Press Release - July 14, 2003

First Certified AU50 1870-CC $20 to be Sold at Auction Anchors Heritage’s September Long Beach Sale

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Dallas, Texas: Heritage Numismatic Auctions’ September Long Beach Signature Sale will be anchored by one of America’s great numismatic gold treasures: the first certified AU50 example of the 1870-CC Double Eagle to ever be auctioned. This spectacular Condition Census rarity, certified by NGC as an AU50, is tied for finest known with perhaps five other examples. The 1870-CC Twenty, the rarest and most famous gold issue from the Carson City mint, was produced during that mint’s first year of operations. The auction will take place on Sept. 17-20, at the Long Beach, California Convention Center. Heritage is the official auctioneer of the Long Beach Coin Expo. This landmark coin is expected to realize $200,000-$250,000.

"The legendary 1870-CC $20," noted Heritage President Greg Rohan, "is the rarest Carson City gold coin, and not surprisingly, is also the highest-priced business strike. Double Eagles have long been popular with collectors, and with a low original mintage, low survivor count, and a low-grade survivor profile, we expect the finest 1870-CC to ever be auctioned to realize well in excess of $200,000. Prices on 1870-CC Double Eagles have been rising for many years, and this wonderful example - less abraded and better struck than any other survivor - will attract all specialists who demand the finest and are willing to pay for it."

"This finest-known example," continued Mark Van Winkle, Heritage’s Chief Cataloger, "came out of a complete collection of CC Twenties formed by a Western collector three-to-four decades ago, and have been off the market for at least thirty years. We have been unable to ascertain any previous appearance of this specimen. Nor have we found any auction records of a certified AU example. This is one of two AU50 examples certified by NGC; while the PCGS Population Report shows four AU50s, with none finer; naturally, we don’t know how many of these six certifications might be repeat appearances."

"The consignor," continued Rohan, "summarized this historic event most appropriately: ‘For the first time, the open and public auction market will make available to the world the opportunity to purchase this unreserved, Condition Census U.S. gold rarity. And I couldn’t think of a better company to handle the sale of this Western American treasure than Heritage Auctions.’ "

Gold and silver were discovered in Nevada in the late 1850s, followed almost immediately by a "gold rush." Construction of a mint in Carson City was authorized by Congress in 1863, but delays postponed its opening until 1870. In its first year, the CC mintmark appeared on Dimes, Quarters, Half Dollars, Dollars, Half Eagles, Eagles, and Double Eagles. Most of these initial issues are scarce, but none more so than the 1870-CC $20s. Only 3,789 pieces were struck, and Doug Winter has estimated that only 30-40 pieces are known today, mostly in low grade; the 3 or 4 highest-graded survivors are AU50, with none certified higher. According to the Winter/Halperin 2001 Condition Census, this coin is certainly one of the very finest examples known.

Heritage has had the privilege of auctioning several of these American gold classics in recent years:

Auction & Lot
FUN, Jan. 2002, Lot 4052
Santa Clara, Nov. 2001, Lot 6566   
Long Beach, Feb. 2001, Lot 7164
ANA, Aug. 1999, Lot 8220
ANA, Aug. 1996, Lot 5881
Grade
NGC XF45
NGC VF25
   ANACS net XF40   
PCGS XF45
Uncertified VF30
Prices Realized
$97,750
$89,125
$86,250
$92,000
$30,250

"The 1870-CC Twenty," concluded Rohan, "is among the most widely acclaimed issues in the entire series of Liberty double eagles. It is surpassed in overall rarity only by the ultra-rare 1861 Paquet, but no Double Eagle garners more attention than is generated by the appearance of a high-grade '70-CC. Contrast its mintage figures to the 7,675 1870-CC Half Eagles minted (of which perhaps 50-60 pieces survive, 4 in Mint State), and the 1870-CC Eagle, with 5,908 minted and an estimated 35-45 pieces known today (none certified in Mint State). This will be a history-making event."

"Every 1870-CC $20 known to numismatists," finished Van Winkle, "was either used or abused. Only history knows whether this coin bought a horse, a gun, or a night at the saloon. What we do know is that this is an outstanding example, and quite probably the finest known. All known 1870-CCs show a weaker strike on the obverse, with the stars on the left typically falling victim to uneven striking pressure due to centering in the collar. Most of the known coins are also heavily abraded. This exceptional coin is struck slightly better than most, and is certainly less abraded than any examples I have seen, including the Bass coin. It is a real treat when the most famous, most desirable CC Twenty is also at the top of the Condition Census, and thus the most valuable."

CC Mint History

The state of Nevada was once part of the Utah Territory, and known as Carson County. The first settlers arrived in Eagle Valley in 1851, establishing a trading post for the great ‘gold’ migrations to California. Most of the settlers returned to Salt Lake City with the ebbing of the California Gold Rush, and an empty Eagle Valley was ultimately purchased for $500 and some horses by New Yorker Abraham Curry and friends. Curry founded Carson City (named after the trailblazer Kit Carson) in 1858, but his wildest dreams of building a city could never have envisioned the growth that would follow the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode. The Comstock was probably the richest deposit of silver ore ever found.

At first, the silver ore (and smaller quantities of gold) was shipped over the Sierra Nevada Range to the San Francisco Mint, at great expense. Mine operators lobbied Congress for a branch mint in Nevada itself, after being rejected by Mint Director James Pollock. The Nevada mint bill was passed by both the House and the Senate on March 3, 1863, but didn’t stipulate a location for the new mint. Colorado Congressman H. P. Bennett, authorized to find a suitable location, was successfully lobbied by Abe Curry to select the Territorial capital Carson City, centrally located to all of the mines. A lot was purchased in February of 1865, and a commission (including Curry) was appointed to oversee the building project. Due to continuing opposition by the Treasury Department, it was July 1866 before plans and authorizing documents arrived in Carson City. The cornerstone was laid September 24, 1866. Curry was named as the contractor, but it became evident that the $150,000 appropriated was insufficient due to the costs of transporting materials to Carson City. Curry spent much of 1868 in Washington and Philadelphia trying to procure additional funds.

Machinery for the Carson City Mint - exceedingly heavy coin presses, blanking presses, and rolling mills - was shipped by sea around the Horn, most of it arriving in late 1868. Curry became the first Superintendent of the CC Mint, started testing his equipment during 1869, but waited impatiently for the arrival of dies from Philadelphia. Tests of the machinery were conducted at various times during 1869, but the dies didn’t arrive from Philadelphia until January 10, 1870. The first coins struck were Liberty Seated Silver Dollars, followed shortly thereafter by gold Eagles.

The first Double Eagles were struck on March 10. Curry resigned as Superintendent in September to run for lieutenant governor. Mintages during these early years of the Carson City Mint were lower than anticipated, because many mine owners still preferred to use the San Francisco Mint or to keep their output in ingot form. Production from the Nevada mines was falling during the early 1890s, and on June 1, 1893, Mint Director Preston ceased coining operations. The facility served occasionally as an Assay Office, and in 1941 it became the home of the Nevada State Museum.

The original Coin Press No. 1 is currently located in the Old Mint Building portion of the Nevada State Museum. Built in 1869 by Morgan & Orr of Philadelphia, it weighs 12,000 pounds and in 1879 was capable of producing 1,500 coins per hour. On February 11, 1870, this press struck its first coin, a Seated Liberty Dollar. It is believed this same press was used to mint the 1870-CC Double Eagles as well. After the Carson City Mint closed in 1893, Coin Press #1 journeyed to the Philadelphia Mint, then in 1945 to San Francisco, back to Carson City in 1958, to the Denver Mint in 1964, and finally home again to the Carson City museum in 1967.

Images, descriptions, and prices realized are available in the Permanent Auction Archives at the Heritage website, www.HeritageCoin.com. The Heritage name is recognized worldwide for bringing unparalleled value to every consignor and bidder. Year 2002 sales exceeded $170 million ($92 million at auction) and assets were approximately $30 million. HeritageCoin.com is the Internet's most popular and highly trafficked rare coin site, with more than 84,000 plus registered members. HeritageCoin.com is the only coin site chosen twice by Forbes.com’s Best of the Web (1999 and 2001) as one of the 250 best websites on the Internet, and also won the most recent Numismatic Literary Guild award for Best Numismatic Internet Site. For more information on how to consign your coins to our next Sale contact one of our consignment coordinators at 1-800-US COINS (800.872.6467). We also invite you to visit us on the web at http://www.HeritageCoin.com

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