The 1968 Niger Lion 10F: Snagging top pops of a cool design that usually looks like garbage
The 1968 Niger Lion 10F is one of my favorite designs. I love the rather high relief of the lion and the overall quality of the engraving where so many other animals depicted on coins appear somewhat cartoonish. I've handled quite a few over the years, and whether still in their original packaging or since removed, the constant for the issue is haze, hairlines, or both. 1000 were minted, and by and large, they're ugly.
A few years ago, I set out to find one nice example, but even the higher end graded pieces can be somewhat hazy, and that's not what I wanted. In the fall of 2022, one of the (then) four NGC PF69UCAMs came up for sale. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but it had clear fields. The other drawback is the frost, while pretty strong on the lion (the most important part) is weak on the lettering. With such a low population, I opted to keep the coin but also keep looking in case another one became available. I could either swap or just have more than one. After all, I do like the design.
In mid-April, after a hellish day of traveling (the only thing that went right was that I did, eventually, end up at home) I went to the PNNA show outside of Seattle. I usually go more for socializing than anything else, but sometimes I find something to buy. Shortly before calling it a day, I spotted another PF69UCAM, which the dealer mentioned was recently made (bringing the population of the top grade at NGC to 5). This piece doesn't have quite the mirrors of the one I already had (it's not that they're hazy, they're just not quite as deep/black), but the frost is quite strong. The dealer quoted a price well below what I paid for the first example and it was a no brainer.
Yes, I'll still keep my eyes out for one that has super deep mirrors and thick frost, but I'm not sure any such coins exist. That photos of frosty proofs can so easily exaggerate the good aspects of the frost and fields makes it difficult to gauge from an image how a coin will really look when the image looks great.
Anyway, here's my little pride... 40% of the NGC top pop: