US Coins

Market Analysis: Just what is an 'orange peel' finish?

Mysterious “orange-peel” texture seen on late 19th century Proof gold coins is found on the obverse of this 1898 Coronet eagle graded Proof 64+ Deep Cameo, and reverse of an 1898 half eagle in Proof 65 Deep Cameo, both with CAC stickers.

Original images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

One characteristic of many Coronet-type Proof gold coins minted in the late 19th century is what’s called an “orange peel” finish. Traditionally, it was thought that the textured fields resulted from a worn die, but this doesn’t make sense considering the relatively short life of a Proof die.

A more recently explored theory suggests that the surfaces result from excessive heat in the annealing furnace. However, Heritage explained in its Jan. 9 offering, “That theory has now been discarded, and to our knowledge no other explanation has rushed in to fill the vacuum created by its absence.”

An 1898 Coronet $10 eagle and $5 half eagle in the January auction each show the “crinkled” surface on only one side.

The 1898 Coronet eagle shows it in the obverse fields, and the Professional Coin Grading Service Proof 64+ Deep Cameo stunner with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker brought $33,600 at the recent Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando.

The 1898 $5 half eagle, graded PCGS Proof 65 Deep Cameo, also CAC-approved, sold for $38,400. On that coin, the “orange-peel” texture was much more prominent on the reverse.

While the source of this texture remains up to debate, the visual appeal of the finest-preserved survivors is undeniable.

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