Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 39

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Lot 2227

1873 $3 Gold. Open 3. PCGS graded Proof 65 Deep Cameo. In PCGS holder 10757712. A glittering untoned Gem Cameo Proof. The extremely rare 1873 Open 3 Proof is one of three Proof-only dates in the $3 gold series. There are 1873 Closed 3 $3 pieces known in both business strike and Proof format, but the Open 3 is strictly found in Proof only. Some confusion surrounds the history of these. The only archives record was 25 Proofs struck in February, with no indication of any business strikes.

Current opinion seems to lean toward the belief that all 1873 $3 gold pieces were made in that year, and that they should all be pronounced Original issues; that is, no Restrikes. What is most crucial in understanding the availability of the 1873 Open 3 pieces, regardless whether just 25 of these were made, or some larger number, is that the rarity of this issue must be emphasized. Recent publications by Dave Bowers and Doug Winter suggest a mintage of 40 to 50 Proofs, with approximately 13 to 18 of those in existence.

The pristine example offered in this lot is, without question, a glorious Gem Proof. Not just any Gem Proof, however, but one displaying "deep" cameo contrast over both sides. The surfaces are glittering mirrors whose golden sparkle is fully lustrous. By way of distinction, the devices, the frosty devices, stand in bold contrast. The entire composition of the coin, therefore, consists of brilliant yellow-gold color mirrors, slightly deeper on the obverse, providing background for the frosted devices. A few tiny hairlines are visible on each side. A lint mark is visible on this example, as well, between the T and A of STATES, which can be used as an identifier, plus at the upper left leaf in the wreath, a small flake in the metal, as struck. For purposes of understanding the coin's rarity in high grade, little further needs to be said other than to reveal the latest (12/06) census figure: Pop 2; none better. (PCGS # 98037) .

Walter Breen in his encyclopedia gives a learned account of the origin (and later extinction) of this odd-sounding denomination: "The usual story has it that $3 gold coins were made only so long as the letter rate remained 3¢, being discontinued when it was changed again, and perhaps in part because of the letter rate change. Whether or not this was the intention of Congress, nevertheless $3's saw little postal use in the West and South, as they were minted in Dahlonega and New Orleans only in 1854, and in San Francisco for circulation only 1855-57 and 1860. Three's thus represent relics of an interesting but abortive experiment: today they are among the most highly coveted of American gold coins. No specific reason was advanced for their discontinuance, though low mintages 1879-89 (testifying to little public demand) may have had something to do with it."

According to published reports, even so late as the 1930s the Treasury was melting $3 gold pieces as they were received. This was in line with President Franklin Roosevelt's 1933 demonetization order. Since the denomination ceased actively circulating in 1889, the Treasury had nearly fifty years in which to separate out any pieces which flowed through. Is it any wonder, then, why this denomination is one of the rarest, regardless of date, mint, or state or preservation?
Estimated Value $90,000 - 100,000.

Realized $161,000

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