In response to the financial stresses and uncertainties of the Civil War, the government suspended specie payments late in 1861. Precious metal coinage was widely hoarded after that time and rarely seen in circulation in the eastern part of the country.
As a result, gold coinage at the Philadelphia Mint was somewhat limited during the war years, and only 5,000 business-strike three dollar gold pieces were struck in 1863. The coins were delivered in a single batch in November. Few were saved by contemporary collectors, who preferred Proofs to circulation strikes for numismatic purposes (the Proofs had been available since March, to satisfy collector demand).
As might be expected, the issue is scarce in all grades today, and Mint State examples are rare.
The 1863 three dollar gold piece began appearing at auction at least as early as lot 1558 of the Seventh Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 12/1865): “1863 Three-Dollar piece, uncirculated, and as rare as the Quarter Eagle of this date.” The 1863 Liberty quarter eagle was already famous in the numismatic community of that time because its proof-only mintage of 30 pieces had been widely publicized. The three dollar gold piece realized $4, the same price as the 1863 quarter eagle that was offered in the same auction.
This may seem like a small premium by today’s standards but, for a business-strike issue that was only two years old at the time, it was quite generous. More recent sales include the MS67 PCGS example (now graded MS68+ PCGS) in lot 5386 of the FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), which realized $211,500 USD.
Although some remarkable specimens are known to present-day collectors, few survivors can match the outstanding technical quality and eye appeal of the magnificent MS68 example in our April 23-26 Signature Auction of US Coins. This coin was once a highlight of the fabulous D. Brent Pogue Collection, one of the premier numismatic gatherings of all time.
Among PCGS-certified coins, only the spectacular MS68+ example from the David and Sharon Akers Collection can equal the present coin, and none are known in higher numeric grades at either of the leading grading services. The design elements are sharply detailed in most areas, with just a trace of the usual softness on the ribbon knot. The dies clashed at least twice before this coin was struck, and dramatic double clash marks are evident on both sides. The impeccably preserved yellow and orange-gold surfaces show highlights of blue and olive at certain angles and vibrant mint luster radiates from both sides. The terrific overall eye appeal is attested by the CAC sticker.
We expect intense competition from series specialists and Registry Set enthusiasts when this lot is called.