Legendary 1870-CC Double Eagle, XF401870-CC $20 XF40 NGC. The highly influential numismatic writing pair of Garrett and Guth have covered the broad expanse of classic U.S. gold, but few of the issues they surveyed received as much praise as the 1870-CC double eagle. In each of the three editions of their coffee-table delight, 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, the 1870-CC twenty has held a place in the book, progressing from a rank of 74th in the first edition printed in 2003 to 64th in the most recent version, copyright 2009.
As Garrett and Guth explain in 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, the 1870-CC double eagles are inextricably linked to the mining history and development of the Old West:
"In 1870, a new U.S. branch mint opened at Carson City, Nevada. Because of the Comstock Lode and other mineral discoveries, the West was producing an abundance of precious metals. It was felt that a coining facility in Carson City, only about 15 miles from the Comstock Lode, would be useful to the inhabitants ..."
Garrett and Guth also list a variety of reasons why the 1870-CC twenty has become so famous, highlighting the influence of collectors of Carson City coinage, those interested in the mystique of the Old West (such as the Japanese purchasers of the 1980s, as noted by Doug Winter in his Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint from 2001), and those with a penchant for the hefty gold double eagle denomination in general.
With these groups all pursuing the relative handful of 1870-CC twenties still extant, it is little wonder that demand should far outstrip the current supply. In their rarity note for 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, Garrett and Guth state: "Most experts agree that between 35 and 45 examples are known to exist in all grades." Further, earlier: "Nearly all examples of this great rarity are owned by serious collectors and are seldom offered for sale." With this in mind, the opportunity--the remarkable luxury--offered to collectors by this auction is staggering: the ability to choose between two 1870-CC twenties to be sold on the same night!
It is worth noting that while the present example took the "serious collector" path (one need only look at the other Atherton Family Collection pieces to know that the presence of this 1870-CC double eagle is no fluke), the other 1870-CC twenty, to be offered immediately after this piece, comes from a German source and was previously unknown to American collectors. Their appearance together in this auction is the happiest of numismatic coincidences.
Like all its fellows, this XF representative shows the effects of what must have been years of hardscrabble wear in Nevada or perhaps elsewhere in the West. The softly struck portrait and stars appear more worn than they actually are, though the yellow-gold fields still show appreciable luster, which corrects this faulty impression. Both sides exhibit light to moderate abrasions, though in the context of the 1870-CC double eagle issue, this is an appealing survivor. In their 2006 Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, Garrett and Guth offered the 1870-CC double eagle this simple tribute: "The 1870-CC double eagle is one of the true classics of the series." This Platinum Night is one of the best opportunities in years to own the legend. Census: 6 in 40, 13 finer (11/09).
From The Atherton Family Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26A8, PCGS# 8958)
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