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.
The first sandblast or 'matte' (a later contemporary term) proof gold coins of the new Pratt and Saint-Gaudens designs were a function of those new designs, which were totally unsuited to the production of brilliant proof coinage. An excellent overview of the 'Matte Proofing Process' begins on page 36 of The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse Collection, published by Ivy Press in 2006. A brief timeline, condensed from that article, follows:
Pre-1908. Proof coins, whether gold, silver, or bronze, are struck by the Mint using specially prepared, highly polished dies on selected, polished planchets. Sometimes the relief detail in the dies was sandblasted or treated to provide a pleasing two-toned contrasting effect on the coin.
--1908. The new Pratt and Saint-Gaudens proofs are unsuited to the brilliant proofing process. The Mint, still needing to produce special collector coins, adopts a 'sandblast' or 'dull' proofing process for all proof gold coins. (The Lincoln cent and Buff
--April 1909. The Numismatist comments that 'proof coins of the present series, so far as issued, have a very dull appearance, the finish being what is known as 'sandblast,' and are far less pleasing to the eye than the coinage for circulation, which is b
--1909-1910. The Mint responds with the Satin finish or Roman finish proof gold, a brighter (unsandblasted) finish that is created by nothing more than using the new dies at high pressure in a medal press. Collectors dislike the Roman finish coins even mo
--August 1910. Collector extraordinaire (and future Treasury secretary) William H. Woodin and coin dealer Edgar Adams spearhead an effort to get the Mint to revert to the sandblast method. Woodin comments that the 'present [satin] proofs of the Saint-Gaud
--1911-1915. The Mint reverts to sandblast proofs in 1911, continuing through 1915. 'Color variations are typical for these years, but the dull, sandblast finish remains consistent throughout.'
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