While the reported mintage for this issue is a very high 154 coins, it is probable that many were melted after going unsold. Today, it is doubtful if more than forty or so survive with most in the PR63 to PR64 range. This example is tied with a few others as the finest 1860 gold dollar graded by a third-party service and I feel that items like this are tremendously undervalued when compared to other areas of United States numismatics. As for the coin itself, it is a full-blown Gem with great contrast and surfaces that are free of hairlines. There are a few microscopic planchet imperfections in the obverse fields as seen on nearly all gold Proofs of this era and the reverse can be quickly identifieid by the presence of four tiny mint-made lintmarks at the center. The last similar example to sell at auction was a PCGS/CAC PR66 (not given a cameo designation but close to Deep Cameo, in my opinion) that sold for a strong $27,600 i9n the Heritage 2012 FUN auction. Thie present piece is clearly finer than Heritage 1/07: 3367 (graded PR66 CAM by NGC that brought $19,550. An important coin for the advanced collector of gold dollars.
Only 30 Proofs were struck. Given the fact that just eight auction records for Proofs have been noted since 2000, it likely that as few as ten or so are known to exist with only two or three of these being Gems. This superbly toned example has a reddish-orange obverse with some pale ice-blue splashes at the center; the reverse has really neat color with more even rich orange-gold shades framed by a concentric ring of pale blue. There is almost enough contrast to call this coin an Ultra Cameo and a Gem grade is removed solely by the presence of some light lines in the left obverse field; the reverse is superb. The last Gem Proof 1879 half eagle to sell was Goldberg 5/06: 4439 (graded PR65 CAM by PCGS) that sold for $60,375. Rare, important and absolutely beautiful!
Prior to this year, mintage figures for Proof gold dollars was tiny. Beginning in 1882, production climbed as collecting (and speculating in) Proofs of this denomination became popular. 1881 is sort of a "final year" for low mintages with just 87 pieces struck; it is likely that around half of these are known. What I like about this date is that is sells for just a small premium above the late 1880's dates but it is decidedly scarcer, especially in Gem. This example is as close to being a PR66 as you could imagine and I feel that the only thing that kept NGC from grading it as such is the presence of a few tiny lines in the left obverse field. That said, I have seen inferior coins graded PR66 by both services and I have seen few Proofs of this era with the stunning black and white contrast that this piece displays. Both sides have extremely deep mirrors that display some light natural color that gives them further overall eye appeal. This is the only PR65+ Ultra Cameo of this date currently graded by NGC with only five finer for the date with the UC designation. It is my belief that Gem Proof gold dollars such as this are very good values right now, especially when one considers what larger denomination Proof gold in this grade costs.
A total of 63 Proofs were struck; my best estimate is that around 25 to 30 are known today with most in the PR63 to PR65 range. This piece has the eye appeal and general appearance of a Gem with just a few light hairlines keeping it out of the PR65 mark and a $45,000-50,000 price tag. It is extremely challenging to find accurately graded PR64 gold coins from this era and the majority of nice 64's tend to find their way, sooner or later, into PR65 holders. After I purchased this coin, I gave it some thought and came up with this conclusion: for a touch under $30,000, it would be very hard to imagine a better value in the arena of Proof gold. You can find smaller denomination Proof gold coins that are rarer than this (I have sold some amazing Proof gold dollars and quarter eagles in the last sixty days) but larger denomination Proof gold is very expensive and extremely hard to locate right now. A gorgeous coin and an item that I think makes a lot of sense to salt away as a medium to long term investment.
Ex Heritage 2012 FUN: 4989 where it sold for $29,900.
One of only 20 Proofs struck. Unlike the other low mintage Proof quarter eagles of this era, the 1875 is a rarity in business strike format as well with a mintage of just 400. In Proof, there are an estimated dozen or so 1875 quarter eagles of which maybe four or five Gems are known. The present example has the strongest cameo contrast that I have seen on a Proof of this date and it certainly deserves to have received the Ultra Cameo modifier. It has extremely stark black and white contrast between the devices and the fields and the visual impact is really quite stunning. There are no significant hairlines or lintmarks; a small spot on the obverse serves as quick identification. In Heritage's January 2011 sale of the Miller Collection, there were two Proofs of this date that were graded many years ago as PR64 by NGC but both seemingly were destined to upgrade to PR65 by today's standards; they realized $46,000 and $47,294, respectively. This is one of just two graded PR65 Ultra Cameo by NGC and it is amongst the finest known examples of one of the the rarest single dates in the Liberty Head quarter eagle series. Many people do not realize this, but a Gem Proof 1875 quarter eagle is rarer than the legendary Three Dollar gold piece of this date and the latter is a $250,000+ coin in Gem Proof.
Ex Heritage 9/08: 3351 where it sold for $48,875