1910 $5 PF-68 NGC
Bela Lyon Pratt, designer
Obverse: In sunk relief: Head of Indian left, wearing a feathered war bonnet; thirteen stars; broken above by LIBERTY, and below by date (1910); below truncation of bust, designer's initials, B.L.P.
Reverse: In sunk relief: Eagle standing left on a bundle of arrows entwined with a laurel branch; above, UNITEDSTATESOFAMERICA; below, FIVEDOLLARS; to left, E / PLURIBUS / UNUM, in three lines; to right, IN / GOD / WE / TRUST, in four lines.
Condition: NGC Proof 68 (Certificate number: 1963253-008 10-07 "tied for finest certified by NGC"; previous Photo Proof 01-07 [number 641260-004]).
A virtually flawless example. Surfaces of rich red-gold, bright and velvet-like, but with hint of matte-like granularity (most noticeable on the obverse); a tiny toning spot on the Indian's jaw is an identifier. A nearly unimprovable coin.
References: Breen (Encyclopedia) 6811; Garrett & Guth (Encyclopedia) p. 309; Breen (Proofs) p. 213; Akers (1979) p. 343-344; United States Mint, Operating Records, "Medal Book," 1906-1916, NARA, Philadelphia. (PCGS 8541)
Condition Census: One of the finest known. NGC lists a mere three other coins as Proof 68 (one with the plus designation) and none higher; PCGS lists no examples this fine (two Proof 66, and a single Proof 67+). As noted elsewhere, the Bloomfield pedigree of this coin emphasizes it being one of the best in existence (its price realized in the Bloomfield sale  was considerably higher than had previously been realized for the date). (07-13)
Rarity: Very rare. The usually recorded mintage is 250 pieces. Akers, due to the relatively few appearances of this date at auction, felt this figure was an error, or that many had been "subsequently melted." Neither Breen, nor Garrett and Guth have any estimate of survivors. This issue, like others of this series, has had skewed mintage figures reported for decades (if not longer). The Medal Book in the National Archives notes a gross mintage of 300 pieces (struck in batches of 100 each in January, May, and August) and the rejection of only a single coin. So the net mintage should be recorded as 299 (not 250) although as with all satin proofs, the number sold, melted, and those which slipped into circulation as business strikes is probably considerable. Garrett and Guth also noted (in 2008) that no specimen grading Proof 68 had ever crossed the auction block(apart from this coin which was sold uncertified in 1996), and the current combined PCGS and NGC tallies of auction appearances confirm this observation five years later.
Provenance: Sam and Rie Bloomfield Foundation Collection, Sotheby's, December 16, 1996, lot 37, "spectacular" ($37,400); Sam Bloomfield (prior to 1979); via Abe Kosoff, circa 1970.
Note: This finish has for years been called either Satin or Roman finish. The terms are the invention of numismatists. Satin is certainly self-explanatory, whereas the origin of Roman finish is less so. This was originally called a "Roman Gold" finish by Walter Breen (without explanation why) and it seems to have caught on. It has been suggested that this is because the surfaces are similar to late Roman or Byzantine gold coins, but this seems unlikely as ancient gold coins do not display similar surface characteristics, which can, in fact be highly variable.