1868 $20 PR66 Cameo NGC. Ex: Lisa L. The horrific War Between the States, more commonly known as the Civil War, from 1861 t...
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Rare and Desirable 1868 Double Eagle, PR66 Cameo, Finest Known1868 $20 PR66 Cameo NGC. Ex: Lisa L. The horrific War Between the States, more commonly known as the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865 confirmed and aggravated the deep tear in the nation's social fabric, a divide that many would say persists to this day in various forms. But the war also inspired an abiding trust in the Almighty on the part of many people. That upswell of religious sentiment led to the placement of IN GOD WE TRUST for the first time on our nation's coinage beginning with the two cent piece, which was launched in 1864. Some pattern coins from 1863 featured variations on the theme, including GOD OUR TRUST. (The pattern two cent pieces that carry GOD AND OUR COUNTRY were apparently struck in the early 1870s, despite their 1863 date.)
In 1866 the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was introduced on double eagles, forming a separate With Motto type within the series, also commonly called Type Two double eagles. The Type One (No Motto) double eagles were, of course, produced from 1849 to 1866, while the Type Two pieces were produced from 1866 to 1876. In 1877 the denomination was changed to TWENTY DOLLARS from the former TWENTY D., creating the Type Three segment of the series. Beside the added motto, Type Two double eagles vary in having a shield that is curved on the sides, as opposed to the straight-sided shield on Type One pieces. In 1866 the motto was hand-punched into the P- and S-mint dies with the new curved shield, creating minor die varieties, but the motto was afterward incorporated into the master dies. The 11-year span of the Type Two double eagles coincides with the Reconstruction era in the South, and ends in the nation's centennial year of 1876. Double eagles minted in Philadelphia did not circulate domestically to any great extent during the Type Two era; most were exported and melted, although some did make their way West. While the Philadelphia Mint made proofs of the Coronet, With Motto double eagle yearly for public sale, there were few avid collectors during the post-Civil War era, and even fewer who could afford to tie up 20 dollars in a "collectible" coin. As a result, annual sales of proof double eagles never exceeded 50 pieces in a given year. For 1868, just 25 proof coins were struck, about 10 to 12 of which are believed to exist today--and three of those examples are in the museum collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Numismatic Society. The Bowers double eagle reference calls proofs of this date "very rare," noting that business strikes are even rarer. The recently published Garrett-Guth Gold Encyclopedia says, "All Proof Type 2 double eagles are rare and desirable, and the 1868 date ranks as one of the most sought-after issues." Currently NGC and PCGS combined have recorded 15 "submission events," which undoubtedly include resubmissions and crossovers (9/06).
The present coin stands alone atop the Condition Census as the single finest known example, in PR66 Cameo condition. The fields are deeply mirrored, and the thick mint frost over the devices gives the coin a strong two-toned effect, with the black-on-gold contrast that is so pleasing and desirable on cameo proof gold coinage. The strike is robustly executed, as expected, with a couple of the peripheral stars showing extra outlines. The date logotype is entered a trifle high into the die, so that the 1 is about twice as close to the bust truncation as to the denticles. The first 8 is close to the 1. This is a coin of the utmost rarity and importance, whether to type collectors, date collectors, or to connoisseurs of proof gold, that crème de la crème of U.S. numismatics.
From The Dr. Robert J. Loewinger Collection.(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 26DL, PCGS# 89083)
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