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Bowers and Merena to Offer 1879-O Class I Branch Mint Proof Morgan Dollar In Baltimore

The Second Finest of Only Four Specimens Known to Exist

Easily the rarest and also among the most popular Morgan Dollars with advanced collectors are the branch mint proofs–coins that are so rare, in fact, that many numismatists have never even seen one of these specimens, let alone been confronted with the opportunity to add one to their holdings.

Writing in the 1982 book The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook, Wayne Miller enumerates five classes of branch Mint proof Morgan Dollars. The claim that an individual issue has to branch mint status decreases as the class # increases; the Class V pieces, in fact, being described by Miller as, “coins rumored to be branch mint proofs which the author has seen and which are definitely not proofs.”

On the other end of the scale are the Class I branch mint proofs, which Wayne Miller describes as, “authorized, definite branch mint proofs. These are the…dates for which proofs were authorized and subsequently issued [emphasis author’s].” Only four branch mint proof Morgan Dollars qualify as Class I: 1879-O; 1883-O; 1893-CC; and 1921-S.

The 1879-O is perhaps the best known Class I branch mint proof Morgan Dollar, and it is also among the most instantly recognizable of all branch mint proof coins regardless of type or issue. Considerable documentation exists for the creation of these coins, according to which a mere 12 specimens were struck on February 20, 1879 to commemorate the reopening of the New Orleans Mint (the facility had ceased production in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War). Of the original 12 coins struck, only four specimens are known to exist.

Pages 219-220 of the aforementioned book The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook contains author Wayne Miller’s detailed analysis of the specific proof 1879-O Morgan Dollar that we are offering in this sale:

I first saw this piece while it was owned by Alan Brotman in early 1973. Previous provenance was McDermott, another collector (Bass perhaps?), and Brownlee. Brotman apparently consigned the coin to the Kagin Sale of the 70’s held on November 2 and 3, 1973. The coin was bought by Robert W. Barker…Julian Leidman obtained the coin for the author in 1980.

This coin is much superior to the RARCOA coin, with light golden-brown toning and very few hairlines. There are two tiny rim nicks behind the mouth of Liberty. The strike is extremely bold; every feather on the eagle is fully articulated. The coin has a partial wire rim on the obverse, and a virtually full rim on the reverse. The proof surfaces are very evident under the toning and the coin is identifiable as a proof at first glance.

The coin remains in the completely original state of preservation as when it was examined by Wayne Miller, whose expert description includes not only the technical and aesthetic merits of the coin, but also a partial pedigree and a useful pedigree marker. To flesh out the coin’s standing in the census, we note that it ranks as the second finest of the three specimens available for private ownership. The fourth specimen is impounded in the Smithsonian Institution, of which Miller states, “it is reported that the coin is attractive but not superb.”

A stand-out rarity in this sale, and a coin that is sure to attract the interest of even the most advanced Morgan Dollar specialists.

To be Sold as Lot #3104 on March 5th. Contact Bowers And Merena for Bidding Information

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