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    1881 Liberty Double Eagle, AU55
    Sought-After, Low-Mintage Issue
    Rarely Seen Finer

    1881 $20 AU55 PCGS Gold Shield. From the early days of the Civil War until 1878, gold coins did not circulate at par in the United States. After that time, banks no longer charged a premium for gold coins, but people in most parts of the country had become accustomed to using the more convenient paper money for everyday transactions, so gold was still seldom seen in circulation. This was not true in the Western states, however, where the hard-money economy remained popular until World War I. Accordingly, the Philadelphia Mint's policy for most of the 1880s was to leave the production of large numbers of double eagles to the San Francisco Mint and concentrate their resources on producing lower denomination gold, silver, and minor coins, especially the Morgan dollar. As a result, the 1881 Liberty double eagle claims a memorably low business-strike mintage of 2,199 pieces, accompanied by 61 proofs.

    Collecting large denomination gold coins was too expensive for all but the wealthiest 19th century collectors, and the few who did pursue double eagles systematically were usually content to update their collections by buying a gold proof set every year. The business strikes were released into circulation and few high-quality examples were saved by contemporary numismatists, making the 1881 a rare issue in all grades. Today, there are a few more business strikes than proofs extant, but Mint State examples are even rarer than the proofs. PCGS CoinFacts estimates 40-60 specimens survive in all grades, with five Mint State examples certified, the finest in MS62. NGC has graded six Mint State survivors, with the finest also MS62 (12/18). These figures include an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers. Even the finest old-time collections often lacked a Mint State example.

    This attractive Choice AU specimen exhibits just a trace of friction on the high points of the design elements and the lightly abraded orange-gold surfaces show a mix of satiny mint luster and prooflike reflectivity in sheltered areas. There is some chatter in the fields, but the only mark of note is a dig in the reverse field, near the C in AMERICA. This coin displays exceptional eye appeal for the issue, which is seldom seen this fine. Population: 4 in 55, 12 finer (12/18).(Registry values: N4719)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26BC, PCGS# 8994)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Jan-Feb, 2019
    31st-3rd Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 935

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