1881 $3 PCGS PR66 Deep Cameo
Proof three dollar production continued its modest ascent in 1881 as circulation-strike output fell to a record-low of 500 pieces. Just 54 proofs accompanied that total. Surprisingly, two die pairs are known. JD-1 features a centered date, while JD-2 has the date slightly lower and further left. The former is the more available of the two varieties, though we use the term loosely. John Dannreuther estimates that 22 to 26 pieces survive, compared to eight to 10 of the JD-2 variant. By contrast, there are probably 100 to 150 circulation strikes extant, according to the 2005 Bowers and Winter three dollar gold reference.
This Premium Gem proof with Deep Cameo surfaces takes fifth spot on our roster, which was provided by Ron Guth of the Numismatic Detective Agency. However, it is only a single grade point lower than the finest certified representatives, three of which lack the same degree of contrast seen here. The Bass coin was last sold publicly as the Ullmer coin in 1974. Each side features gorgeous, thickly frosted devices and jet-black, deeply mirrored fields. Light yellow-gold color overall.