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    1869 Liberty Double Eagle, PR65 Ultra Cameo
    Classic Proof Gold Rarity, 25 Examples Struck
    Approximately One Dozen Survive

    1869 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. Only 25 proof Liberty double eagles were struck in 1869, one of the lowest mintage figures for any post-1858 proof issue. Probably no more than a dozen examples survive today in all grades, with three of those pieces included in institutional collections and at least one coin in slightly impaired condition. The two leading grading services have certified a total of 11 specimens in all grades, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (12/14). Heritage Auctions is privileged to present a Condition Census example of this 19th century gold rarity in one of its very rare public offerings.

    Apparently, all the 1869 proof double eagles were originally offered as part of six-piece gold proof sets, with 25 sets delivered on February 19, 1869. How many of the 25 sets were actually distributed is unknown. Specie payments (suspended by the federal government during the Civil War) were not resumed until 1879, and Walter Breen reports that the cost of a complete copper, silver, and gold proof set was $57 in greenbacks in 1869, a stiff premium for coins worth only $43.54 in face value. Undoubtedly some of the sets went unsold and the coins were melted after the end of the year. Since collecting double eagles was not popular in the 19th century, proof twenties tended to be sold cheaply by gold proof set purchasers, who retained the lower-denomination coins for their collections. Some pieces were even spent for face value, as the coins brought minimal premiums when offered at auction. The proof double eagle in lot 1365 of the Lorin G. Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890) realized only $21.50, as an example. Accordingly, the survival rate for this low-mintage issue is quite low. Of course, the coins are treasured by present-day numismatists, and the record price realized for the issue is now $308,000, brought by a PR65 Cameo NGC specimen in May of 1990.

    The present coin is a delightful Gem, with razor-sharp definition on all design elements and startling field/device contrast. The light orange-gold surfaces are virtually flawless and the richly frosted devices seem to float on the liquid mirrored fields. Eye appeal is simply spectacular. We can find no previous auction appearances for this coin and believe it has been off the market for decades. It may well be one of the coins listed under Additional Appearances in our roster below, and it may be many years before a comparable specimen becomes available. Census: 3 in 65 Ultra Cameo, 1 finer (12/14).

    Roster of 1869 Liberty Double Eagles
    Grades are per the last auction appearance, unless a subsequent certification event is known. It is certain that some of the coins have been submitted, or resubmitted, since their last public offering. Grades for the Smithsonian coins are per Garrett and Guth.
    1. PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. The present coin.
    2. PR65 Cameo NGC. Father Flanagan's Boys Home Sale (Superior, 5/1990), lot 5743, realized $308,000; January-February Auction (Superior, 1/1993), lot 1511.
    3. PR64+ Deep Cameo PCGS. J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 829; H.R. Lee Collection (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 1713; Gaston DiBello Collection (Stack's, 5/1970), lot 1235; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Collection, Part II (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 1795.
    4. PR64 Deep Cameo PCGS. Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/2004), lot 6374; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg, 2/2009), lot 1609; January Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg, 1/2014), lot 1867.
    5. Choice Brilliant Proof 65. Chapman brothers; John M. Clapp, purchased in December of 1896; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg in 1942, via Stack's; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 922; Ed Trompeter; Heritage Auctions; sold privately circa 1995.
    6. Brilliant Proof. Hebbeard Collection (Harlan Page Smith, 4/1883), lot 381, part of a six-piece gold proof set; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett, Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection (Stack's, 3/1976), lot 428, proof set dispersed.
    7. Brilliant Proof. Amon G. Carter Family Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 883.
    8. Brilliant Proof. Nathan M. Kaufman, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Louis G. Kaufman; Kaufman Collection (RARCOA, 8/1978), lot 921.
    9. Brilliant Proof, slightly impaired. Nicholson Family Collection (Stack's, 6/1967), lot 230; George F. Scanlon Collection (Stack's, 10/1973), lot 2647; 66th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2001), lot 1013; ANA National Money Show (Stack's, 3/2002), lot 1191.
    10. PR63 Deep Cameo. Mint Cabinet, part of a complete copper, silver, gold proof set, purchased from the coiner on 3/8/1869; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution.
    11. PR63 Deep Cameo. National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution.
    12. Proof. R.C.H. Brock, part of a complete gold proof set; J.P. Morgan; donated to the American Numismatic Society in 1908, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Brilliant Proof. George Seavey, part of a complete silver, copper, gold proof set purchased from the Mint in 1869; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 831; Lorin G. Parmelee; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1365; possibly William Woodin; Woodin Collection (Thomas Elder, 3/1911), lot 1365.
    B. Proof. Heman Ely, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 949.
    C. Proof. Thomas Cleneay, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Cleneay Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1890), lot 419.
    D. Proof. William B. Wetmore, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Wetmore Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1906), lot 153.
    E. Proof. David S. Wilson, part of a six-piece gold proof set; Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 329, the set realized $170, to Henry Chapman.
    F. Proof. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 872; Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 692.
    G. Perfect Brilliant Proof. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1261, possibly the same as number 7 above.
    H. Brilliant Proof. Farish Baldenhofer (Stack's, 11/1955), lot 1532; possibly PNG Sale (Abe Kosoff, 10/1965), lot 693.
    (Registry values: P6) (PCGS# 99084)

    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, 2015
    29th-1st Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 26
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,631

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