US Coins

19th century Proof coins in post-Long Beach auctions

Some lovely Proof issues from the second part of the 19th century are highlights in Heritage’s Feb. 8 through 10 Long Beach Expo auctions, held in Dallas the week after the Southern California show. Each example shows the proficiency the Philadelphia Mint exhibited in producing Proof coins for collectors at the time.

A handsome 1876 Indian Head gold $3 piece graded Proof 65 Deep Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service, with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, is a Proof-only rarity with a recorded mintage of 45 pieces. The year has added demand as the American centennial, and this coin features orange-gold surfaces, with deep mirrors in the fields and frosty design elements.

Heritage observes no distracting blemishes, save a tiny nick on Liberty’s neck and some faint hairlines, and adds, “The only worthwhile pedigree marker is an area of obverse planchet discoloration at the U in UNITED.” It sold at least four times at Heritage in the 2000s, the latest appearance being at the February 2007 Long Beach Signature session, where it realized $80,500.

Two coveted 1867 Proofs

A duo of Proofs from 1867 are also set to impress. A Coronet gold $5 half eagle graded Proof 65 Cameo by PCGS is one of just 50 struck, with only 14 to 16 known today according to John Dannreuther in his recent book on Proof gold coins, where he lists this as the second-finest known. It has a provenance that goes back to the Hebbeard Collection, sold in 1883, and was later part of the John Work Garrett Collection until it was sold by Johns Hopkins University in 1986. It was part of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection until it was offered at Bowers and Merena’s 2000 sale of portions of his holdings, and most recently it was presented at Heritage’s September Long Beach auction — graded as Proof 65 by PCGS — where it realized $78,000.

Dannreuther writes, “The quality of Proofs in the 1860s was quite good with many frosty examples having deeply mirrored surfaces with some of them displaying the orange-peel effect.” This one has a tiny curved lint mark at the base of Liberty’s neck and a tiny copper toning spot on the obverse border at star 2 that allows it to be identified for pedigree purposes.

Another 1867 rarity is a Shield 5-cent piece graded Proof 66 Cameo by PCGS with reverse rays. A 2007 article by Dannreuther traces three obverse dies and a common reverse die for the Proof 1867 Shield, With Rays “nickels,” and the use of multiple obverse dies suggests that the coins were struck over a period of time, rather than all at once. The design type began in 1866 with reverse rays, and 1867 Shield 5-cent pieces were struck in both Proof and circulation finish with and without rays. The Proof 1867 Shield, With Rays 5-cent piece is a rarity, with the “Red Book” suggesting a mintage of 25+, of which this is among the finest-survivors. It previously sold for $76,375 at Heritage’s 2014 January Florida United Numismatists auctions.

Proof Morgan key

The 1895 Proof Morgan dollar is always popular. Heritage’s offering graded Proof 64 Deep Cameo by PCGS is among the more attractive survivors from a mintage of 880 Proof coins, with no circulation strikes released from the Philadelphia Mint that year (despite a ledger entry of 12,000 pieces recorded).

Any example is expensive, and Heritage calls this one delightful, “with razor-sharp definition on the design elements and deeply mirrored fields throughout,” adding, “devices are richly frosted, creating intense cameo contrast against the reflective fields.”

A comparably graded example sold for $72,000 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries in 2018, where the cataloger noted, “An interesting and very curious aspect of Proof 1895 dollars is that research at the American Numismatic Association headquarters found that five (!) different obverse dies were used to create the mintage of just 880 coins.”

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