The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
In 1908, two types of half eagles were minted for circulation in Philadelphia. The With Motto, Liberty Head design--continuously struck since 1866--was being replaced by Bela Lyon Pratt's Indian Head design. Proof versions of the Type 2 Liberty fives were issued each year since 1866, with the lone exception of 1908, when proofs of the new so-called 'incuse' Indian design were specially prepared for collectors. Technically, the design is not incused, but rather sunken. To achieve this affect, certain design elements had to stand higher than the open field, instead of being below the surface as it had been done since day-one at the Mint. As a result, the fields could not be lapped in the manner required to produce brilliant proofs. The Mint's solution was to invent a new type of proof format that would be popular with collectors. The answer was the matte proof and, although it was certainly new, popular it was not. After being struck on a hydraulic press, each coin was lightly sandblasted. The resulting coin was odd in appearance--the surfaces were grainy--and complaints from collectors were forthcoming. The number of 1908 matte proof half eagles produced is a somewhat nebulous figure. The Mint--per one piece of contemporary correspondence--suggests that 500 pieces were struck. It is obvious, however, that not all were sold to collectors, probably due to their unfamiliar look. The official total recorded in the National Archives is 167 proof fives. Roger Burdette expounds in his Renaissance of American Coinage, 1905-1908: 'Figures reported at the end of 1908, one hundred and one gold sets, were the quantity sold, with the balance melted.'
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