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About this journal

Been adding quite a few rarities the last 12 months.  I’ve acquired the finest known in a number of categories, however, this one I wanted to share as I picked it up at Heritage tonight at auction and it will go in the generational skip trust and will not be seen again by the public for three generations.

Finest known.

1884 $5 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. "Proofs are very rare and have appeared at auction less often than proofs of any other date after 1880." -- David Akers, United States Gold Coins Analysis of Auction Records, Volume IV (1979). 

The 1884 proof half eagle has an unbroken century-long history of exceptional rarity, which is yet to be fully appreciated. Skewing the perceived availability of this issue are artificially inflated certification figures (20 submissions at PCGS and NGC combined (11/17) ), and an unrealistically high survival estimate by PCGS of 25 to 30 coins. In reality, there are likely only 12 to 15 pieces known, and most have not been seen at auction in more than a decade. With a reported mintage of 48 coins, this begs the question, as Walter Breen phrased it in his proof Encyclopedia, "What happened to the rest?" 

The most plausible explanation is that most of the 48 gold proof sets minted in 1884 -- which were the sole mode of distribution for 1884 proof half eagles -- were never released to collectors, being either melted as unsold at the end of the year or possibly released into circulation and lost. As early as 1890, gold 1884 proof sets began appearing at auction in prominent collections that were assembled during the time when 1884 proofs could be purchased from the Mint. Original sets in the Cleneay (1890), Mougey (1910), David S. Wilson (1907), and James B. Wilson (1908) sales were offered intact, while those in Wolcott (1901) and Ten Eyck (1922) were sold as individual coins. The Clapp, Garrett, N.M. Kaufman, and Walter H. Childs Collections, formed during this period but held intact until recent years, contained the only other 1884 gold proof sets known or believed to have been acquired directly from the Mint. Including a set owned by J.P. Morgan that was later donated to the ANS, just 11 different original 1884 gold proof sets are definitively known to have been in the hands of collectors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, plus a 12th in the Mint Cabinet. This distribution estimate is strikingly similar to our current roster of proof 1884 half eagles, which lists 13 different specimens, including three housed in the Smithsonian (2) and the ANS (1) museums. Due to poor plate quality in some of the catalogs examined, one or two duplications may exist in our census. However, we are confident that there are likely no more than 12 to 15 proof 1884 half eagles known. 

This piece surfaced in public auctions a decade ago with no accurately traceable pedigree. NGC lists a numerically equal non-Cameo proof, which has either never been offered at auction or is an upgrade from one of the lesser coins in our census, but this piece is without doubt the finest Ultra or Deep Cameo known. Deeply mirrored fields and sharp, frosty devices produce cameo contrast reminiscent of a freshly struck proof. Faint die polishing lines in the fields are visible at certain angles under a loupe, not to be confused with hairline scratches. Technically and visually the finest that the 1884 proof half eagle issue has to offer. 

In his proof Encyclopedia, Breen called the 1884 proof five "one of the great sleepers of the decade." In our opinion, it remains highly underrated. Recent auction appearances are so few that no reliable pattern is discernible for how often an 1884 proof half eagle will come on the market.



Entries in this journal


1812 BD-1 Half Eagle, MS61 Wide Denomination

1812 BD-1 Half Eagle, MS61
Wide Denomination 1812 $5 BD-1, R.3, MS61 NGC. Bass-Dannreuther Die State a/a with no evidence of clash marks on either side of this splendid specimen. The two varieties of 1812 half eagles represent the last year of John Reich's Capped Bust Left design. The obverse and reverse were each modified for coinage the following year, with the obverse depicting the Capped Head design. The reverse modification created a smaller eagle with the leaves farther from the border and the claws and arrow feather farther from the denomination. This lovely lemon-yellow example has frosty luster and pleasing surfaces that exhibit inconsequential, microscopic marks. Census: 0 in 61 - census is incorrect on this specimen at both NGC and PCGS.

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1909 VDB 1C Doubled Die Obverse, FS-1101, MS65 Red PCGS.

1909 VDB 1C Doubled Die Obverse, FS-1101, MS65 Red PCGS. Doubling is evident on the RTY of LIBERTY and on all date digits, with the secondary image east of the primary. Housed in a PCGS 30th Anniversary holder. Blazing orange-gold luster adorns this popular Gem. All design elements are sharply impressed. Devoid of mentionable marks or spots. The Cherrypickers' Guide notes that: "Values have more than doubled in recent years."

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1805 $5 BD-1, High R.3, MS61 PCGS OGH

Still updating the registry and sharing the rarer specimens. 1805 Five Dollar, BD-1, MS61
Pinpoint-Sharp Strike 1805 $5 BD-1, High R.3, MS61 PCGS. Bass-Dannreuther Die State a/a, without a vertical die crack through the 0 in the date. The left foot of the 1 is intact -- an obvious die marker for the most collectible variety among 1805 half eagles. According to Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, possibly more than 200 coins survive. Of those, a small fraction are known in Mint State. Both sides are evenly struck and well-centered with crisp dentilation. The stars are raised, and the neck, wing, and tailfeathers are sharp as can be. Yellow-gold surfaces display wispy marks in line with the grade. Housed in an old green label holder.

1884 PF 66 UCAM $5 Coronet

2017 was a banner year for my registry with some of the finest examples know being acquired.  Couldn’t resist the Florida Auction and acquired this unbelivable specimen tonight as well as three others. This will go into the vault and will not be seen again by the public for 3 generations.  Rick, if you want to see it, we can make arrangements.  
This piece surfaced in public auctions a decade ago with no accurately traceable pedigree. NGC lists a numerically equal non-Cameo proof, which has either never been offered at auction or is an upgrade from one of the lesser coins in our census, but this piece is without doubt the finest Ultra or Deep Cameo known. Deeply mirrored fields and sharp, frosty devices produce cameo contrast reminiscent of a freshly struck proof. Faint die polishing lines in the fields are visible at certain angles under a loupe, not to be confused with hairline scratches. Technically and visually the finest that the 1884 proof half eagle issue has to offer.    PR 66 UCAM - eQuine Holdings (possibly the lost King Farouk example 1954) PR 65 DCAM - Private Collection PR 65 UCAM - unknown, formerly the Child’s Collection PR 65 - Ullmer 1974, Bass 2000 PR 64 DCAM - Unknown. Last Auction Appearance 2003, formerly Eliasberg collection Choice PF - Unknown. Last Auction Appearance 1998 PR 63 - Frontenac PR 63 Cameo - Rogers Fred Proof - Kaufman PR 64 (2 coins) - Smithsonian  Proof - JP Morgan Numismatic Society

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1897 $2.5 PF 65 UCAM CAC

1897 Two and a Half, PR65 Ultra Cameo 
Starkly Contrasted and Rare 
1897 $2 1/2 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. Ultra Cameo proof 1897 quarter eagles are widely scattered across the numeric grade spectrum, but this Superb Gem is nonetheless high-end for the issue. Only 136 pieces were struck, and likely fewer than 100 are known to survive. Certified population reports are unreliable due to resubmissions; currently, NGC and PCGS combined report 151 grading events -- far surpassing the number proofs actually struck. This CAC-endorsed Ultra Cameo displays incredible field-motif contrast and nearly pristine surfaces. The strike is razor-sharp. If the conditional rarity of this piece is not enough to spike interest in multiple collectors, the eye appeal certainly will. Census: 9 in 65 Ultra Cameo, 27 finer. CAC: 4 in 65, 15 finer (11/17)

1836 PG $1 PF 66 Cap & Rays Original Strike CAC

As Rick would say, “I think you went a little nuts!”.   1836 PG$1 Gold Dollar, Judd-67, Pollock-70, R.5, PR66 PCGS. CAC. Christian Gobrecht both designed and engraved the dies for this gold dollar pattern. The influence of Mexican coinage is clearly seen on the obverse design showing a Liberty cap surrounded by rays of glory. The reverse features the denomination 1 D. within a coiled palm frond, with the date below and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above. Struck in coin gold with a 10% copper alloy and a plain edge. Original 1836 patterns were struck prior to March 14 of that year, as established by Walter Breen based on the date Mint Director Patterson sent a gold pattern to Secretary of the Treasury Levi Woodbury.

Both originals and restrikes exist for Judd-67. Originals, such as this piece, have a coin turn and are alloyed with 10% copper. According to Akers, restrikes from January of 1844 are alloyed with the same percentage of silver and have a medallic turn.

This magnificent example displays deeply reflective proof fields. Set against the mirrors is noticeable mint frost over the devices, which yields a moderate cameo contrast. The surfaces are extraordinarily clean; the only interruptions are three tiny planchet voids on the reverse. Even reddish-gold color covers each side. Only two other pieces have been so graded by PCGS, and none are certified finer (10/17). This is the most eye-appealing, original example that the HA Cataloger has ever seen.

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1803/2 - $5 Draped Bust MS 61

1803/2 $5 BD-2, R.5, MS61 NGC. Bass-Dannreuther Die State d/c. This late die state shows a bisecting crack on the reverse from the U in UNITED, through the eagle's beak, to the E in STATES. Light field chatter slightly subdues semiprooflike mirroring, but no major abrasions are noticed. The left side of the shield and the eagle's left (facing) talons exhibit strike weakness. On the obverse, bold strike doubling is visible on all relief elements. BD-2 is the rarest of the 1803 half eagle die varieties, with only 40 to 50 pieces believed known. Uncirculated examples, such as this eye-appealing piece, are in demand.

1888-O VAM 1B Scarface Small Die Crack

Ron Guth: The 1888-O VAM 1B "Scarface" variety is one of the most obvious, desirable, and valuable of all Morgan Dollar varieties.  There was not question that this would be (and is) a Top 100 variety.  However, there is a caveat that accompanies this variety.  The "Scarface" is a late to terminal state of a die crack that begins at the dot separating the E from PLURIBUS and grows to include Liberty's face from her nose to the lower hair curls.  The value of the "Scarface" variety is dependent on the size of the crack.  Early states, where Liberty's face is not involved are not considered to be true "Scarface" varieties or, at least, they do not command the high price of the true "Scarface:" variety.

1891 $2.5 PF 64 UCAM

Only 80 Proofs Struck 
Rare in All Grades - 1891 $2 1/2 PR64 Ultra Cameo NGC. Characteristics of this proof die pair include bold die doubling of AMERICA (different than the FS-801 circulation strike doubling) and re-punching of the 891 in the date. Mint records indicate that 80 proof 1891 quarter eagles were struck, although likely only about half or slightly less survive today in all grades. HA previously handled only four Ultra/Deep Cameo examples. This Choice Ultra Cameo is fully struck and showcases starkly contrasted devices amid rich yellow-gold coloration. A loupe reveals nothing more than a few stray lines that prevent a Gem numeric grade. A lovely example of this rare 19th century proof gold issue. Census: 2 in 64 Ultra Cameo, 13 finer (6/17).

1882 CC MS 60 Double Eagle 1-B

Of course, I had to pick up the sister to the 1-A 1882-CC $20 MS60 NGC. Variety 1-B. In 1882, coining and refining operations at the Carson City Mint increased over previous years. Double eagles, not struck at the Nevada branch mint since 1879, were struck to the extent of 39,140 pieces. The Carson City Mint was of advantage to miners and mine owners as a convenient place to deposit their gold in exchange for coins or bars. Double eagles that did not circulate locally were eventually exported, and many of the pieces known today were repatriated from foreign trade caches. Uncirculated coins are scarce and in high demand. 

This piece is sharply struck from dies that do not show the lapping seen on many Carson City double eagles at the eagle's tailfeathers and Liberty's neck truncation. Satiny peach-gold surfaces exhibit olive patina amid the scattered abrasions. The vast majority of Uncirculated 1882-CC twenties are heavily abraded, thus the markers of quality more often than not are a sharp strike and unworn devices, as this piece possesses.

1882 CC MS 61 Double Eagle Variety 1A

I love this recent acquisition. 1882-CC $20 MS61 NGC. Variety 1-A. The second C in the mintmark is positioned lower than the first, distinguishing this variety from the other die marriage used to strike 39,140 double eagles in 1882. Both variants share a common obverse with a diagnostic vertical die gouge in front of Liberty's eye. The 1882-CC is a very scarce issue across all Uncirculated grade levels and becomes rare in MS62. Only a couple of coins are known to survive in MS63, about 15 grade points higher than the average example at NGC and PCGS. 

Bright mint frost emanates from this light orange-gold representative. A uniformly strong strike appears on the obverse stars, Liberty's curls, and the eagle's feathers. Numerous small abrasions are peppered over each side and explain the grade, but none merit individual attention.

1895 MS 65 Double Eagle Top Pop - Finest known (tied)

Another recent addition. 1895 $20 MS65 NGC. R 9.8 Uncirculated 1895 double eagles are plentiful through MS64, but at the Gem level this Philadelphia issue is suddenly very rare. The entire NGC and PCGS population is only 15 coins in MS65, with none finer (10/17). In his 1982 Analysis of Auction Records, Volume VI, David Akers considered the 1895 "rather scarce" in true Gem condition. Since the advent of third party grading and a few more decades of auction data, Akers' estimate has been proven to be an understatement, likely due to many coins that were previously considered to be Gems not making the cut by modern standards. HA has previously handled a Gem 1895 double eagle only only six occasions, just three of which were in the last decade. This piece is sharply struck and satiny with radiant cartwheel luster. An unobtrusive scuff on the Liberty's cheek is all that prevents this coin from being the finest known.