Rare 1855-S Proof $3 Gold Offered in Heritage’s U.S. Coin & Platinum Night Auction

by Heritage Auctions on July 12, 2011 · 0 comments

A trio of 1855-S proof coins from the Golden Gate Collection, including the possibly unique 1855-S proof $3 gold PR64 NGC. CAC., being offered by Heritage Auctions as part of the company’s August 11-12 Chicago Signature® U.S. Coin & Platinum Night Auction, is generating serious buzz in the realm of high end collectors.

1855-S proof $3 gold coin

1855-S proof $3 gold coin

"Just looking at the three dollar coin from the front, it has every outward appearance of a Philadelphia Mint proof," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. "Turn the coin over, however, and the ‘S’ mintmark on the reverse elevates this coin into a whole other realm. This is a supreme rarity and will be highly coveted by the top collectors in the world."

While the 1855-S proof $3 gold is drawing most of the attention from the top echelon of numismatists, the coin is being offered along with two other important 1855-S proofs: an 1855-S 50C Arrows PR65 NGC. and an 1855-S 25C Arrows PR64 NGC.

The 1855-S $3 is unique as a proof and is arguably the single most important coin in the Platinum Night auction, while the 1855-S Seated Liberty Half Dollar, PR65 is one of just two known proofs and the only currently available specimen. The 1855-S Seated Liberty Quarter, PR64 NGC is equally alluring as a unique branch Mint Proof, believed to be the first-struck San Francisco Mint quarter dollar.

"These coins will be cornerstone pieces in whatever advanced collection they end up," said Rohan. "We fully expect the bidding to be spirited and the prices to reflect the extreme rarity of the coins themselves."

The 1848 discovery of gold in California forever changed the region and the nation. As the Western population quickly swelled with prospectors, the scarcity of coinage made life extremely difficult. Gold dust was the medium of exchange in California and the individual prospectors typically received less than half its real value. Eventually the Federal Government stepped in, opening the United States Assay Office following Congressional legislation passed on Sept. 30, 1850. The first issues appeared early in 1851. The Assay Office was a temporary measure, however, and a full-fledged branch of the U.S. Mint opened in San Francisco in 1854.

When Walter Breen penned his Proof Encyclopedia, published in 1977, the proof 1855-S $3 gold piece was unknown to him. It made its first public appearance in the 1984 Apostrophe Sale. Breen’s 1989 revision to his earlier work suggests a second proof example was known to him, but he gave no further details, other than to say it was in a “private collection.” Until such time as the second piece makes its appearance, this proof 1855-S three has to be considered unique.

While the three coins are being offered as individual lots, their shared history makes them prime candidates to go to a single dedicated collector.

"Perhaps the same buyer will acquire all three 1855-S proof coins in this auction," said Rohan, "and keep a remarkable trio together."

About Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.

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