Enigmatic 1873 Close 3 Three-Dollar Gold Piece1873 Three-Dollar Gold Piece. Close 3. AU-53 (NGC).Endearing About Uncirculated quality for this rare and enigmatic entry in the three-dollar gold series. Even medium gold patina blankets both sides, the surfaces revealing plenty of prooflike reflectivity in the protected areas as the coin dips into a light. Overall boldly defined with light friction and wispy handling marks that do little more than confirm a short stint in active commerce.The 1873 is one of the more intriguing rarities among three-dollar gold pieces. The mintage figures show only 25 Proof coins were struck and record nothing about circulation strikes. For many years numismatists assumed that was an accurate number, but beginning in the 1920s, questions were raised noting that the number of available specimens certainly exceeded the recorded mintage. Examination of suspected circulation strikes shows areas of weakness atypical of carefully produced Proofs, and many specimens are also prooflike -- the present example included -- a feature often noted for circulation strikes of low mintage issues. In addition, many of the survivors show obvious signs of wear from normal commercial use. In their 2005 reference on three-dollar gold pieces, Q. David Bowers and Doug Winter concluded:"Today, circulation strikes, all of the Close[d] 3 variety, are rare. As nearly all show significant wear, logic suggests that they were issued in one of two ways: (1) Bought at a premium in the East and used in commerce on the West Coast, or (2) Held at the Treasury or by banks and released into circulation after December 17, 1878, when gold and paper achieved parity for the first time since late 1861. As the wear on most pieces is extensive, the West Coast scenario is more likely."While Proof coins were struck with both the Close 3 and Open 3 logotype, circulation strikes were produced using only the Close 3 logotype. This places the production period for these coins in the earliest part of January 1873, before the Close 3 logotype was abandoned in favor of its Open 3 counterpart. Why these coins were not recorded in the official production figures for the year remains unknown, and may merely be a clerical oversight. Since then, many numismatic scholars have attempted to estimate the mintage, quantities that vary from as few as 100 pieces to as many as 1,000. Regardless, survivors are very rare in any grade. With the combination of rarity and mystery, the 1873 Close 3 three-dollar gold piece has long been a favorite of advanced collectors. The specimen offered here will surely see spirited bidding at auction.Provenance: From the Maurice Snow Collection. Acquired from Harry J. Forman, May 22, 1980.PCGS# 7995. NGC ID: 25MW.Click here for certification details from NGC.