David Akers (1975/88)
Proofs are extremely rare, at least as rare as those of 1859 and more so than any of the proofs to follow including the 1875. No proof has appeared at auction since 1948 (CoinFacts editors comment: this was written in 1979) and even the vast Farouk collection did not have one. The minage figure of 66 proofs is probably correct but that figure does not account for the melting of unsold pieces. I would estimate that only one-third to one-half the mintage was actually sold to collectors and at present, only 6-7 proofs are accounted for.
As of July, 2010, we can find only three auctions appearances since 1948; the Floyd Starr coin at Stack's in October, 1992 sale, the Amon Carter coin at Stack's in January, 1984, and the Eliasberg coin in October, 1982. This obviously a very rare proof.
The 1861 Half Eagle is exceedingly rare as a Proof. Out of an original mintage of 66 Proofs, ten were melted, and we can only account for six survivors. Where are the rest of them? Both the American Numismatic Society and the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution possess examples, leaving only four examples for collectors.
The best Proof 1861 Half Eagle of which we are aware is the NGC PR66CAM formerly of the Eliasberg and Trompeter Collections. From there, it goes downhill fairly quickly. Jeff Garrett judged the Smithsonian's example to be PR64DCAM. A third example has a line across the chin and a toning streak on the reverse; a fourth has a large patch of toning on the right side of the reverse, a fifth has a scratch above the date, and the sixth has some crusty red toning on the right side of the obverse.