1872 $3 MS65 Deep Mirror Prooflike PCGS
Ex: Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection. Although never ranked among the rarest issues in the three dollar series from an overall perspective, the 1872 is among the most challenging condition rarities of this denomination struck at the Philadelphia Mint. It has been estimated in the past that as few as 20 to 30 Mint State examples survive, while current certified population figures suggest two to three times that many are known. The vast majority of reported Mint State examples are in MS61 or MS62 and may not have qualified for Mint State in years past. Only 23 coins are reported in MS63 or better grades (8/22), and this figure likely includes duplications; since our Auction Archives began in 1993, we have seen an MS63 or better 1872 on only eight prior occasions, and we have never handled a Gem. This Bass coin is not only a high Condition Census example with strong claims to argue for finest known, it is the sole finest example we have ever offered at auction.
This coin's quality stems from impeccable preservation a sharp, early-die-state strike that leave it with mirrorlike fields and pronounced cameo contrast. In fact, for decades this piece was thought to be a proof striking, and that is how it found its way into the Bass collection of proof three dollar gold pieces.
Prooflike qualities are not unusual on 1872 three dollar pieces. In his Analysis of Auction Records (1976), David Akers wrote:
"A number of extremely choice and fully proof-like first strike uncs exist, and they rank with the uncs of 1877 and 1879 as the most deceptive in the series. Only 30 proofs were minted and they are just as rare as that small mintage would indicate. However, a glance at auction records below indicates that 26 'proofs' have been offered in our 238 catalogue survey. It is my opinion, however, that many of those offered were not really proofs at all but rather first strike uncs, which, as I indicated, can be very deceptive. As was always the case, however, different dies were used for the proofs than were used for business strikes, and on the 1872, the position of the date is markedly different on proofs than it is on business strikes."
In United States Proof Coins, Volume IV: Gold, John Dannreuther adds:
"[T]he Harry Bass Core Collection has a very deceptive example that has been called a Proof by nearly every numismatist that has examined it. Mr. Bass included it in his complete Proof set and considered it a Proof. However, the author recently realized it was not a Proof, as it has the die pair used for the circulation strikes. It is just as deceptive as an 1870 circulation strike that was called a Proof by several grading services, until the author proved that two different dated dies were used for the two formats."
Bass purchased this coin privately from Abe Kosoff in July 1973. It displays glistening luster throughout the devices, while the fields glimmer with watery reflectivity. Rich sun-gold hues adorn each side, while just a few faint hairline marks are discernible in the fields and on the cheek. The strike is sharp, save for minor, localized softness on the central wreath bowknot and the corresponding upper-rear tips of the headdress. A visually and technically stunning example.