Momentous 1875 Twenty Dollar, PR63 Cameo1875 $20 PR63 Cameo PCGS. The story of Mint gold in 1875 is one of incredible rarity. While mintages of the copper and silver coinage issues for the year ranged from sufficient to enormous, the gold coinages were another story. For the six current gold denominations from the gold dollar through the double eagle, one was a proof-only issue of 20 coins (the Indian Princess three dollar gold). Four other gold issues--the gold dollar, quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle--saw mintages that added up to 1,100 business strikes in toto, plus a smattering of 20 proof coins per denomination. Only the business-strike Liberty Head twenties saw a healthy mintage of more than 1.6 million pieces among three different mints (Philadelphia, Carson City, and San Francisco)--and even the double eagle denomination, again, saw a proof mintage of just 20 coins.
While 20 proof coins was actually a nominal double eagle emission for the era--after all, the 1877 and 1878 twenties had identical proof mintages, with the 1876 mintage of 45 more undoubtedly because of its Centennial-year status--in the case of the 1875, the proof double eagle garners significant extra attention because of the accompanying rarity of the other gold pieces dated 1875, whether proof or not.
The Ron Garrett-Jeff Guth Gold Encyclopedia says of the issue that "the 1875 double eagle is one of the classic issues of the type. The date is very rare, as the tiny mintage of only 20 coins would indicate. There is extra interest in the date due to the rarity of the remaining gold-coin denominations for the year. There are probably 10 to 12 examples known in all grades, including at least one that is impaired. Others reside in museum collections, including two in the Smithsonian, and are unavailable to collectors. The most recent appearance of an example at auction was the sale of an uncertified piece, described as choice Proof, which sold for $166,750 in early 2005."
As of this writing (7/07), NGC has certified only six coins of this issue in all proof grades and contrast levels (Cameo and Ultra Cameo), ranging from PR61 to PR64. PCGS has graded an additional four pieces, considering all contrast levels, that range from PR62 to PR64. The present PR63 Cameo PCGS-graded coin is thus surpassed by only a single PR64 Deep Cameo coin at PCGS, and by four PR64 coins at NGC (three Cameo, one Ultra Cameo).
This is only the third time that we at Heritage have been privileged to offer an example of this rare coin. One of those pieces was an impaired proof, and the second was the Genaitis PR64 Ultra Cameo NGC-certified specimen.
The Breen Proof Encyclopedia notes that the date is to the left and close to the border, with the top of the 1 almost equally close to the bust truncation. The left bottom serif of the 1 is over a space between two denticles. On the reverse, the middle arrow lacks all but a bit of rudimentary shaft.
Interestingly, Breen fails to mention several obverse die markers that are clearly diagnostic. Although the lintmarks and tiny die dots are unmistakable, they are raised on the surface of the coin, conclusive evidence that they were in the working die when the production die was made. Several tiny dots of raised metal appear on the central and lower neck, including one slightly larger, triangular-shaped dot with a smaller, tooth-shaped dot just to its right. A raised "die lintmark" appears as a semicircle at the front of Liberty's throat. Others appear above and below the curl just above the ear, and a couple of raised dots are seen, as well, on Liberty's cheek. Another dot is seen on the chin near its apex. While the Genaitis coin is a definitely different piece, it also bears those same distinctive die markers.
This delightful coin has medium, consistent yellow-gold coloration, with considerable mint frost coating the devices that contrasts abundantly with the well-mirrored fields. A few light hairlines appear on each side under a glass, consistent with the Select proof grade. The strike is expectedly bold and pleasing, and the overall effect is one of an astonishingly beautiful coin that appears to have been graded by an extremely conservative grader. The reverse die, also fascinatingly, is rotated perhaps 15 degrees clockwise from the obverse.
This coin represents, needless to say, a momentous opportunity for proof gold specialists, as it represents a rare chance to obtain this special coin, one that hails from one of the most important years in U.S. numismatics in terms of gold rarities.(Registry values: P10) (PCGS# 89090)
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