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1876 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC....

2010 August Boston, MA Signature & Platinum Night ANA Coin Auction #1143

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Auction Ended On: Aug 11, 2010
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Hynes Convention Center
900 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02115


Monumental 1876 Double Eagle, PR65 Ultra Cameo
The Only Certified Gem Ultra/Deep Cameo Example
1876 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. This is the only certified Gem Ultra or Deep Cameo proof 1876 double eagle at NGC or PCGS. It is at a minimum tied for the finest numerically certified.
The 1876 double eagle is the final Type Two design, and the proofs had an increased mintage over previous years--all the way to 45 pieces, over the 20 coins each recorded in 1874, 1875, 1877, and 1878. That increased production has not translated into increased availability today, however--far from it.
In the appearance of this coin in the Bass catalog in 1999--a couple of encapsulations ago--Bowers describes it and speculates concerning the larger production figure:

"A splendid specimen of exquisite quality and unquestioned rarity. Although 45 Proofs were struck--perhaps in anticipation that visitors to the Centennial Exhibition of American Independence held in nearby Fairmount Park would sally over to the Philadelphia Mint--today only eight to 10 pieces are believed to exist (Walter Breen's estimate). Only at widely spaced intervals does an example appear on the market, and even then the coin is not apt to be in the grade offered here."

The preceding comments have three themes that merit exploration: the number of surviving proofs versus the number originally minted; the special status of the issue as a potential observance of the U.S. Centennial; and the number of market appearances.

Number of Surviving Proofs
Neither we nor any other numismatists can categorically say exactly how many proof 1876 double eagles survive today. We must, as usual, examine the empirical evidence, then form our own conclusions. The first item of interest is that at the Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo level, this piece is the sole example we have ever offered, in any grade. And as mentioned, it is the sole certified Gem Ultra Cameo/Deep Cameo. Examining the certified populations, we find that NGC and PCGS combined have seen a total of 20 "submission events" for the 1876 proof double eagle. Tied for numeric finest at PCGS, and the sole Deep Cameo, is one PR64 Deep Cameo--likely the present piece in a previous encapsulation. Two others at PCGS are certified PR64 (non-Deep Cameo). The finest certified at NGC is a single PR65 Cameo example. Interestingly, this PR65 Ultra Cameo coin does not appear in the NGC online Census Report, as of July 1, 2010.
Taking all these submission events together, we would be unsurprised to learn that half or more of them represent duplications, for the usual reasons. This would leave us with a maximum survival of 10 certified different specimens between NGC and PCGS.
(Aside: This anecdote may help explain why so many duplications are claimed among the certified populations. A certain coin dealer for many years was known to aggressively crack out encapsulated coins that he felt/hoped were undergraded and resubmit them in hopes of a higher grade. He kept all the holder tags--a total of several thousand--in a shoe box. His father, who lived with him, threw the box away one day, thinking it was trash. It is a near-certainty that most of those "crackouts" appear in the population data to the present day. There are many other similar stories.)
In the Bass catalog, the PCGS population for the PR64 grade is given as "4; none finer." The more interesting comment appears just afterward: "How many different specimens this number represents, we have no idea."

The 1876 Double Eagle and the U.S. Centennial
As noted above, Bowers makes special mention of the 1876 double eagle's higher mintage of 45 proofs, compared to 20 pieces for surrounding years. One wonders--did the 1876 Centennial help the survival rate of the proof double eagles in that year? Or did it hurt it?
That the U.S. Independence Centennial was a momentous, historic, far-reaching national celebration is undisputed. The 1876 Independence Centennial Exposition, held in Philadelphia, was the Unit (NGC ID# 26DV, PCGS# 99091)

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