By Ron Guth for PCGS ……
The following is a transcript of Ron Guth’s comments above about the Brophy Specimen 1904-O Gold Eagle:
“This 1904-O $10 gold piece is what we call a specimen or a presentation piece.
We know this for two reasons. One: the look of the coin itself. It’s incredibly well-struck. It has an unusual look that is completely different than any other 1904-O ten. The surfaces are pristine, which means as soon it was made, it was pulled off the press and carefully preserved until today.
But this is one of those rare instances where we do have documentation, so that makes it a very powerful argument that this coin is a specimen.
When you go into a court of law, they rely heavily upon circumstantial evidence. In this case, there are all kinds of circumstantial evidence that says this coin is a very special one.
Branch Mint Proofs or Presentations Coins or Specimens are very rare. They’re usually made for a specific purpose. In this case, we know what that purpose is because a little note, a hand-written note that was written by Mr. Brophy who was the coiner at the time. And he put the coin in a little envelope that says “this was the first coin – first gold coin struck in New Orleans in 1904.” So that alone makes this a very, very special coin.
In terms of rarity, I mean it’s unique. So, sure it’s a 1904-O ten-dollar gold piece, which, they made a lot of those. But they only made one of these.
The coins that are the most valuable, they have a great story. This one has a great story. It has one of the best that there could possibly be. I mean how often do we have the opportunity to look at a coin that can be traced back to pretty much the moment it was made?
It’s in an old Regency PCGS holder and today we’re grading it Specimen 68. Regency holders by themselves are very rare and very special. They were a short-lived holder that we used in the early 1990s. They were very special coins and today the Regency holders are very highly regarded.
The estimated value of the 1904-O Specimen ten-dollar gold piece is certainly in the millions of dollars. It’s rare enough, it’s got a great history and a great story.
When you look at the way the Proof coins were made at the Philadelphia Mint, it’s different than the way the coins were made as specimens or presentation pieces at the branch mints. At the Philadelphia Mint, they had the equipment, the materials, and the processes there to make these really beautiful reflective Proof coins.
At the branch mints, that was not the case.
When they received the dies at New Orleans, if they wanted to make some sort of special presentation coin, they would have to polish the dies themselves and then polish the blank that the coin was struck on. And then they would put it on a regular production press. They did not have a Proof press as they did at the Philadelphia Mint where the Proof coins were pretty much made one coin at a time.
In New Orleans, they were put in a press that was made for manufacturing large quantities of the coin. So, it’s very difficult to adjust the pressures on the press and to manipulate the process like they could at the Philadelphia Mint. So the products were never up to the same level as the proofs of Philadelphia.
The surface on a regular 1904-O $10 gold eagle has a frosty luster.
But when you polish the dies, it becomes a little more reflective, a little more highly mirrored; the same thing with the planchet. So when you combine the two, it comes out with a very different looking coin. And then on top of that, if you do any sort of special striking–whether you increase the pressure or you strike the coin more than once–again it’s going look very different. And that’s what this coin has. It has a strike that is completely unlike a regular 1904-O eagle. It’s definitely stronger, sharper-detailed, and again the surfaces, they’re not fully reflective like a regular Proof, but they are vastly different and superior to the surfaces on a regular 1904-O gold eagle.
This 1904-O Specimen ten dollar gold eagle was known to the market as early as 1977, if not before. But it didn’t come into prominence until 1988 when it was sold as part of Auction 88 by David Akers.
David Akers, who is you know one of the experts on U.S. Gold Coins, wrote that he considered it at least a presentation coin if not a Branch Mint Proof. When he looked at it, he knew it was something special. He made the special notation that, “this coin looks so different, it’s either a presentation piece of some sort, or it’s a Branch Mint Proof.”
It brought an incredible $82,000 in 1988, which for a 1904-O gold eagle was just astronomical. After the coin sold in 1988, Walter Breen examined it, and he wrote a letter where he stated that it’s a Branch Mint Proof. Since then, we’ve examined it, re-examined it, had John Dannreuther, our resident expert on U.S. Proof Coins, look at it, and we all generally agree that this is a specimen coin.
The fact that it’s described as a Specimen by noted experts like David Akers, Walter Breen and John Dannreuther, I mean, you can’t get a better pedigree than that.
Another question is, where was the coin between 1904 and 1977?
There are a lot of coins that were specially made that ended up in chief coiners’ estates, chief engravers’ estates, I mean there are numerous instances of coins that were held by the family for decades and decades until they finally broke on to the market and just shocked everybody because they’re such an unusual and special coin.
Brophy was the chief coiner at the Mint in 1904, and a lot of the times these people were not only officials at the Mint, they were also coin collectors. And the nice thing about being an official at the Mint while you’re a coin collector is you get to create all these weird and wonderful coins.
We thank Brophy for making this coin because it’s such a neat coin. And we as collectors love the fact that here comes this phenomenal piece of numismatic history that just sort of bursts on the market.
Now we have it here, we know about it, and we get to enjoy it today.”
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