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1897 Double Eagle, PR65 Ultra Cameo
A Curiously Low-Survival Date in Better Grades

1897 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. Among the well-produced proofs from the late 1890s, the 1897 represents a low point in availability but not in production quality. A mere 86 proof twenties were produced, of which perhaps only 20 to 25 individual coins have been estimated to exist today. The Fuljenz-Winter reference on Type Three twenties has an interesting passage about the 1897 proof:

"Interestingly, about half of the known Proof 1897 Double Eagles are impaired from mishandling or severe cleaning and grade in the Proof-60 to Proof-62 range while the other half are very choice pieces grading Proof-64 or better. Gems are extremely rare."

The estimate of 20 to 25 individual coins may be a bit on the light side. The grading services have certified a total of 42 coins as non-Cameo, Cameo, and Ultra/Deep Cameo. Once resubmissions are factored out, we believe that number may be more representative of 30 to 35 coins. But their point about the prevalence of lower-grade survivors is well taken. In Gem condition and in all finishes, only seven coins have been graded (two as Ultra Cameos and three PCGS Deep Cameos), while as Cameo and non-Cameo coins they have only certified three pieces in PR65, and with all finishes there are only four finer coins. The percentage of higher grade survivors increases significantly in 1898 and subsequent years.
As expected, this coin has exceptionally deep reflectivity in the fields on each side. The devices also show strong frosted contrast. The fields are also noticeably textured with the orange-peel effect so often seen on proof gold from the last half of the 19th century. The surfaces are uniformly bright yellow-gold. A curved lint mark in front of the bridge of Liberty's nose serves as a useful pedigree identifier.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 26EJ, PCGS# 99113)

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Auction Dates
January, 2012
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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