HomeUS CoinsIt's Raining Proof Three Dollar Gold, Part 1: 1854-63

It’s Raining Proof Three Dollar Gold, Part 1: 1854-63

By Doug WinterRareGoldCoins.com ……

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An unprecedented number of Proof Three Dollar gold pieces has provided collectors with a bounty not seen since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Four important specialized sets of Proof Threes–owned by Tom Bender, the Harry Bass Foundation, Peter Huberman, and Bob Simpson–have given specialists an opportunity to bid on multiple examples of rare, low-mintage issues that haven’t been available in years. Many of these were of remarkable quality, and a number were the finest known or very close to it.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were a number of wide-ranging specialized Proof gold collections–including Pittman, Bass, and Childs–that hit the market one after the next. Some incredibly rare Proof issues in the half eagle, eagle, and double eagle denominations were suddenly available – some in multiples numbers. An issue like the 1868 eagle (to pick a random date/denomination) was offered twice (an NGC PR64 CAM and a PCGS PR65) in 1999. Since then, exactly two have appeared: one a PCGS PR60, the other a PCGS PR62. Around 2000, the “uncommon” seemed “common” when it came to Proof gold.

In 2023, we are seeing a similar situation on a more series-specific basis: Proof Threes.

This “Throwdown of Threes” allows me to make some important observations on this series. In the following two-part article, I’ll discuss some of the coins which have sold thus far (we still have a few coins left from both the Bender and Bass collections) and put them into a context within the framework of this fascinating series. Please note that, due to time constraints, I won’t be discussing the common dates of this series.

1854 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65CAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1854 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65CAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1854

A very rare issue as a Proof – around 10 to 12 are known, and only three or four reasonably nice ones are extant. The 1854 is a distinct one-year type and I’ve always thought it was undervalued despite its status as a first-year-of-issue.

Bass: PCGS PR65 CAM. I wouldn’t have believed this coin existed until I saw it in person. The only Proof 1854 that rivals this, ex Eliasberg/Trompeter and graded PR64+ CAM by PCGS, last sold in 2013 for $164,500 USD. The Bass coin smashed the record for this date as it brought $312,000.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR63 CAM. This was by far the lowest-quality coin in the Bender set of Proof $3s and I’m sort of surprised he never upgraded to either the Eliasberg or Garrett coins… assuming, of course, that he had the opportunity. This particular coin sold pretty reasonably at $108,000; almost double what the last PR63 1854 $3 sold for at auction in early 2014 ($58,750, to be precise).

Huberman: Didn’t own one in Proof.

1855 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1855 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1855

Not counting the unique 1855-S Proof, the 1855 is the key to this set. Four are known but one was “lost” in 2003 and another is impaired. This leaves two available for collectors – and both were potentially available in 2023.

Bass: PCGS PR65 DCAM. To be sold later this year. This is the Garrett example and it has been off the market since 1976. An incredibly important coin, based on the sale of the Bender PR64 CAM (see below), it should bring over $400,000.

Bender: PCGS PR64 CAM. I didn’t love the coin but with just one other available, how choosy can you be? It sold for $264,000; a strong increase over the $75,000 it sold for in the Heritage 11/2003 sale.

Huberman: Didn’t own one in Proof.

1856 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1856 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1856

This is the second-rarest collectable Proof of this type with five or six known. Since the July 2002 re-appearance of the finest known Garrett coin (where it sold for $66,700; see below), just two low-grade coins (a PCGS PR62, which sold three times between now and 2011, and an NGC PR62) had been available. This will change with the two finest selling in 2023.

Bass: PCGS/CAC PR64 DCAM. To be sold later this year. It has been off the market since 1971 and was last sold at auction in 1946.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR65+ DCAM. After the unique Proof 1855-S, this was likely my favorite Proof $3 in the Bender set. It was originally in the Garrett Collection and it last sold at auction as Superior 5/1990: 5506 where it brought a then-strong $68,750. It sold for $408,000, which I regard as a very strong price. I figured this coin was in the $250k-$300k range and this was a case where two wealthy collectors had to have an essentially irreplaceable coin.

Huberman: Didn’t own one in Proof.

1857 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR66DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1857 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR66DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1857

From a mintage estimated to be around a dozen coins, there are either five known or six. For some reason, this date doesn’t get accorded the respect that the 1854-56 Proofs do, but it is extremely rare.

Bass: PCGS PR64 DCAM. To be sold later this year.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR64 DCAM. The finest known was a coin with a lengthy pedigree graded PCGS PR66 DCAM, which sold reasonably ($141,000) when it was offered in Heritage’s 4/2015 sale. The Bender coin is either the second or third best. It sold for $144,000, which is about what I expected.

Huberman: Didn’t own a Proof.

1858 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65CAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1858 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65CAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1858

There were an estimated 20 or so Proofs struck in 1858 with no more than eight or nine currently known. This issue is not as rare as the 1854-57 but it is the first semi-obtainable date of the type and its 1850s date makes it popular with collectors.

Bass: PCGS PR65 CAM. To be sold later this year. It will be interesting to see how the price realized compares to the Bender coin, which is graded similarly but approved by CAC.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR65 CAM. This coin showed a few light lines on the obverse but it was a full Gem and the second-best I’ve seen after the Trompeter coin (PCGS/CAC PR65+ CAM, which last sold for $94,000 in 2016). The coin sold for a record-setting $102,000 – which I actually think was a little on the cheap side.

Huberman: Didn’t own a Proof.

1859 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR66+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1859 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR66+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1859

Eighty Proof Threes dated 1859 were minted, but the demand for these was not as great as expected and many were melted or placed into circulation. Around 10 to 12 exist, with the Bender coin (see below) likely the finest available.

Bass: PCGS PR66 DCAM. While I’m certain that this coin is nice, it will be very interesting to see what it sells for compared to the Bender Gem. In fairness to Harry Bass, he also was a previous owner of the Bender coin but it was sold in favor of this coin that went into the HBRF Core collection.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR65CAM. I would think that Tom Bender was very pleasantly surprised by the record-smashing $192,000 that this coin brought; around double what I expected. It was purchased by Dell Loy Hansen and it is in his set of Proof Threes that is rapidly approaching completion.

Huberman: Didn’t own a Proof.

18610Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65CAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1860 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR65CAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1860

I think it’s safe to say that if Tom Bender didn’t own this date in Gem, it’s rare in Gem. Although PCGS has graded two in PR65 CAM, I’ve never seen one. Nor have I ever seen an 1860 Proof $3 in Deep Cameo (DCAM). Both the Bass and Bender coins were subpar compared to the majority of their post-1859 Proofs, and this date has to be considered a real sleeper in spite of a reported mintage of 119 Proofs.

Bass: PCGS PR64 CAM. To be sold later this year.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR64 CAM. The Bender coin brought $52,800 and it was nice. I was the underbidder, and I really should have stretched for this coin. Interestingly, this was the first Proof 1860 $3 in a PCGS holder to sell since 2008.

Huberman: Didn’t own a Proof.

1861 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR66CAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1861 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR66CAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1861

As with the 1860, you can’t judge the rarity of this date by its original mintage. A total of 113 Proofs were struck but fewer than 10 are believed to survive today. The Bass coin (see below) is the numerically finest at PCGS, while the Simpson coin which was offered by Heritage in their 2022 ANA auction brought $132,000. It was graded PR65 CAM after having originally been graded PR66 by NGC.

Bass: PCGS PR66 CAM. Will be sold later this year. Should set a record for the date.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR64+ CAM. While the Heritage images made this coin look very spotty, it was much nicer in person. I liked this coin very much and felt it was totally deserving of its “+” grade. I bid up to $50,000 but was unsuccessful, as the final price was a strong $78,000 including the buyer’s premium.

Huberman: Didn’t own a Proof.

1862 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR67+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1862 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR67+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.

1862

Mintage figures for all Proof gold coins dropped precipitously in 1862 after the enthusiastic but unsuccessful high production runs in 1860 and 1861. Just 35 were made this year and fewer than half are known. Unlike with the 1860 and the 1861, Gems exist – as do Deep Cameo examples.

Bass: PCGS PR67+DCAM. This is going to be sold later this year. It should set a record for the date as it is the highest-graded 1861 Proof $3 by a full two points.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR65 DCAM. I liked this coin but it wasn’t as well-contrasted as the Huberman coin (see below). It still brought a respectable $99,000.

Huberman: PCGS/CAC PR65 DCAM. This coin was spectacular in my opinion. It was fresh to the market, having been purchased at the 1976 ANA sale held by Stack’s in New York City. It brought $108,000.

Simpson: PCGS/CAC PR65+ DCAM. This coin sold twice in 2022. In its first appearance, it set a record for the date at $120,000. It was resold at auction just five months later for $93,000. Ouch!

1863 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR67+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter.
1863 Proof 3 Dollar Gold. PCGS PR67+DCAM. Image: Doug Winter / PCGS.

1863

Thirty-nine were struck (Why such an odd number?) with maybe half of these extant. For some reason, this date has been more available in Proof than any other Civil War Three Dollar in the last few years. There are six APRs for Gems since 2020, with at least four separate coins.

Bass: PCGS/CAC PR67+ DCAM. To be sold later this year. The current price record for this date in Proof is $114,653 set by Legend 5/2021: 350. This record will be shattered by the amazing Bass Gem.

Bender: PCGS/CAC PR65 DCAM. This was not one of my favorite Bender Proof Threes. It went for $102,000, which I regard as a strong price.

Huberman: Didn’t own a Proof.

This is a lot of information to digest – 10 issues already – so we will continue this peek into Proof Threes in Part 2, coming soon. I welcome your comments so far in the space below.
Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

 

* * *

About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.

In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.

Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and a recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought-after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality, and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.

Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Red Book”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues.

In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
  • Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
  • Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
  • Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
  • The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
  • Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
  • An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
  • A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
  • The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
  • Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis

Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.

 

Doug Winter
Doug Winterhttps://www.raregoldcoins.com
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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