Coin is one of only a handful of higher denomination proof coins from the 1850s known.
NGC recently identified and certified a proof 1854 $10 gold piece. The coin grades Proof 55 Cameo. While a small number of lower denomination proof coins are known from this year, notably examples of the first year of issue $3 gold pieces, this newly identified example is the only known proof 1854 $10.
The coin was submitted to NGC by an authorized dealer based in Europe and no information concerning the coin’s provenance was provided. Although submitted as a regular issue example, it was immediately recognized by NGC as a great rarity. Lightly circulated, it nonetheless possesses deeply mirrored fields, frosted devices and squared rims, unlike any other known 1854 Gold Eagle. More telling, this coin was struck using the same reverse dies as known proof eagles dated from 1840 through 1848. During that era, reverse dies for proof coinage were saved and used to strike coins in subsequent years. No other proof eagles struck at Philadelphia are known from the period 1849 through 1856.
Walter Breen, in his Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, 1722-1989, relates a story of proof gold coinage of 1854. Officials from the city of Bremen, Germany visited the Philadelphia mint, and offered gifts of their coinage, which were placed in the Mint’s cabinet collection. In exchange, a complete set of 1854 proof coins were presented to Bremen for its museum. For the 1854 $10, Breen listed a mintage of “1+,” meaning that at least one example was struck. This set of coins remained in Bremen until World War II, when the city was occupied and the coins went missing from the museum. Breen states that, periodically since, examples of proof coins dated 1854 from this set have been offered. It is unknown if this 1854 $10 formed part of that set.
Mark Salzberg, chairman of NGC, commented on this coin’s discovery: “Now that NGC has submission centers and authorized dealers around the world, there is a new opportunity for these type of exciting discoveries. Moreover, we’re very proud that people throughout the globe have access to exceptional expert services from NGC, so that they can receive accurate information about any coin.
Rick Montgomery, president of NGC and head of grading, notes that, “identifying and authenticating this coin is part of an important numismatic story, and we work hard to make sure that it is told properly. It’s an honor that NGC is entrusted time and again by dealers and collectors with the greatest numismatic rarities.”
Gold coin expert and co-author of the Encyclopedia of U.S Gold Coins 1795 – 1933, Jeff Garrett comments that, “The discovery of a Proof 1854 Eagle is one of the most significant numismatic stories of the last decade. Seldom is a previously unknown, unique coin, revealed to the numismatic community. The circumstances of the discovery adds to the allure.” Jeff Garrett worked with NGC on the encapsulation of the Smithsonian’s great rarities, which includes the most comprehensive date run of proof gold coinage of the 1840s.
Doug Winter, expert in 19th Century gold coinage, consulted with NGC on this coin. After completing his own detailed study, he related, “the 1854 $10…is absolutely a proof. This is one of the most important United States gold coins to have been discovered in some time and as far as I know it is unique in Proof for the date. Great coin!”