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    Description

    1863 Liberty Double Eagle, PR66 Cameo
    Classic Gold Rarity, Only 30 Pieces Struck
    Ex: Eliasberg, Trompeter

    1863 $20 PR66 Cameo NGC. The 1863 Liberty double eagle is a very rare issue in proof format, from a reported mintage of just 30 examples. PCGS CoinFacts estimates no more than 10-12 specimens survive today in all grades, including some coins in impaired condition and several in institutional holdings. Heritage Auctions is privileged to present the finest-certified example of this acclaimed 19th century rarity in this important offering.

    Several factors have influenced the rarity of the 1863 proof double eagle, in addition to its small production total. In their Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth state:

    "The actual rarity of the 1863 double eagle can be difficult to determine. Although 30 coins were reportedly struck, it is nearly certain that fewer were actually sold. The population data is misleading, as the numbers include resubmissions. There are probably about a dozen examples known today, including the pieces in the museum collections of the Smithsonian and the American Numismatic Society. Of these, at least a few are impaired."


    The reasons for the small proof mintage in 1863, and the even smaller number of sales to collectors, can be found in the economic stresses and uncertainties occasioned by the Civil War. Widespread hoarding of all precious metal coinage caused the government to suspend specie payments in 1862. This meant that proof gold coins could only be purchased with other gold coins, which were no longer found in circulation. In addition, Mint policy was to sell gold proofs only in complete six-piece sets with a face value of $41.50, plus the proofing charge. Bullion dealers were selling the generic gold coins needed to purchase the proof sets at a 240% markup in 1863. Thus, the cost of a gold proof set would actually be $99.60 in government-issued paper currency, plus the proofing fee. This was a significant amount of money for the average collector, and many were discouraged by the difficult ordering procedure, as well. It is likely that no more than 15-20 gold proof sets were sold in 1863, with the remainder melted after the close of the year.

    Sales would have been even lower if the Mint had sold individual proof gold coins to order, as they had in earlier years. Collecting large denomination gold coins was not popular in the 19th century, as the face value of each coin was too great for the average collector to tie up in a long date-run of examples. Collecting the smaller denominations was popular however, and many collectors needed the gold dollar, quarter eagle, and three dollar pieces for their collections. There were no business-strike quarter eagles minted in 1863, so collectors seeking an example of this issue had no option outside of buying a complete gold proof set to secure a specimen. The dollar and three dollar coins also had low business-strike mintages. A significant portion of the gold proof sets sold in 1863 were probably purchased to get the smaller gold coins for collections, with the larger denominations coming along for the ride. The lack of collector demand for the larger gold coins probably resulted in many proof double eagles being sold for slim profits, or just being spent for face value in later years.

    We have compiled a roster of nine proof 1863 Liberty double eagles that are known to present-day collectors, with a number of earlier appearances that may or may not represent the same coins. The primary coin in the Smithsonian Institution and the example in the collection of the American Numismatic Society both come from complete copper-silver-gold proof sets that have remained intact since the time of issue. The Garrett piece was part of a complete gold proof set that remained intact until it was split up in 1976. The earlier appearances in the roster include at least a half dozen gold proof sets that were held intact until the turn-of-the-century era (1890-1912), but all of these sets were later dispersed, probably because of collector demand for the smaller denomination coins.

    When he sold the Dunham Collection coin in 1941, B. Max Mehl commented on a remarkable gap in auction appearances of the 1863 proof double eagle:

    "I can find no record of sale with the exception of a proof set in the Earle sale in 1912. Although a number of fine gold collections have been offered in recent years, I can find no record of a brilliant proof specimen of this coin."


    Our roster shows the gap in auction records between 1912 and 1941 that Mehl referred to. It is likely that most of the coins were impounded in the legendary collections of Virgil Brand, Waldo Newcomer, and "Col." E.H.R. Green during this period. These collections were dispersed over a long period of time, in mostly undocumented private transactions, making it difficult to trace the history of the various coins involved. While we have no documentary evidence, we suspect this is the explanation for the dearth of auction appearances Mehl noted. In recent times, the coins appear at auction once every year or two, with the most recent sale being the PR65 Cameo NGC specimen in the Tacasyl Collection (Bonham's, 9/2013) that realized $345,150.

    The present coin is a stunning Premium Gem, the finest-known example, with razor-sharp definition on all design elements and rich mint frost on the devices that creates intense cameo contrast with the deeply mirrored fields. The pristine yellow-gold surfaces show no mentionable distractions and eye appeal is terrific. This coin boasts an illustrious pedigree, as it was once a highlight of the famous Eliasberg and Trompeter Collections. This combination of highest possible technical quality, tremendous eye appeal, and great historic interest make this coin stand out over all other examples of this rare issue. Census: 1 in 66 Cameo, 0 finer (6/14).

    Roster of Proof 1863 Liberty Double Eagles
    1. PR66 Cameo NGC. Louis Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 909; Ed Trompeter; Heritage Auctions, privately, circa 1999; Medio-Gomez Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 6/2004), lot 1515, realized $138,000; Pre-Long Beach Auction (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 9/2008), lot 1287, realized $241,500, the present coin.
    2. PR65 Cameo NGC. Gaston DiBello; DiBello Collection, Part II (Stack's, 5/1970, lot 1224; Harry W. Bass, Jr., Bass Collection, Part II (Bowers and Merena, 10/199), lot 1759, realized $66,700; Tacasyl Collection (Bonham's, 9/2013), lot 1021; realized $345,150.
    3. PR64 Cameo NGC. Heman Ely; W. Elliot Woodward; purchased by T. Harrison Garrett as part of a private transaction involving nine complete gold proof sets from Ely's collection on 10/25/1883; Robert Garrett, John Work Garrett, Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection (Stack's, 3/1976), lot 404; Henry Miller; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2011), lot 5277, realized $212,750.
    4. PR64 Deep Cameo. Part of a complete 1863 proof set sent from the Philadelphia Mint to the curator of the Mint Cabinet on 3/11/1863; National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, grade by Garrett and Guth.
    5. PR62 Deep Cameo. A second example in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, grade by Garrett and Guth.
    6. Proof. Robert C.H. Brock, part of a complete proof set from the Philadelphia Mint; J.P. Morgan; American Numismatic Society in 1908, accession number 1863.1908.93.374, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition.
    7. Brilliant Proof. ANA Convention Auction (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 3208.
    8. Brilliant Proof. Picker-Sonderman-Ruder Collections (Stack's, 1/1992), lot 1368. The catalog indicates this coin was from an overseas source.
    9. Proof 60, Polished. Possibly Adolph Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 1801, per Walter Breen; Samuel Wolfson Collection, Part I (Stack's, 10/1962), lot 881; Public Auction Sale (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 12/1976), lot 1388; March Sale (Stack's, 3/1983), lot 1315; Grand Central Auction (Herbert Melnick, 11/1983), lot 3187; Saccone Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1989), lot 617; ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/1997), lot 5666.

    Other Appearances:
    A. Brilliant Proof. George Seavey, part of a complete gold proof set, probably purchased directly from the Mint in 1863; Seavey Illustrated Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 825, not sold as the collection was purchased intact by Lorin G. Parmelee before the auction took place; Lorin G. Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1327.
    B. Brilliant Proof. Thomas Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 412, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    C. Proof. M.A. Brown Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1897), lot 99, part of a complete six-piece gold proof set.
    D. Brilliant Proof. Major William B. Wetmore Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1906), lot 148, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    E. Brilliant Proof. David S. Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 323, part of a six-piece gold proof set, realized $200.
    F. Proof. James B. Wilson Collection (Thomas Elder, 10/1908), lot 60, part of a complete six-piece gold proof set.
    G. Proof. William Woodin; Woodin Collection (Thomas Elder, 3/1911), lot 1361.
    H. Brilliant Proof. George Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2264, part of a six-piece gold proof set.
    I. Brilliant Proof. William Forrester Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2305.
    J. Brilliant Proof. Jacob Shapiro (a.k.a. J.F. Bell); J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 823.
    K. Brilliant Proof. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 866; Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 688.
    L. Brilliant Proof. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1255.
    M. Brilliant Proof. H.R. Lee Collection (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 1707.
    N. Brilliant Proof. King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), part of lot 180; Abe Kosoff.
    O. Brilliant Proof. Thomas Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 914.
    P. Brilliant Proof. Dr. J.H. Judd; Illustrated History of United States Coinage (Kosoff, 1962) Lot 152.
    Q. Proof. ANA Convention Auction (Paramount, 8/1974), lot 995.
    R. Proof. Arrowhead Collection (Sotheby's, 5/1987), catalog not available for comparison.
    S. PR64 PCGS. Kingswood II (Kingswood Coin Auctions, 6/1997), lot 185. Catalog not available for comparison.


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    From The Charles G. Wright Family Collection.(Registry values: P7)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26DE, PCGS# 89075)

    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 Charles G. Wright Family ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2014
    5th-9th Tuesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 23
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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