Q. David Bowers: Proofs: Proofs were struck to the extent of 700 coins, produced as follows: January: 100; February: 200; March: 100; April: 100; May: none; June: 100; July: none; August: none; September: 50; October: none; November: none; December: 50. It was customary in December to strike a few additional pieces to keep on hand until the end of the year.
Typically, on January 1st of the following year a small supply of Proofs was in inventory. Sometimes these were wholesaled to Philadelphia and New York dealers for face value. However, on January 9, 1875, 175 unsold Proofs were released for face value and, presumably, went to coin dealers. Some, possibly all, 1874 Proofs have bold, wide rims.
Apparently, most were sold as part of 1874 silver Proof sets, and deliveries by months match other silver Proof coins of the year. (Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of u.s. and Colonial Proof Coins, p. 150. 2 In his chapter in John Highfill's Encyclopedia, p. 635.)
Although 700 may have been distributed to numismatists, the rate of retaining them was not high, and today hundreds of pieces have been lost. These pieces were simply spent for face value, as was also the case for many 1873 Proofs-accounting for the impaired Proofs occasionally seen today. On the numismatic market the 1874 Proof is very undervalued. Bruce Amspacher commented as follows:" "The rarest of the non-clandestine [i.e., 1884 and 1885] issues in gem condition. Most known specimens are heavily impaired."
In my opinion, the two rarest Proofs of the 1873-1883 era are the 1873 and 1874, with the former being the slightly rarer of the two.
1. Normal issue: Breen-5782. Perfect reverse die.
Reported by Walter Breen. Rarer than the following.
2. Patched letters reverse: Some Proofs have the reverse No. 2 of 1873 (also used on some dated 1875); now, the arc scratch no longer extends all the way to border, and rust marks show between E and P in E PLURIBUS UNUM. Most seen are of this variety.
Note: In Henry Christensen's sale catalogue for the John M. Willem Collection, sold on September 5, 1980, Lot 700, a Proof has this notation: "Shows the diagnostic peripheral die crack."
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown
Proof mintage: 700; Delivery figures by month:
January: 100; February: 200; March: 100; April: 100; May: none; June: 100; July: none; August: none; September: 50; October: none; November: none; December: 50; 175 pieces distributed for face value on January 9, 1875.