Numismatic Guaranty Corp. recently identified and certified the
only known 1854 Coronet gold $10 eagle in Proof.
A Proof version of the coin was previously unknown in any
collection, although its production had been reported by at least one researcher.
NGC graded the coin Proof 55 Cameo.
While a small number of lower denomination Proof coins are known
from 1854, notably examples of the first year of issue Indian Head
gold $3 pieces, this newly identified example is the only known Proof
1854 eagle, according to NGC.
The coin was submitted to NGC by an authorized dealer based in
Europe, with no information provided on the coin’s provenance.
Although the coin was submitted as a regular issue example, “it was
immediately recognized by NGC as a great rarity,” according to NGC officials.
“Lightly circulated, it nonetheless exhibits deeply mirrored
fields, frosted devices and squared rims, unlike any other known” 1854
Coronet eagle, according to NGC.
“More telling, this coin was struck using the same reverse dies as
known proof eagles dated from 1840 through 1848,” according to NGC.
During that period, reverse dies for Proof coinage were saved and
used to strike coins in subsequent years. No other Proof Coronet
eagles struck at Philadelphia are known from the period 1849 through
1856, according to NGC.
Although no example of the coin was known in any collection, its
production had been reported previously.
In his 1953 monograph Proof Coins Struck by the United States
Mint, 1817 - 1921, published in The Coin Collector’s Journal,
researcher Walter Breen writes that Mint Cabinet records for July 1854
report the accession of 43 “coins of gold, silver and copper,
1643-1853, sent by the Corporation of the City of Bremen, Germany,”
for which the “Treasury Department (it is mentioned in passing) sent a
full proof set, $20 gold to half-cent, of the current year 1854.”
In Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof
Coins, 1722-1989, published in 1977, Breen states of the Proof half
eagle, eagle and double eagle, “none [were] now located.”
For the 1854 eagle, Breen listed a mintage of “1+,” meaning that
at least one example was struck. According to Breen, this set of coins
remained in Bremen until World War II, when the city was occupied and
the coins went missing from a city museum. Breen states that,
periodically since, examples of Proof coins dated 1854 from this set
have been offered. It is unknown if the 1854 Coronet eagle
authenticated by NGC formed part of that set.
Mark Salzberg, chairman of NGC, commented on this coin’s
discovery: “Now that NGC has submission centers and authorized dealers
around the world, there is a new opportunity for these type of
exciting discoveries. ...”
Rick Montgomery, president of NGC and head of grading, notes that
“identifying and authenticating this coin is part of an important
numismatic story, and we work hard to make sure that it is told properly.”
Jeff Garrett, gold coin expert and co-author of the Encyclopedia
of U.S. Gold Coins 1795 – 1933, comments: “The discovery of a Proof
1854 eagle is one of the most significant numismatic stories of the
last decade. Seldom is a previously unknown, unique coin, revealed to
the numismatic community. The circumstances of the discovery adds to
Doug Winter, an expert in 19th century gold coinage, consulted
with NGC on the Proof 1854 Coronet eagle. After completing his own
detailed study, he related, “the 1854 $10 ... is absolutely a Proof.
This is one of the most important United States gold coins to have
been discovered in some time and as far as I know it is unique in
Proof for the date.” ■