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1897 Double Eagle, PR64 Ultra Cameo
1897 $20 PR64 Ultra Cameo NGC. If proof gold coinage is
considered the caviar of American numismatics, then the proof
Liberty Head double eagles must be considered the Beluga caviar of
the specialty. The later Saint-Gaudens gold coinage was produced
with the matte or satin finishes, which proved mighty unpopular
with collectors of the era. Even today, opinions among advanced
collectors seem more mixed.
An Important and Impressive Offering
In literal contrast, the Liberty Head double eagle proofs (and other proof gold coins of the era), at least up through 1902 when the Mint changed its method of manufacture, show high-contrast, reflective fields and frosted devices, often achieving the coveted Cameo or Deep/Ultra Cameo designation at the grading and certification companies.
The Ultra Cameo or Deep Cameo Liberty Head twenties are exceedingly popular and are not only stunning visually, they are also the most impressive and largest proof gold denomination of the classic era of U.S. numismatics, prizes that are fiercely contested when they cross the auction block.
The 1897 double eagle proofs saw a recorded mintage of 86 pieces, nominal within the series. It is doubtful that more than 20 to 25 examples survive today, despite the inflated population figures. Garrett and Guth call the date "underrated" and note that the double eagles dated after 1897 "become much more available."
The first and most obvious hallmark of this near-Gem Ultra Cameo proof is, understandably, the profound cameo contrast created between reflective, mirrored surfaces and frosty devices on the surfaces, yellow-gold overall and showing the gold-on-black appearance so treasured by numismatists for these coins. It requires a loupe to observe a few scattered contact marks, including one just before the lower neck near star 1. The orange-peel texture often seen on proof gold is as expected; the proof strike has created full design details throughout both sides. An important proof gold offering. Census: 3 in 64 Ultra Cameo, 5 finer (12/13).(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 26EJ, PCGS# 99113)
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