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Description

Rare Ultra Cameo 1892 Double Eagle, PR65
Only Two Ultra Cameo Pieces Finer at NGC

1892 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. The 1892 Liberty Head double eagle is a low-mintage issue, both in proof and business-strike formats. Only 93 proof double eagles were struck, to accompany the paltry regular-issue mintage of 4,430 pieces. Survival rates are low for both issues, causing series enthusiasts to compete intensely for any specimen of this date, regardless of format. Experts agree approximately two dozen proof 1892 double eagles survive in all grades, and Gem proof specimens are very rare with the Ultra Cameo designation.
Many proof 1892 double eagles probably went unsold, with the remainder of the issue destroyed after the close of the year. As David Akers explained in lot 1164 of the John Jay Pittman Collection (Akers, 10/1997):

"The 93 piece mintage figure for proof 1892 double eagles is misleading, in the sense that it might give one the impression that proofs of this date are only moderately rare. However, it is important to recognize that a mintage figure for any proof issue represents only the number struck, not the number actually sold. It was common practice for the Mint to strike a number of proofs (how the figure was determined is not known) and then use this existing supply to fill orders throughout the year. At year's end (usually January or February of the following year, to be exact), the unsold pieces were melted. Now, in 1892, it certainly was not very likely that 93 people were willing to pay $20.50 for a proof double eagle (face value plus a $0.50 'proofing' charge), and so it is probable that half, or even fewer, of the original mintage were actually distributed."


Only a few collectors such as John M. Clapp, James Ten Eyck, and Virgil Brand were known to collect proof double eagles as early as the 1890s, so Akers' assessment of the market for these coins is probably quite accurate. It is worth noting only 52 proofs were struck in 1891, and 59 were coined in 1893. These figures probably reflect the true demand for proof double eagles at the time, and the larger 1892 mintage was due to unfounded optimism about potential orders, maybe because of the Columbian Exposition taking place that year.
Collecting large denomination gold coins did not become popular until the 1930s, and auction appearances of the 1892 proof double eagle are few and far between before that decade. One early appearance was in lot 1381 of the William H. Woodin Collection (Thomas Elder, 3/1911), "1892 Proof. Very rare; coinage small." The lot realized $25, a good price at the time, because proof coins were extremely unpopular, due to dissatisfaction with the contemporary matte proof format. Recent auction appearances have occurred at a rate of once or twice per year, always inviting spirited competition. A few coins of amazing quality have appeared on the market in recent years, including the Dallas Bank specimen and the Pittman coin. When the PCGS graded PR66 Ultra Cameo Ex: Pittman coin was offered in a Goldberg sale in February 2010 it realized $120,750.
The present coin is fully struck, with greenish-gold reflective fields that show the characteristic orange peel effect found on proofs of the era. The frosty devices create a stunning black-on-gold cameo flash when this coin is tilted in the light. This specimen is worthy of a place in the finest collection of proof double eagles. Census: 3 in 65 Ultra Cameo, 2 finer (11/10).
From The Henry Miller Collection.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 26ED, PCGS# 99108)

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Auction Dates
January, 2011
5th-9th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 5
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