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With a proof mintage of 291 pieces, this date is widely known as being the most plentiful date of the type, quite possibly having been sold in extra numbers to eastern U.S. business moguls of the Gilded Age, just ending at the same time as the production of the gorgeous Indian threes were also drawing to a close. It is likely that well-heeled collectors of the day knew that this curious denomination would soon cease to be produced, which possibly accounts for the extra proofs made in 1888 (although Breen comments, as have many others, that the end of the three dollar gold production, in its commercial version, coincided with the end of the three cent postage stamp, for which one of these coins was a handy way to purchase a hundred such stamps). While 'available,' the proofs of this year are far from common, attested to by the fairly modest numbers of those certified by all grading services. Hard times and a devastating world war were soon coming to America: a sizable percentage of those proofs made in 1888 went into hiding, were melted, or were simply spent through the early 1930s. This cataloger (BL) has personal knowledge of one of these being found in a bank's change in the mid-1920s. The result of this passage of time was that few truly choice examples exist today--a fraction of those minted.
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