Branch Mint Specimen Strike and Proof coinage represents the rarest of the rare in American numismatics.
To understand just how special these coins really are, one must understand how coins were struck at Branch Mint facilities.
The Branch Mints, including New Orleans, were set up for a commercial need. Philadelphia was the hub, and the other Mints just part of a spoke. The hub (Philadelphia) made coins for commerce and to serve special collector interests, like making pattern coins and Proofs.
The Branch Mints were designed for one need only, to produce coins to demand for the regions they were in. That is why one almost never hears of the existence of a Branch Mint Proof or Specimen striking, because those Mints were neither asked to prepare such coinage and also lacked the equipment that Philadelphia had to do so.
Record keeping was not perfect in those days. There’s no reason to suggest a Branch Mint Employee was required to write down on paper that a coin was prepared in a special manner. Their existence often leaves the coin world stunned without explanation, but many very well educated theories can be devised.
The legendary late numismatist Walter Breen stated that just 4 Proofs were made of the Philadelphia Mint 1851 3 Cent Silver piece. The only notable mention of one of those coins selling was in a 2012 auction for a PCGS PR66 for $172,500. An important coin, but not nearly as important as a Branch Mint issue.
Since the 1851-O is the first and only Branch Mint 3 Cent coin ever created, it is easy to theorize that a special ceremony must have ensued the moment this coin was made. While small, it packs rarity with a big punch. Its existence isn’t even known by most experts, and it’s only because of our far reaching resources we were able to discover its location and bring it to you now.
These coins would have been lifetime achievements for many of the greatest collectors who ever lived, had they only known of them. Research has advanced this field of study significantly in recent years, and today we are better able to understand just how important these fascinating pieces of US Mint history really are.
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