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Stacks to offer a Curious Specimen 1914 Gold Eagle. Is it a Proof Coin without the Matte Finish?

The following is from the Stack’s Auction Catalog description offering this raw 1914 Gold Eagle as Lot 1228 in the upcoming August 8th Boston auction.:

“Here is a most curious coin. The strike is clearly that of a Proof, with a high fin or wire edge around most of the extreme edge and the familiar textured fields (imparted by finely acid etched dies) and bountifully struck devices. However, there is no matte finish that normally is present on Proof eagles of this year, none whatsoever.

Philadelphia Mint records note a mere 50 pieces were produced in Proof in 1914 of the eagle denomination, likely including the present coin. The finish is the Roman style finish that first appeared on the unique 1907 Rolled Edge, Periods example, popping up again on perhaps four of the Proofs of 1908 and on all the Proof eagles of 1909-1910 (aside from a couple of unusual Matte pieces coined in those two years).

Apparently the mint was trying out various finishes through the brief and fleeting run of Proof eagles. As noted in Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 by Roger Burdette the method of Proof manufacture seems to point to a single step being left out on this particular coin; that of course being the matte process which imparts the darker finish to the coin through sandblasting, applied as a final step prior to sale.

Essentially, the gold Proofs of 1908 to 1915 were initially struck as Satin Proofs, using newly hubbed dies that produce lustrous non-mirror surfaces—the so called Roman Finish Proofs seen in 1909-10.

The Matte Proofs have an additional step, the application of a powder which produces the matte finish over the entire coin. Clearly this 1914 was a manufactured Proof struck in the normal Roman finish of 1909-10, but did not have the final matte process applied. Each coin was carefully inspected, and perhaps this particular coin was found faulty for some minor reason and set aside. Reportedly, excess Proofs that did not merit the sandblasting and matte process were placed in circulation. This may be such a coin.

Another possibility is that in 1914 one person requested a satin finish style and this particular coin was struck to fill the order, as this too would account for the present coin. Notice the edge of the coin, the chiseled stars and boldly defined edge characteristics are decidedly different than any Mint State coin, with a precision reserved only for Proofs. The devices and rims are full and sharp, the entire surface has the slightly textured appearance unique to Proofs. Compared with a normal 1914 Proof eagle, this lacks only the microscopic facets and the darker, coarser finish as produced by bronzing matte powder. It would seem unlikely that this unusual finish (for 1914) came about by some casual blunder by the coiner with such a small order to fill of 50 coins, and those being the all important Proofs, presumably this coin would not have escaped unnoticed.

Similar one-off gold Proofs exist for 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1910 for the eagle series, and in the double eagles, multiple Proof finishes are known for 1907, 1908 and 1910 as well as a special striking as late as 1921.

Clearly unusual strikings were anything but unusual during this period. In our modern world the opinions of the third party grading services are highly prized. This particular coin was submitted to both NGC and PCGS in the past and neither service could render an opinion as to what to call it as it did not fit into the normal categories of the other known sandblast Proofs of 1914.

The preservation of the surfaces confirms special handling since the day it was struck, with no deep or distracting marks or disturbances in the finely and microscopically etched surfaces, a surface quality only seen on Proofs of this era. For identification there is a minute disturbance in the field below UN(ITED) and a very minor scratch below TA(TES).

When the coin is examined, an experienced numismatist will know that this is indeed some sort of Specimen or Proof striking, as the definition far exceeds that of a normal business strike. The edge also displays considerably more precision in its execution than a typical United States Mint circulation strike eagle. Precisely why this coin was struck remains shrouded in mystery and will likely remain so, but here it is in all its glory. A bit of numismatic caviar to be long enjoyed on a velvet tray and carefully examined, and a coin which clearly carries its own credentials.

A curious coin indeed and one that any prospective buyer should weigh the risks vs rewards as it has not been certified by either NGC or PCGS. What is your opinion?

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