (4/12).
Ex: Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2012), lot 5097.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GV, PCGS# 9205)
Weight: 33.44 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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