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The Garrett-Bass 1898 Double Eagle, PR66 Ultra Cameo1898 $20 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. This phenomenal double eagle concludes our offering of a complete run of 1898 proof gold from a single consignor, all ranging from PR66 Ultra Cameo to PR68 Ultra Cameo. When one stops to consider, the larger a coin's surface is, the more unlikely it is to receive an extremely high grade because of the many more opportunities for various surface insults--abrasions, slide marks, hairlines, surface impurities, etc.--to show upon its surfaces. Large proof gold coins in extremely high grades, such as the present coin, make a memorable and lasting impression on all but the most jaded viewer.
Even the business-strike double eagles of 1898 were produced in skimpy numbers at the Philadelphia Mint, to the tune of only 170,395 pieces. Complementing that number was a recorded mintage of 75 proof double eagles. The Garrett-Guth Gold Encyclopedia notes, "Although the number of examples offered at auction in the last two decades is on the high side, many of the coins are mishandled pieces. Just six or seven choice coins have been sold. The population numbers are also highly inflated by resubmissions. It can be estimated that only 35 to 40 coins remain in all states of preservation."
Legendary collector Harry W. Bass, Jr., acquired this piece from the collection of the equally legendary Garrett family. T. Harrison Garrett, whose family managed the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, began collecting coins while a student at Princeton in the mid-1860s. He and his two sons, Robert Garrett and John Work Garrett, formed the Garrett collection, an assemblage that was unrivaled in terms of rarity, quality, and provenance. But the Garretts were far more than mere coin collectors, with far-flung, wide-ranging tastes that also comprised rare books, art, porcelain, music, and theater. The Garrett family purchased Evergreen House, an Italianate home with classical revival additions, in 1878 for T. Harrison Garrett. The 48-room Gilded Age mansion, with its soaring portico, elaborate cornices, and Tiffany-designed glass canopy, offers 26 surrounding acres of gardens and meadows, and elaborate detail throughout its interior. John Work Garrett inherited the house in 1920 and continued augmenting the family's collections--not only coins, but other collectibles as well. Throughout Evergreen House, period rooms feature post-Impressionist paintings, drawings by Degas and Picasso, collections of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, Japanese lacquerware, and one of the world's largest private collections of Tiffany glass and Japanese minor arts. The rare book library contains more than 8,000 volumes: Shakespeare's four folios, natural history works by Audubon, Catesby, and Gould, and the signatures of every signer of the Declaration of Independence. There is also a fine incunabula collection.
Upon John Work Garrett's death in 1942, Evergreen House and its collections became part of Johns Hopkins University, subject to Garrett's stipulation that the house remain open to "lovers of music, art, and beautiful things." The Johns Hopkins University sold the Garrett Collection of U.S. Coins in a four-part auction (Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, 1979-1981), and it is there that Harry Bass acquired this memorable coin.
The present example is one of three PR66 Ultra Cameo coins so graded at NGC, which has also certified two PR67 Ultra Cameo pieces (11/06). The highest pieces of the issue certified at PCGS are two PR66 Deep Cameo pieces. True connoisseurs of proof gold, the crème de la crème of American numismatics, will want to make their maximum bids on this memorable piece, accompanied by its impeccable and unmatched pedigree.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 26EK, PCGS# 99114)
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