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    Magnificent Cameo Gem 1873 Open 3 Three Dollar Gold Piece

    1873 $3 Open 3 PR65 Cameo PCGS. This Open 3 variety is one of three proof-only issues in the three dollar series, although there are 1873 Closed 3 three dollar pieces known in both business strike and proof format. There has been considerable confusion surrounding these pieces over the years, seemingly due to comments Walter Breen wrote in the 1960s. Hewitt Brothers published his Major Varieties of the United States Three Dollar Gold Pieces in 1965. The only mintage record for these pieces was 25 proofs struck in February, with no record of any business strikes. Despite this limited production, Breen was able to document four known varieties (and he described a fifth in his New Varieties monograph published three years later).
    The first variety Breen described is this Open 3 coin that he determined represents the original 1873 production. He based this attribution on the knowledge that both the ANS coin and the Smithsonian coin are this variety, and both came from the Philadelphia Mint at the time of issue. His second, third, and fifth varieties are all the Closed 3 reverse, while Breen-4 is a later die state of variety 1, thus technically not a distinct die variety. This late die state is described as virtually identical to the 1875 obverse die. Indeed, this example has many similarities to the two 1875 proofs in this sale, yet there are enough differences for us to attribute this piece as one of the original 25 coins identified as Breen-1. Breen even designated his Breen-2, 3, 4, and 5 varieties as first, second, third, and fourth restrikes respectively.
    David Akers presented an opposing viewpoint in Volume III of his Auction Analysis of three dollar pieces. Akers suggests that the Closed 3 pieces actually preceded the Open 3 coins in this denomination, as in all denominations. The argument is simple: Enough circulated and non-proof examples of the Closed 3 coins exist to rule out the concept of restrikes produced at a later date, which would all have been attractively made. It seems illogical that the Mint would have produced a Closed 3 restrike in the absence of any similar original coins. Akers commented: "It is indeed possible, and in fact it is my opinion, that all 1873 three dollar gold pieces were minted in 1873, and that all the Closed 3 pieces were minted first."
    This cataloger shares the opinion that all 1873 threes were minted in that year, and that they should all be considered Original issues. What is most important in this discussion is the actual rarity of the 1873 Open 3 three dollar gold pieces. Regardless whether just 25 of these were minted, or some other number, the rarity of this issue must be emphasized. More recently, Dave Bowers and Doug Winter suggested a mintage of 40 to 50 proofs, and a survival of between 13 and 18 coins.
    The example that we are delighted to present here is a splendid Gem proof with lovely cameo contrast on both sides. The surfaces are deeply mirrored with fully lustrous and frosty devices, the entirety exhibiting brilliant yellow-gold color, slightly deeper on the obverse. A few tiny blemishes are visible on each side. A lint mark is visible on this example, between the first L in DOLLARS and the digit 8 below. A virtually identical lint mark appears on the plate of the Trompeter specimen (Superior, 2/1992), yet we firmly believe that these are two different specimens, as the two examples diverge in several other tiny imperfections. This example is obviously not the Smithsonian coin or the Harry Bass coin that the foundation retained, and it does not appear to be either the Garrett specimen or the piece from the Byron Reed Collection. It is also different from any previous example offered by our firm. We can quickly account for nine different examples, and agree with the 13- to 18-coin population Bowers suggested. Our investigation further suggests that this example is far finer than most other survivors.
    From The Blowing Rock Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (PCGS# 88037)

    Weight: 5.02 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Blowing Rock Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2006
    29th-30th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 8,219

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