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Indian Head Proofs

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Can anyone tell me how Indian Head Cent PROOFS were made?

Did they use special dies? Or did they just polish them and later use them for business strikes as well? And since there are cameo PROOFS of that era, were they treated with nitric acid in order to achieve this effect?



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yes now i could go into really great setail which i will not do here as it is too long and a pain in the [!@#%^&^] to write flowerred.gif


your question is one of the all time best i have ever seen on here thumbsup2.gif


the medal dept of the philly mint was the one that did the indian cent proofs and not the regular coinage-business strike facility used to strike the circulation coinage


much is this is conjecture as per the below from my own thoughts and experiences talking to others and what i read over the years


the earlier proof indian cents were struck on a screw press which was more slow but better quality

and like the early proof barbers the indian cents proofs were also struck on a hydralic press around the early 1890's


and of course i have no doubt that regular presses were also used in the striking of proofs i think they call them the knuckel presses??


proofs were struck at a slower speed


with this hydrolic press and with the slower speed the effect is squeezing which if course gives the indian cents that really deeply recessed look as all the metal flows into all even the deepest recesses of the planchet!!


and with the three cent nickel proofs which is one of my specialities well to my minds eye 893scratchchin-thumb.gif the indian cents were supposed to be struck twice as proof coins to make sure these mirrored coins got the full strike every detail stands out on the coin

but of course like the three cent nickel proof coins and indian head cent proofs of the middle to late 1880's right up to early 1900's

many strikes leave much to be desired and i am sure that many only got one strike from the proof dies


****** especially so the middle to late 1880's********


and seeing many you can come to this conclusion and for the the 1886 in particiular is the worse offender

to get a really nice fully struck 1886 with some to strong cameo with goos mirros is for me well rare even though the 1886 seems to have the most certified high grade survivers!! well folks they are much rarer than many think especially so with all the above atrributes and great eye appeal even in brown and red brown


myself i know someone who has one of the finest known technically grade wise and eye appeal wise lol not red but a fantastic red brown from the wayte raymond second hand horde and this coin is not the usually spotted streaked coin that is normally seen from this horde

well back to this question!!


i i am sure that proof dies were used to make business strike coins and not the other way around!! and as far as cameoes goes lots of indian head proof cents have cameo even in red brown and brown but usually they have to have correspondiongly deep mirrors to be a true cameo and many are just so so

the current top two grading services will not grade a rb or briown coin cameo?? me thinks 893scratchchin-thumb.gif


now the copper nickel proofs theym usually do not hAVE DEEP MIRRORS and really nice deeply mirrored strongly cameoed coin IS uncommon and deep cameos as you might have guessed are rare


in fact a really monster deep watery mirrored copper nickel proof indian cent with very good cameo is well rare!


if there is such a statement as a rare coin which is an oxymoron in coins flamed.gif


well hopefully someone can add more to this topic also go to paul shylocks site on the web to see mkore about indian head cents if you have not seen it you will love it 893applaud-thumb.gif








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Can anyone tell me how Indian Head Cent PROOFS were made?




Essential books on IH Proofs are Q. David Bowers' "Enthusiast's Guide to Flying Eagle and Indian Cents" and Rick Snow's "Flying Eagle and Indian Cents Attribution Guide". The Bowers book is currently out of print, but may be reprinted in the near future. The Snow book is being published in 6 volumes, of which Vol. 1, Vol 2 and Vol. 6 are currently available. You can order Rick Snow's books from his website at Eagle Eye Rare Coin website


Also, here's an Article on IHC proofs which has a lot of helpful information, but which does not specifically answer your technical questions. Article on Indian Head proofs


I think Snow's books will answer most of your technical questions, or try Walter Breen's book on US Proof coinage, probably out of print, but invaluble for all US proof coinage.


Did they use special dies? Or did they just polish them and later use them for business strikes as well? And since there are cameo PROOFS of that era, were they treated with nitric acid in order to achieve this effect?


Based on my research and years of collecting IH proofs, here's my opinion as to your questions. The mint made specific proof dies that were used to strike proofs. Those dies may have later been used to strike regular issue IHCs, but not necessarily. The proofs were struck separately. i.e. separate production runs where only proof coins were struck. I think the prior information that different presses were used (the older screw presses) is inaccurate. The newer presses allowed higher striking pressures and were more accurate and reliable. It is highly unlikelely that the mint would have reverted to technology that was 20-30 years out of date to strike these special collector coins. The coins were struck twice to fully bring out the detail of the dies, the planchets were carefully selected and polished prior to striking, and the Cameo's were generally the 1st coins struck, because the "etched" portions of the dies (the devices that were cut into the dies - the deepest recessed parts of the die) had not yet been "polished" by the effect of the metal of the planchet "smoothing" the recessed areas of the die from the metal flow which occurs during the striking process (die wear). I doubt very much if the recessed devices were treated with nitric acid as it would have distrubed the fine detail that is part of the obverse and reverse devices. Had they been treated with nitric acid, there would be a uniform "pickled" look to the coins, and there would be microscopic "pits" all over. That is NOT what any of the Cameo IHC proofs look like. The detail is uniformly sharp, including the feather ribs and the oak leaves, which leads to the conclusion that the cameo look is from the early strikings, and this effect disappeared after a few coins were struck.


The devices on today's proofs are often specially treated to give them a uniform cameo look and virtually ALL of the modern proofs have this look as opposed to the very small percentage of IHC proofs that are cameos (only about 1% of all bronze IHCs are cameos - the percentage of CN IHCs that are cameos is about 3%).


I hope this is helpful.


Edited to Add:


Here's some statistics on Cameo IHCs (based on PCGS Pop Reports - it is assumed that the NGC data would be similar):


PCGS has graded approximately 12,850 proof bronze IHCs. Of those IHCs graded, only about 127 are cameos - less than 1%. There is only 1 Bronze Deep cameo.


PCGS has graded approximately 985 CN proof IHCs. Of those IHCs graded, only about 78 are cameos - less than 8%. There are only 6 CN Deep cameos. Proof Cameo Copper-Nickel IHCs are much more "common" than bronze cameo proof IHCs.


Copper-Nickel Deep Cameo IHCs are excessively rare (6 graded by PCGS and 7 graded by NCG). But bronze Deep Cameo IHCs are virtually non-existent! There are only 2 bronze deep cameos at both major grading services - 1 graded PR66RD Deep Cameo by PCGS and 1 graded PR66RD Deep Cameo by NGC).


Statistical information is valid as of 10/31/03.







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