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Single Finest Known Proof 1881 Eagle
PR66 Ultra Cameo

1881 $10 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. For most of the late 1860s until the mid-1880s, the mintages of proof gold eagles could be relied upon to number from a couple of dozen to less than four dozen examples per year. Only in the late 1880s did the annual proof mintages slowly increase until the record 120 pieces, was predictably achieved in 1900. For 1881 the eagle mintage was a typical 40 (possibly 42) coins, making it, like so much proof gold of the era, rare and much desired today. Whatever the exact original mintage, it is a telling statistic that NGC and PCGS together have certified only eight proofs of the issue in all grades. Of those eight certification events, the present example is clearly the single finest known.
Why are proof coins of this issue (and several other issues in the 1880s-1890s) so rare today? Walter Breen has speculated that the financial Panic of 1893 reduced the available populations, as numismatists raided their hoards of proof gold coins for cash spending money. The small premium the Mint charged for proof gold meant that those collectors were not out a great deal of money through such maneuvers, adding credence to the theory.
The present piece is numerically finer than any certified at PCGS, regardless of the level of contrast; that service has certified only one Gem proof, a non-Cameo at that. It is numerically the single finest at NGC as well, and the only Ultra Cameo 1881 in any grade at that service. This finest known and only Premium Gem Ultra Cameo specimen boasts deep, incredible contrast throughout, with thick mint frost on the devices and watery fields that display a pronounced orange-peel effect. Only with magnification do a few insignificant signs of contact appear, on surfaces that are essentially pristine otherwise.
Dedicated gold specialists are well aware of the elusive nature of Deep/Ultra Cameo proof gold coinage of this era, and should be expected to bid aggressively on this memorable and desirable proof gold coin.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28FK, PCGS# 98821)

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Auction Dates
Jul-Aug, 2009
31st-2nd Friday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 830

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