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    Description

    1861 Liberty Double Eagle, PR63 Cameo
    Rarest Proof Date After 1858
    Only Five Examples Traced

    1861 $20 PR63 Cameo NGC. The advent of the Civil War and the government's suspension of specie payments in 1861 seems to have dampened collector interest in proof coins, especially the large denomination gold proofs. Mint records indicate 66 proof Liberty double eagles were struck that year, but probably only a handful actually found buyers. Walter Breen notes "the unsold coins were sent to the Melter & Refiner in January 1862." Whatever the mintage may have been, the 1861 proof double eagle is very rare today. Writing in 1984, David Akers noted:

    "The 1861 proof Double Eagle is probably the rarest U.S. proof gold coin after 1858. It is more rare than the 1859, 1865, 1874, 1875, 1877 or 1878 proof twenties as well as all of the famous proof dates of the 1880's including the 1883 and 1884! The 1861 proof $20 is also at least as rare and quite likely rarer than the legendary 1875 $5 and $10 proofs ... Almost all of the great collections have failed to have this date in proof (including Garrett and Eliasberg which were otherwise nearly complete) and only two different specimens, this one and the Carter coin, have been offered at public auction since 1946!"



    Akers overlooked the coin sold in the Numismatic Gallery's sale of the Memorable Collection in 1948, which may possibly be an earlier appearance of the coin offered here, but his assessment of the rarity of the 1861 proof double eagle has stood the test of time. Currently NGC and PCGS have combined to certify only four coins between them, and even that small total may contain a resubmission (6/15). We have compiled a roster of five coins known to us below, including two specimens in institutional collections, with some possible duplication due to the difficulty of plate matching high-quality proof coins.

    The present coin is an attractive Select specimen with sharply detailed design elements throughout and richly frosted devices that create a stunning cameo effect against the deeply reflective fields. The vivid lemon-yellow surfaces display highlights of both green and orange, with a minimum number of minor contact marks for the grade. Eye appeal is exceptional and a comparable specimen may not become available for many years. Census: 1 in 63 Cameo, 1 finer (6/15).

    Roster of 1861 Proof Double Eagles
    1. PR66 Deep Cameo PCGS. Amon G. Carter Family Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 861; Ed Trompeter; Heritage Auctions privately, circa 1998; possibly Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 1618 (as PR67 Ultra Cameo NGC), realized $483,000.
    2. PR64 PCGS. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1253; Samuel Wolfson Collection (Stack's, 10/1962), lot 875; Sale of the 70's (Kagin, 11/1973), lot 1786; Auction '84 (Paramount, 7/1984), lot 965; Goliad Corporation; purchased privately in August 1984 by Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Collection, Part II (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 1741.
    3. PR63 Deep Cameo, grade per Garrett and Guth. Mint Cabinet, obtained from the coiner on September 24, 1861; National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
    4. PR63 Cameo NGC. The present coin, previous pedigree unknown.
    5. Proof. R.C.H. Brock, part of a complete gold proof set; J.P. Morgan; American Numismatic Society in 1908, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Proof. George F. Seavey, part of a complete minor, silver, and gold proof set probably purchased directly from the Mint in 1861; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 823; purchased, along with the rest of Seavey's collection, by Lorin G. Parmelee; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1316 (set dispersed); William Woodin.
    B. Proof. Mendes I. Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 248, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Thomas Cleneay; Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 409; M.A. Brown Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1897), lot 98 (set still intact).
    C. Proof. A specimen purchased by Virgil Brand from S.H. Chapman in 1912 as part of an 1861 gold proof set.
    D. Proof. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 864; Jacob Shapiro (aka J.F. Bell); Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 686.
    E. Choice Brilliant Uncirculated. Auction '90 (RARCOA, 8/1990), lot 974, although the coin was cataloged as Uncirculated, the image appears to be a proof and PCGS lists this coin as PR63 in their Auction Prices Realized.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 26DC, PCGS# 89073)

    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
    August, 2015
    12th-16th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,199

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