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( March, 2001 Bonus Article )

THE EPITOME OF THE MINTER’S CRAFT

MATTE & ROMAN FINISH PROOF INDIAN QUARTER EAGLES, A DATE-BY-DATE ANALYSIS

 By Mike De Falco, Numismatic Enterprises

What follows are not only a commentary, but also an in-depth date-by-date analysis of an often-misunderstood series and minting process, Matte Proof Indian Quarter Eagles, from two distinct perspectives. There will be an analysis of relative rarity and a thorough review of the differing visual characteristics of each date. To begin with nobody is really quite sure how these coins were produced in the first place, as the Mint retained no detailed record regarding their method of manufacture. Some theorize that the coins were sandblasted after striking while others contend that the finished coins were pickled in an acid solution, rendering another numismatic mystery.

For many individuals these Matte Proof gold coins are undeniably an acquired taste because their appearance is diametrically opposite the earlier Proofs, which exhibited deeply reflective mirror fields and (for the most part) frosty Cameo devices. Moreover, the design is incused, which is to say that the devices are sunk beneath the fields (the only time that this methodology has been utilized for production of U.S. coins, which also encompassed the Indian Half Eagle series). The surfaces of Matte Proof gold coinage is dull and very finely granular in appearance, almost sandblast like. In 1909 and 1910 Indian Quarter Eagle Proofs were produced with a Roman Finish, brighter in color, falling somewhere between a satin and mirror like finish. In terms of absolute rarity Matte and Roman Finish Proof Gold stands on its own. Although this peculiar finish is less aesthetically appealing than a brilliant mirror surface (a factor occasionally impeding Matte Gold’s popularity) it does provide astute collectors and investors with a distinct advantage, pricewise. Currently Matte Proof Gold is soft (pricewise) and out of favor. In my humble opinion this represents an auspicious buying opportunity. What you have here is a genuine chance to acquire a legitimately rare coin at a low price due to lack of buyer enthusiasm. You may rest assured that during a HOT rare coin market cycle, today’s red headed stepchild of the Proof Gold arena will suddenly spring to life and become the focus of fevered demand -- and YOU will be able to supply the need. Do I sense a potential profit?

A PRUDENT YET SIMPLE STRATEGY IS TO BUY LOW AND SELL HIGH

 During the last rare coin market peak in June 1989 the CERTIFIED COIN DEALER newsletter (CCDN) revealed the following dealer-to-dealer SIGHT-UNSEEN Bids for the most common date Matte Proof Indian Quarter Eagles: Proof 64 $17,600; Proof 65 $34,250; Proof 66 $59,000; and, Proof 67 $77,500. Today it is certainly possible to acquire those same coins for 50% to 70% BELOW their June 1989 wholesale prices. The secret to getting rich is sizing up supply and demand and then selling things that are EXPENSIVE and buying things that are CHEAP! I believe that it was George Soros’ partner who said that a few years ago. Anyway, it’s sound advice and I am convinced that Matte Proof Indian Quarter Eagles meet the criteria.

NO FEAR OF HOARDS NEGATIVELY IMPACTING THE MARKET

Nothing can send the resale value of the latest promoted “rare” coin plummeting as fast as when retail buyers discover that there isn’t any meaningful secondary market for their “hoard” coins on the part of knowledgeable dealers. What I am referring to are high quality coins of a particular date that were discovered in enormous quantity and then masterfully marketed to the coin buying public before all the facts were in, if you get my meaning. Take for example the superb quality Wells Fargo 1908 No Motto $20 Saint Gaudens hoard. Gorgeous coins with a great story; MS66 specimens were successfully mass-marketed for between $2,900 and $3,400 apiece in the spring of 1997. The April 1997 edition of the PCGS Population Report listed 429 pieces graded MS66 and another 20 coins graded MS67 with none higher, seemingly a scarce to rare coin in this lofty state of preservation. My how things have changed! According to the PCGS Online Population Report (as of April 3, 2001) there are now 5,398 MS66 specimens, 821 MS67’s, 101 MS68’s and 10 MS69’s, a population explosion of immense proportion. Pricewise the 1908 No Motto $20 Saint Gaudens has nose-dived. The Certified Coin Exchange (CCE) reveals a high sight-unseen Bid of $1,260 in MS66 condition and $3,000 for coins graded MS67, which were selling for $10,000 each. That equates to a solid 70% decrease in market value. By the way, those Bid prices are for ONE coin only! In other words, the buyer is only obligated to honor his Bid price for a single piece and can lower his price if more coins are offered at the same time. Hopefully this example clearly illustrates the potential for loss when it comes to “HOARD” coins that are purchased at the beginning of a promotion.

Fortunately you need never be concerned with such a sudden influx of supply due to the appearance of a large hoard, especially when one considers the tiny original production figures for Matte/Roman Finish Proof Indian Quarter Eagles. They range from a low of just 100 coins struck in 1915 to a high of 682 coins minted in 1910, which the late Walter Breen believes was a typographical error on the part of the record keeping department at the Mint. The accompanying table contains ample statistical data (evidence), which includes the original mintage, total number of certified coins in all grades, percentage of the original mintage that has already been certified by PCGS and NGC cumulatively, as well as the individual population figures for grades Proof 64 through Proof 67.

  

 INDIAN HEAD QUARTER EAGLE PROOFS
ORIGINAL MINTAGE AND CERTIFIED POPULATION ANALYSIS

 

Date

Original Mintage

Total Certified All Grades

Percentage of Original Mintage Certified

PCGS & NGC Pop PR64

PCGS & NGC Pop PR65

PCGS & NGC Pop PR66

PCGS & NGC Pop PR67

1908

236

195

82.6%

32

49

45

11

1909

139

65

46.8%

22

4

2

0

1910

682

141

20.1%

55

32

26

2

1911

191

126

65.9%

25

29

39

25

1912

197

67

34.0%

13

21

17

6

1913

165

80

48.5%

20

26

26

3

1914

117

108

92.3%

46

25

6

2

1915

100

64

64.0%

24

12

12

3

TOTALS

1,827

846

46.3%

237

198

173

52

As you can plainly see, nearly half of the total original production of Matte/Roman Finish Indian Quarter Eagles have already been certified by PCGS and NGC, eliminating much of the mystery and speculation that normally surrounds a particular coin or series. In other words it’s a far simpler task to consistently make prudent buying and selling decisions because you’re approaching the matter with your eyes wide open, free from the hindrance that is typically the result of coin dealer mystification. In terms of a level playing field, the plethora of accurate, unbiased statistical data enables both collectors and investors to gain equal footing for a change.

 

MATTE & ROMAN FINISH PROOF INDIAN QUARTER EAGLES

A DATE BY DATE ANALYSIS

 

        1908 – This is the first year of issue and the least rare date within the series. It has a distinctive brownish color and is somewhat dark with below average overall eye appeal. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 195 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

        1909 – Population wise, this is the rarest date in the series. It also has the added benefit of the beautiful Roman Finish that is light gold in color (and may be further enhanced by a subtle nuance of olive coloration) with a lovely bright sheen and freedom from granularity. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 65 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

        1910 – Much scarcer than the mintage figures would suggest. The majority of specimens extant exhibit the highly coveted Roman Finish (same description as above), although there are light and dark Matte Proofs as well. I would encourage you to have patience and seek out the eminently more attractive and eye appealing Roman Finish specimens. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 141 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

        1911 – This is the most readily abundant date in high grade PR66 and PR67 condition. The Matte finish is typically dull and nearly as dark as that of the 1908. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 126 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

        1912 -- Much rarer than mintage figures would indicate. This date exhibits a fine sandblast finish that is different from all previous Matte Proof coins. When viewed under a microscope millions of minute shiny facets reveal themselves like glittering diamonds and remind me of the afternoon sun reflecting off the ocean as so many sparkling little jewels. A very attractive and eye appealing example of the Matte finish. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 67 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

        1913 – This date exhibits the same somewhat unusual and extremely attractive surface characteristics encountered on the previous issue. Although not as rare as the 1912, it nonetheless possesses positive eye appeal that is quite desirable. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 80 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

        1914 – The sandblast finish on this date is coarser in nature and somewhat darker than that on the 1913, although it is not unattractive. The 1914 can be much more difficult to locate than the earlier dates (with the possible exception of the 1909 and 1910). PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 108 coins encompassing all grade categories.

 

        1915 The surface finish of this date is a nearly identical match to that of the 1914. This is the lowest mintage date of the entire series and is undeniably rare. PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 64 coins encompassing all grade designations.

 

Matte/Roman Finish Proof Indian Quarter Eagles are flat out RARE by any measure. In fact, if every single specimen ever minted were offered for sale today, and money was no object, less than 1,850 people could own one -- and that’s not taking into account numerous coins that have been lost forever through normal attrition! The inherent investment fundamentals for this series, minuscule mintage’s, a low point (value-wise) in the market cycle and a well-established history of being highly prized and valued by collectors and investors alike, would certainly suggest a numismatic treasure of exceptional relative value that merits serious consideration. In the final analysis, Matte and/or Roman Finish Proof Indian Quarter Eagles certainly aren’t for everyone. However, if you possess the means and are tolerant of the unusual “look”, a complete collection is an achievable goal and would be a prestigious numismatic property that could reward you handsomely in the future.



KNOWLEDGE IS POWER WHEN YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY IS AT STAKE.

 

 

 



 

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