The $3 gold denomination was authorized February 21, 1853 as part of the mint act of that date. The main purpose of the act was to reduce the authorized weight of all silver pieces except the dollar. The reason for including the $3 gold piece in this legislation is not clear. Although today the $3 denomination seems strange, during our nation’s first century, paper money of this value was often issued, including on currency authorized by the Continental Congress in 1775. Bank notes issued by various banking institutions, factories, states, counties, railroads and other entities (before federal “greenbacks” replaced them), were often denominated in this “strange” amount. In fact, a $3 value was proposed when the federal government issued the Legal Tender series in the 1860s, but these were never made.
Whether the public wanted or needed a $3 gold coin, the mint act declared that it was to be struck and this was first done in 1854. After a large quantity was struck in the first year, mintages dropped quickly as the demand for them was not great. The $3 gold pieces continued to be made until 1889, but except for just a few years, quantities were very low.
The Proof-only $3 gold issues of 1875 and 1876, along with the unique 1870-S, are the most famous $3 gold rarities. The 1876 is the second rarest Philadelphia Mint issue in the entire series. Federal records indicate that only 45 Proofs were struck in 1876. Among numismatic scholars, however, there exists a theory that a few additional specimens were prepared and not recorded. If true, this theory would explain why Q. David Bowers and Doug Winter give an estimated mintage of 65 to 75 Proofs for the 1876 in their 2005 book, The United States $3 Gold Pieces: 1854-1889. The authors further opined that only 45 to 60 coins are extant in all grades -- a limited number, particularly when one considers the ever-growing popularity of numismatics.
We are pleased to offer an extraordinary example of the 1876 $3 gold piece in our August 2013 World’s Fair of Money auction in Chicago. It is one of just two Proof-66 Deep Cameo representatives certified by PCGS. The eye appeal is breathtaking. Rich honey-gold color and an original "orange-peel" texture are seen throughout. The extremely deep mirrors form a splendid backdrop to the sharply struck and satiny devices. There is not a single detracting blemish on either side, and we are also unable to locate a worthwhile pedigree marker. This beautiful Proof would grace even the finest collection.
This lovely coin, along with the rest of our ANA World’s Fair of Money sale, can be viewed by appointment prior to the sale in our Irvine, California, and New York City offices. Please call 800-566-2580 for more information or to schedule an appointment. The auction lots will also be available for viewing at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, August 9-18, 2013 in Chicago.