1870-CC Liberty Double Eagle, XF45
1870-CC $20 XF45 PCGS Secure. Variety 1-A. The Carson City
Mint began coinage operations in 1870 and the issues from the
Western facility are among the most sought-after collectibles in
American numismatics. Despite its proximity to the famous Comstock
Lode, mintages were never very large at Carson City, and this is
particularly true of its first-year gold coinage. The Comstock Lode
was primarily rich in silver, gold was a valuable, but secondary,
by-product of the mining operations. Furthermore, agreements
between greedy railroad owners and large mining interests often
made it cheaper to ship locally mined bullion to San Francisco for
coinage, rather than hauling it the short distance to the Nevada
mint. Accordingly, the 1870-CC Liberty double eagle claims a meager
mintage of 3,789 pieces, the lowest production total of the
First-Year Branch Mint Key
Rarest Carson City Twenty
There was little numismatic interest in the twenty dollar denomination in 1870. The high face value of the coins made collecting long date runs of double eagles prohibitively expensive for most collectors of that era. Longacre's design was not highly regarded artistically and the denomination was relatively new in 1870, lacking the charisma of the older gold coins. Also, there was little interest in branch mint issues in general before Augustus Heaton published his landmark treatise on mintmarks in 1893. The few well-heeled collectors who did collect double eagles systematically usually just ordered a gold proof set from the Philadelphia Mint to update their collections every year. It is doubtful that any high-quality specimens of the 1870-CC were saved by contemporary collectors, as the issue is unknown in Mint State grades today.
Collecting large denomination gold coins only became popular in this country after the Gold Recall of 1933. That Presidential Order severely limited private ownership of gold in most forms, but exceptions were made for items of numismatic value, thanks to the intervention of Treasury Secretary William Woodin, who was a prominent collector himself. Astute collectors like Louis Eliasberg and Dr. Charles W. Green recognized the advantages of collecting double eagles as a legal means of investing in gold, and collecting the denomination became a popular trend in the 1940s. By the time this interest developed, the 1870-CC had been widely circulating for more than half a century, experiencing heavy attrition along the way. PCGS CoinFacts estimates a surviving population of only 40-50 examples in all grades today. Current population data lists 69 total submissions at PCGS and NGC combined, undoubtedly including numerous crossovers and resubmissions (11/17). Two examples are impounded in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
The 1870-CC began appearing at auction at least as early as of the Charles W. Cowell Collection (B. Max Mehl, 11/1911), where an example in lot 688 was described as, "1870 First $20.00 gold piece of this mint. Fine. Rare." An unusual spate of auction appearances has occurred in the last five years, or so. The 1870-CC has been publicly offered two or three times per year during that period but, historically, the issue has appeared with much less frequency. The current price realized record for the issue is $414,000, brought by the finest-certified AU55 NGC specimen in a Bowers and Merena auction in March of 2009.
The present coin is an attractive Choice XF specimen, with just a touch of wear on the high points of the design elements. The central devices are unusually sharp for the issue, which is always seen weakly struck. Liberty's curls are sharply defined, but the stars are flat, with no little detail in the radials. The vivid orange-gold surfaces show the expected number of minor abrasions for the grade, but none that stand out individually. Original mint luster is evident in protected areas. This piece offers a combination of absolute rarity, great historical interest, and outstanding eye appeal. It should find a home in a fine collection of Liberty double eagles. The 1870-CC is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Population: 15 in 45, 5 finer (11/17).
Ex: Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 9/2008), lot 1292, realized $345,000.
From The Gator Man Collection. (Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 2542, PCGS# 8958)
Weight: 33.44 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
View all of [The Gator Man Collection ]
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