1862 Liberty Eagle, PR65 Ultra Cameo
1862 $10 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. The Civil War raged in the
United States from 1861 through 1865. Early on, the North thought
there was little doubt about the war's outcome, but by late 1862
the Union war strategy was in disarray. President Lincoln had
replaced General George B. McClellan as commander of the Union
forces with Ambrose Burnside, an ineffectual leader. In December
1862 Burnside and the Union troops suffered staggering losses of
life near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Increasing numbers of Federal
troops began to desert their ranks.
35 Examples Struck, 12-15 Survive
Single Finest Certified Example
Against this historical backdrop, first silver, and then gold coins disappeared from circulation in 1861. In November 1861 the Reverend M.R. Watkinson, of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, suggested to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase that the nation's coinage should feature a motto emblematic of its trust in God. Various half dollar and eagle pattern coins of 1861 and 1862 feature mottos such as IN GOD IS OUR TRUST and GOD OUR TRUST. By the second week of July 1862, even Indian Head cents had ceased to circulate. The Philadelphia Mint produced only a bit more than 92,000 double eagles in 1862, compared with more than 2 million the previous year, and only 10,960 eagles, against more than 113,000 pieces in 1861. Even mintages of proof coins plummeted: While 1859 through 1861 saw proof eagle mintages from 50 to 80 pieces, in 1862 only 35 proof eagles were recorded. Few proof specimens were made of the gold eagle in this year, but some of the Judd-297 and -298 copper patterns were produced from an obverse die used for the regular-issue proof gold pieces. The reverse of those copper patterns features the motto GOD OUR TRUST, either on a scroll (Judd-297) or in the field above the eagle (Judd-298). Walter Breen's proof Encyclopedia describes the obverse die: "Large date, placed low, slanting down a little to r., 2 nearer border than 1; left base of 1 almost over r. edge [of a dentil]; date nearer first than 13th star." Some of the copper patterns feature a different obverse die, with the "date about centered and too far right (as in 1863), the 2 almost in line with r. corner of truncation [illustrated in Adams-Woodin, 356]." It is unknown if any regular (No Motto) gold eagles were produced with this obverse, but Breen comments that if they exist, "They are probably restrikes."
The present example offers superbly contrasting, deeply mirrored fields against the frosty devices. The obverse die shows the diagnostics of the first obverse die above, with the date shifted to the left. A curious curved mark between the bust truncation and the 2 in the date appears to be the lunule of the top of a previously mispunched 2.
This is the single highest graded Ultra Cameo proof example of this elusive Civil War-era issue at either NGC or PCGS. A search through our auction archives shows that this is only the fifth time we have ever offered a proof of this elusive date, with one of those citations being a previous appearance of the present coin. PCGS estimates that only 12 to 15 examples exist, and its population data show nine submissions of the 1862 proof eagle, all in the PR64 grade -- five in PR64 and four in PR64 Cameo. NGC shows a total of six submissions -- two each in PR64 Cameo and PR65 Cameo, one each in PR64 Ultra Cameo and this coin in PR65 Ultra Cameo (7/13). These 15 grading events almost certainly represent a number of resubmissions, given the strong monetary incentives for even a one-point grade bump of this rare issue.
Illustrated on page 60 of Proof Gold Coinage of the United States, by Robert J. Loewinger, M.D., as a representative of the Type II reverse with shorter, thinner claws, no motto, and small letters.
Ex: Dr. Robert J. Loewinger Collection (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3136, realized $115,000.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 37A8, PCGS# 98798)
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