US Coins

Proof 1829 $5 coin tops third Bass sale by Heritage

Heritage’s May 4 presentation of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Core Collection, Part III, brought more than $18 million, led by a Proof 1829 Capped Bust, Large Diameter, Large Date gold half eagle that realized $2.88 million.

Heritage’s three recent Bass sales — featuring many familiar coins that had been on long-term display at the American Numismatic Associations Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado — have realized nearly $63 million, with the proceeds benefiting Dallas-area nonprofit organizations supporting childhood education and literacy.

The Bass 1829 Capped Bust, Large Diameter, Large Date $5 half eagle, graded Proof 66+ by Professional Coin Grading Service is the finer of just two Proof examples known. The other, graded Proof 64 by PCGS, sold for $1.38 million more than a decade ago at its last auction appearance. The offered rarity had a provenance that went back to the late 19th century, and Bass acquired it in 1985.

Two formats were used for the $5 in 1829: the Large Diameter version seen on the Bass coin and the Small Diameter, the latter the result of new coining technologies that allowed a planchet to be held tightly by a close collar, preventing the planchet from moving or expanding during striking. This allowed for a more centered coinage, featuring consistently reeded edges, uniform diameters and raised rims.

Contemporary Philadelphia Mint records don’t include this Proof strike, but the Bass example may have been produced as part of a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the Second Philadelphia Mint on July 4, 1829.

Heritage adds, “Such an origin would explain how this coin was so impeccably preserved in the early 19th century, before coin collecting became popular in this country.” It has historically been described as a “one-sided proof” since the obverse has deeply mirrored fields and frosted devices, while the reverse showcases Mint luster more commonly seen on circulation strikes.

Proof Capped Head $2.50s

First runner-up in prices realized at the Dallas session was an 1824/1 Capped Head $2.50 quarter eagle graded Proof 67 by PCGS that is the only Proof  strike in private hands, with the other being in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. The Bass coin sold for $1.74 million.

The issue is enigmatic in that the obverse die was modified from a leftover, unused 1821 die, and remnants of the last digit are seen below the 4 in the date. The reverse die used for 1821 quarter eagles was also reused for these 1824 issues, and the series was not struck at all in 1822 and 1823. Each of the recorded 2,600 Capped Head quarter eagles with the 1824 date were struck from a single die pair, and like the previously discussed half eagle, the offered coin has been characterized as a “one-sided Proof” in the past.

Bass purchased it for $104,500 in 1985.

Heritage writes, “This spectacular Superb Gem proof offers virtually flawless antique-gold surfaces, with deeply reflective fields on the obverse and a mix of prooflike reflectivity and vibrant mint luster on the reverse.”

While a bit of weakness is seen at the centers, the strike is otherwise bold and its ownership history traces back to George F. Seavey who exhibited at the Feb. 4, 1869, meeting of the Boston Numismatic Society.

An 1831 Capped Head $2.50 quarter eagle graded Proof 67 Cameo brought $630,000. It is the finest of eight traced Proof strikes of the date from an original unknown production. John Dannreuther, in his book United States Proof Coins, Volume IV: Gold, traces 32 Proof strikes for the entire 1821 to 1834 Capped Bust quarter eagle series, of which seven are in the Smithsonian Institution.

The offered issue has a provenance tracing back to the start of the 20th century when it realized $21 at Henry Chapman’s 1907 sale of the Matthew A. Stickney Collection, and it was also part of the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection which was sold in 1982 by Bowers and Ruddy. Bass acquired it in December 1986.

Heritage notes, “This stunning Superb Gem Cameo proof borders on Deep Cameo quality, and perhaps deserves an upgraded designation,” while a small splash of color at the date helps identify it.

Fantastic Coronet Proofs

Among the most beautiful of the Bass offerings was an 1866 Coronet $20 double eagle graded Proof 64 Deep Cameo by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. It is one of a dozen or so survivors from an original mintage of 30 Proof strikes. The mintage was split in two productions: 25 on Jan. 15, and then five more delivered on June 8, 1866.

Heritage cites research by pattern expert Saul Teichman, writing, “The reverse here is struck from the same die as the 1865 Judd-452 transitional pattern double eagles with IN clearly higher than the G in GOD.”

Heritage suspects that the offered coin — the only Proof 1866 double eagle known with this reverse — is one of the five Proofs struck on June 8, before concluding, “The possible unique status of this Bass representative only further its significance.” The design includes the motto “In God We Trust” on the reverse, authorized by a March 3, 1865, act of Congress.

Another standout Proof Coronet gold coin was an 1854 $2.50 quarter eagle graded PCGS Proof 64 Cameo with a green CAC sticker that is the only-known Proof strike of this issue. The U.S. Mint did not keep consistent records of its Proof production before 1858, and while Dannreuther suspects that more than one Proof coin was produced, the Bass coin is the sole survivor.

It may have come from an 1854 Proof set made for presentation to the city of Bremen, Germany, and the physical qualities of the coin itself leave no doubt as to its Proof status. Heritage observes, “This near-Gem proof is razor-sharp and reflective with eye-catching Cameo contrast. The reverse is obviously double struck with evidence thereof clearest on the olive leaves, talons, arrowheads, denomination, and the final A in AMERICA.”

Dannreuther reports that its first documented appearance was in 1874 when it emerged in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Bass sale set 30 record prices and was part of Heritage’s official Central States Numismatic Society auctions that realized $61,111,617. Heritage’s U.S. coin auctions realized $46,206,006, while $5,741,447 and $9,164,164 were generated respectively from its U.S. paper currency and world coin offerings.

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