By Heritage Auctions
Heritage’s upcoming 2013 June 6 – 9 US Coin Signature Auction – Long Beach #1186 features a gem example of the low-mintage 1876 three dollar gold piece, with Cameo contrast. Like its celebrated older sibling, the 1876 three is also a proof-only issue. The 1875 proof three was struck in the recorded amount of 20 coins, while the 1876 saw a larger mintage of 45 pieces. During this era of Mint history, however, it was customary to report the number of proofs minted, but not the number that were usually melted as unsold after the calendar year ended.
In the case of rarities such as proof-only issues, however, another scenario played out in many cases, and the same applies to pattern issues. They were apt to be produced for collectors and the well-connected as delicacies in the case of pattern issues. Rare regular issues such as the proof-only threes of 1875 and 1876 were also apt to be restruck or to have seen a second batch struck within the same year. This is mentioned for those purists who object that the term “restrike” should be reserved for coins struck again at a date later than that borne on the coinage.
That is apparently what happened with both the 1875 and 1876 proof threes; the restrikes show die rust on the obverse, as does this piece under a loupe. Bowers notes that the rusted obverse die does not necessarily indicate that the pieces were struck after 1876; remember, the date is on the reverse of this design, so the obverse die used could have rusted before 1876. The “restrikes” of the 1875 are identifiable by an obverse die of 1873-74.
This piece is an essentially pristine coin with the only mentionable contact marks located in the lower left of the obverse. Copious contrast is seen between the reflective, jet-black fields and the well-frosted golden-yellow devices. A loupe reveals the faint traces of die rust, most prominent seen is a small “dot” behind the eye, with scattered other areas on the cheek, neck, and lower hair. The lower inside leaf within the wreath on the reverse is thin, as usually seen. The fields show a few slight hairlines that likely determine the grade, but the eye appeal is top-notch.