Harry Bass’ Extraordinary Gem Proof 1858 Half Eagle

It is an honor to have been chosen to present this absolutely marvelous, 1858 half eagle, graded Proof-66* Ultra Cameo (NGC)! This stunning rarity, one of only five examples thought to exist and two of those are impounded, one in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian and the other in the collection of the American Numismatic Society. This coin is an old friend, first offered by us in Stack’s March 1985 sale, lot 807, where it appeared as part of the Donald S. Hopkins Collection of U.S. Gold Coins, and sold for $50,600 to Harry W. Bass.  Bass retained this coin until his collection was sold by us (Bowers and Merena) in four parts in 1999 and 2000; this coin appeared in Part IV as lot 469. The last appearance of this coin was in a Heritage auction in 2006, where it sold for $195,500.

Our catalogers described the coin as follows:

Radiant yellow gold surfaces exhibit profound contrast between satiny devices and deeply mirrored fields. Overall pristine and a delight to behold, this impressively pedigreed specimen is sure to see spirited bidding at auction. There are believed to be five known of this rare early Proof half eagle. Two of these are permanently impounded. There is certain duplication in the NGC Census as they note five examples (the two impounded coins are not likely listed in their Census). PCGS does not currently have any Proofs listed of this date in their Population Report. The original number minted was not recorded but it was certainly not more than ten specimens, of which half are known today.

The strike of the present Premium Gem Ultra Cameo Proof is extraordinary for an early Proof half eagle. This is notable because the Eliasberg example and the Ullmer/WGC/Parmelee coins are a trifle soft on the eagle’s neck. Each of these coins can be identified by various minute planchet lint marks or flaws that have helped to maintain the provenance of these prized ultra-rarities through the span of time.

The eye appeal and surface quality are simply extraordinary. This is somewhat miraculous as this coin was struck 156 years ago as is in such amazing condition today. The delicate fields show little evidence of handling, with their highly reflective mirror surfaces intact, along with the deep frost on all the devices and lettering that floats upon this glassy sea of reflectivity. For identification there are a few minute lint marks on the reverse where lint fragments adhered to that die at the moment this coin was struck; one is located at the base of the first S of STATES, another below the post of the E of AMERICA, and a third is above the right edge of the top of the F in FIVE. A fourth is noted in the shape of a capital T below the second right feather near the thigh on the right (facing) wing of the eagle in the field.

Known specimens of 1858 Proof half eagles are listed below:

1). Smithsonian Institution

2). Edward Cogan, March 1882; J. Colvin Randall; J. Pierpont Morgan; ANS.

3). James Ten Eyck, B. Max Mehl, May 1922; John H. Clapp; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. (1942 via Stack’s); Our Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Auction (Bowers and Ruddy), October 1982: 388; Ed Trompeter; Heritage.

4). Lorin G. Parmelee Collection; William H. Woodin; Waldo C. Newcomer; World’s Greatest Collection (F.C.C. Boyd Collection) Numismatic Gallery, Lot 412; J. F. Bell, "Memorable Collection", Lot 359; King Farouk, Palace Collection, Sotheby’s February, 1954, Lot 253; Our Ullmer Collection (Stack’s) May, 1974; Macotta Metals, New England Rare Coins, August 1979, Lot 176; our Dr. Nelson Page Aspen Collection (Bowers and Merena), August 1989, Lot 551; Auction ’90, Lot 1323.

5). The Present Specimen: Stack’s, March 1985; Harry Bass, Jr; Heritage, 2006.

There is not much else to add to this, except that if you collect rare gold coins, be sure to view this beauty in person, either in our Irvine office March 10-13, the New York office March 18-22, or in Baltimore during lot viewing, starting on Monday, March 24. Bidding can be done either online (before and during the sale), through the mail, email, FAX, phone bids (by prior appointment), or at the auction in Baltimore. If you plan to attend, in Dave Bowers words, “the red carpet will be rolled out for you,” and we hope to see you there.

We are also accepting consignments for our June Baltimore and August official ANA auction sales. If you have rare numismatic items, be sure to contact your favorite consignment specialist to include your coins, tokens, medals, banknotes, or other numismatic items in one of our sales.













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