UPDATE: The Set sold at Heritage’s Signature Sale on August 12th for $223,250.00 (Includes BP) to an internet bidder.
The August 12 – 17 ANA US Coins Signature Auction in Chicago features a marquee offering for the classic commemorative specialist, a remarkable three-coin 1937 Boone Bicentennial half dollar set containing an example each of the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco coins in matte proof format. This is the only matte proof set authenticated of the Daniel Boone type, and may well be unique.
The production of these coins was not recorded by the Mint, and their existence was once unknown to many researchers. In his Proof Encyclopedia, Walter Breen cites “rumors” of the possible existence of matte proof Roanoke and Antietam half dollars of this year, but makes no mention of the Boone matte proofs. More recently, the legitimacy of these coins as genuine matte proofs has been an issue of controversy, but their authentication by NGC confirms their status.
The origin of this PDS set has been researched by commemorative authority, Anthony Swiatek, with the conclusion that the coins were all struck at the Philadelphia Mint for Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock, before the branch mint dies were shipped to their respective facilities. It has been suggested by others that possibly four matte proof sets were produced on Sinnock’s account, but no evidence has surfaced to confirm the existence of any but the present coins.
The regular Philadelphia 1937 Boone half dollar was struck in January 1937, to the extent of 15,010 pieces (including 10 assay coins). The regular Denver issue was not produced until May, and only to the extent of 7,506 pieces (including six assay coins). The San Francisco Mint did not strike regular-issue Boone half dollars in 1937 until October.
The exact production date(s) of the three matte proofs at the Philadelphia Mint is not known, but two possible scenarios seem most likely. A study of the die characteristics of each proof in this PDS set reveals that each coin was struck with a different head die, dies which are an exact match to the regular issue obverses used for coinage at the various mints. This allows for the possibility that each of the three matte proof specimens was struck on a separate occasion, and that their individual production dates could correspond with the dates of the shipment of the branch mint dies; i.e., the Philadelphia proof would have been struck in January, corresponding with the regular coinage of that issue, the Denver coin in May before the dies were shipped to Colorado, and the San Francisco piece in October.
However, it is equally possible – and, logically, more likely – that if the matte proofs were struck with the intent of supplying Sinnock with a complete set, that they were all struck on the same occasion. This would place their coinage at a point prior to June and likely as early as January before the regular coinage of the Philadelphia issue, since by the end of May, the Denver branch mint dies had been shipped to Colorado for regular coinage. This would mean that the branch mint dies must have been prepared well in advance of their usage in May and October, and were shelved for several months after striking the matte proofs. While more likely in a logical sense, this latter scenario does leave one question: If all three proofs were struck at the same time, why was the un-mintmarked head die changed out for each coin? If the dates of when each die pair was made, as well as those of when the branch mint dies were shipped to their respective mints, could be determined, this mystery would probably be solved.
The three proofs are beautifully produced and well-matched. Each piece is razor-sharp and deeply struck with fine matte surfaces that showcase the design elements to their full advantage, while giving the surfaces a soft steel-gray hue common to matte proof silver coins. If held at delicate angles beneath a light, 10x magnification detects a few light lines on each coin which determine the common PR63 grade, assigned by NGC. Nonetheless, eye appeal is exceptional across the board, as each piece possesses an almost medallic appearance. The Philadelphia and Denver coins are without any significant identifiers, although the San Francisco piece exhibits a few small olive-colored toning specks on Boone’s cheek and in the adjacent field. None of the examples show any noticeable breaks in the delicate proof surface.
The chance to acquire even one of these matte proof Boone Bicentennial half dollars would be a landmark event for the classic commemorative specialist, but the appearance of all three pieces as an intact set is even more exceptional. These are highly intriguing coins of unsurpassed rarity. The only matte proof Boone halves known; this set will be a front-and-center showpiece in one fine classic commemorative collection.