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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 bor

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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

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,

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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 actu

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 al

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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 vari

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 o

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 s

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 export

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 g

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 pro