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PR66 Deep Cameo 1892 Double Eagle
Starkly Contrasted Mint Masterpiece

1892 $20 PR66 Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC. The proof 1892 double eagle occupies uneasy ground in the context of U.S. numismatics. The proof counterpart to a low-mintage business strike issue of only 4,430 pieces, the 1892 proof twenty itself saw production of only 93 pieces. Of those 93 specimens, perhaps 25 survive, with several of them showing impairment. (The estimate of 25 survivors is shared by many sources through the past decade.) Yet among unimpaired representatives, the quality runs high, and a collector seeking an emblematic proof Type Three double eagle would do well to examine the available 1892 twenties, particularly if the collector prizes a rich cameo effect.
Many elite proof double eagles have been held in "strong hands" for at least some part of their past. The top two specimens of the 1892 proof twenty, at least in the estimation of PCGS (2/12), both grade PR66 Deep Cameo PCGS and formerly were part of the John Jay Pittman Collection and the "Dallas Bank" Collection put together by H. Jeff Browning. (NGC has certified a pair of coins as PR66 Ultra Cameo, but the one recent sale of such an NGC coin realized a significantly lower price than sales of a PCGS coin conducted within the previous couple of years -- more on this later.)
Browning died in 1978, more than a decade and a half before John Jay Pittman, yet it was Pittman's collection that came across the auction block first, with the U.S. coins selling for strong prices in 1997 (including Pittman's proof 1892 double eagle) and 1998. Browning's "Dallas Bank" collection sold in October 2001, a time of great uncertainty, yet many coins of true quality, including this magnificent proof, received their due; whereas the Pittman coin realized $60,500 in the 1997 auction, Browning's 1892 broke the six-figure barrier to sell for $103,500, setting a record that would last until 2008. In their Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth note the Browning example as the finest proof 1892 twenty the authors had seen, and a sentence from the "Dallas Bank" Collection lot description shows how the Pittman and Browning coins have been compared in the past: "[John] Dannreuther found only a single example sold in the past decade, the Gem Pittman coin, that could even rival this splendid coin."
Heritage's offering of the Browning example breaks new ground for us, as our Permanent Auction Archives dating back to 1993 show no offerings of a Deep or Ultra Cameo example of this issue better than PR65. The committed enthusiast of proof gold may recall several recent offerings of a PR66 Deep Cameo PCGS example of this issue, twice at Goldberg (9/2008, 2/2010) and once at Stack's (9/2010); in all three cases, the same coin was on offer, the ex: Pittman specimen. The Browning coin, then, is far fresher-to-market. It also has a "leg up" on the Pittman specimen in the form of a CAC green label, which the Pittman coin lacks; this is the only PR66 Deep or Ultra Cameo CAC-labeled example of the issue (2/12).
The Browning specimen's main pedigree markers are two tiny copper spots, one at the juncture between Liberty's jaw and throat, the other southeast of her lowest curl. Contrast is "black-and-gold" in the truest sense, with exquisitely frosted devices rich yellow against the gleaming "black" of mirrored fields with delicate orange-peel texture. The best term for the all-around eye appeal is "distinguished," a fitting term for an antique so well-preserved that it scarcely shows its age. A magnificent coin.
Ex: The Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's/Stack's, 10/2001), lot 114, which realized $103,500.
From The William D. Plumley Collection.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 26ED, PCGS# 99108)

View all of [The William D. Plumley Collection ]

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Auction Dates
April, 2012
18th-22nd Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 8
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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