Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) has certified the 1904-O $10 W.J. Brophy specimen as a unique Special Strike, SP68. PCGS experts have attributed the coin, which was the first gold eagle coined at the New Orleans Mint in 1904, as a SP (Special Strike) after reexamination of the coin’s surfaces.
Originally graded PCGS MS68 in the 1990s, PCGS elevated the eagle’s status to Special Strike after a new inspection of the coin’s fresh, orange peel-like surfaces.
“I knew of this coin as a presentation piece, but it was not until I was able to personally inspect the coin that I realized just how special it truly is,” recalls John Dannreuther, member of the PCGS Board of Experts.
“This 1904-O eagle was struck from dies that were specially prepared.
“You can see from the coin that the dies were polished, but not to the brilliance seen on Proofs. This coin’s surfaces are like the 1909 and 1910 Satin Proof gold issues with a rippled field effect, but it is not a Proof in our opinion.”
When a coin was made for a specific person or event, especially at the Philadelphia Mint, it was almost always struck as a Proof. The branch mints, however, did not always produce Proofs for these occasions. This 1904-O eagle was struck from dies that were specially prepared, but they were not acid treated to produce the frosty effect seen on Proof coinage, such as the well-known 1844-O half eagle and eagle proofs.
Adding to the coin’s allure is a modest, tattered old envelope in which it was stored for decades.
The envelope, which accompanied the coin through the 1970s, features a handwritten message attributing it as the first eagle coined in 1904:
First Gold Coined 1904 W.J. Brophy Coiner U.S. Mint $10.00 and $5.00
PCGS note: No 1904-O half eagles were struck.
PCGS states that it is unknown whether this example was retained by coiner William J. Brophy (1868-1942) or was presented to someone else with Brophy attesting to the fact that it was the first eagle struck in 1904.
PCGS Founder David Hall also personally inspected the coin.
“One only needs to examine this example to understand how significant this coin is to the output of the New Orleans Mint, as well as the special issues of all American gold coins,” stated Hall. “It joins the 1844-O half eagle and eagle, as well as the 1838-O half dollar, as one of the most significant releases from the New Orleans Mint.”
Adding to the coin’s magnificence is that it resides in a Regency holder, one of the more unusual holders ever issued by PCGS. Designed as a premium holder for rare and important coins, the holder’s awkward, oversized design and dark green background limited its popularity. Issued from only 1992 to 1996 for approximately 700 coins, today they are seldom seen in the marketplace.
This holder makes the Unique 1904-O $10 SP68 even more exceptional.
The coin will not be removed from its holder to update the designation, but the changes will be reflected in PCGS population reporting.
“While we are unsure of the coin’s value due to its rarity, we can all agree it is an important numismatic piece,” continued Hall. “We are also currently still evaluating how the coin will be integrated into the PCGS Set Registry.”
Collectors can read more about this fascinating coin on PCGSCoinfacts.com.
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