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 all denominations, 1853 proof coinage ranks among the great rarities of American numismatics. Among issues of the date, the quarter and half dollar are both one-year type coins, with arrows on the obverse and rays on the reverse. Walter Breen suggests that five proofs were coined on March 3, 1853, part of four-piece proof sets that contained the half dime, dime, quarter, and half dollar. His report of the mintage date for the proofs was based on the comments of Harold Newlin, the 19th century half dime collector who stated that the 1853 proof half dimes were coined on that date: 'Newlin claimed in his 1883 book on half dimes that the new coins with arrowheads were first made March 3, 1853. As the first delivery of production coins with arrowheads took place April 29, these March 3 coins must have been proofs: five sets in all.'
All proofs are reportedly from a single die pair with light recutting below the 53 and right arrowhead, the right arrowpoint nearly touching the border, the shield point above the right base of the 1, and the left base of the 1 over the center of a dentil. The reverse has faint die file marks above ER in AMERICA, faint die scratches joining the Q and U, and through the C to the final A. That description from Breen's Proof Encyclopedia was repeated in Larry Briggs' Seated quarter reference.
Nonetheless, an example has been observed that, while similar to Breen?s description, shows no evidence of recutting on the date. The shield point is over the outer left edge of the 8, and both arrowpoints are close to the border. There is no immediate evidence of the reverse die file marks that Breen describes. An obverse feature that is apparently different from other examples are diagonal file lines that extend up to the right from the ribbon containing LIBERTY. They extend a short distance beyond the right shield border, into the drapery folds. The data suggests that two different die pairs were used for the 1853 Arrows and Rays proof quarters, indicating that one variety may be a restrike produced in later years. The existence of seven or eight proofs tells us that the mintage figure of five coins is clearly incorrect.
The following is a roster of known specimens:
1. PR67 NGC. Heritage (4/2010, lot 2087)
2. PR66 Cameo NGC. Phil Kaufman Collection (Heritage, 8/2007), lot 1785.
3. PR65 NGC. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 1454, Heritage (1/1998), lot 6782, Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 3/2005), lot 1522. In the Eliasberg catalog, Dave Bowers described this piece as MS64, prooflike, noting 'possibly a candidate for 'proof' attribution.' Since the time of that sale, it has been certified as a proof.
4. PR64 NGC. Jerome Kern Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 1445, John Jay Pittman (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1325, Bowers and Merena (8/1999), lot 141, Goldberg Coins (2/2002), lot 704, Superior (1/2004), lot 287.
5. MS64, prooflike. Thomas L. Elder, Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 3/1988), lot 1594. Dave Bowers cataloged the Norweb coin as a prooflike business strike, but a decade later Dave Akers included it in his census of proofs.
6. PR63 PCGS. Stack's, Auction '80, lot 1184, Stack's, Auction '90, lot 143, Stack's (5/1992), lot 2659, Superior (6/1999), lot 2099, Superior (10/2000), lot 4360, Goldberg Coins (5/2001), lot 561, Superior (1/2004), lot 2354.
7. Proof. Lester Merkin (6/1968), lot 291, Stack's (10/1990), lot 1638.
8. Proof. National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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