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    1883 Liberty Double Eagle, PR64 Deep Cameo
    Proof-Only Issue, 92 Pieces Struck
    Classic Gold Rarity, Ex: J.F. Bell

    1883 $20 PR64 Deep Cameo PCGS Secure. The 1883 Liberty double eagle is a classic rarity in the American gold series, from a small proof-only mintage of 92 pieces. Only the wealthiest 19th century collectors could afford to collect double eagles, so most of those coins were never distributed. Unsold specimens were melted for recoinage after the close of the year. Today, PCGS and NGC have combined to certify 26 surviving proofs, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (3/18). Two coins are included in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and another specimen resides in the collection of the American Numismatic Society. PCGS CoinFacts estimates no more than 20-25 examples survive today in all grades. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer this PR64 Deep Cameo in its first auction appearance since 1963.

    For most of the 1880s, it was the official policy of the Philadelphia Mint to limit production of double eagles and encourage the circulation of smaller denomination gold coins. Accordingly, business-strike Philadelphia mintages were uniformly small throughout the decade, and no regular-issue double eagles were struck at the Eastern facility in 1883, 1884, and 1887. To satisfy the limited collector demand for twenty dollar gold coins, a small proof mintage was accomplished every year and the coins were offered to numismatists for small premiums.

    On February 10, 1883, 40 proof double eagles were struck for inclusion in the gold proof sets for the year. An error in the Mint Report caused contemporary numismatists to believe these were the only double eagles struck in 1883, establishing a reputation for the extreme rarity of the issue at an early date. This erroneous mintage figure was still being cited by catalogers as late as the 1960s. Of course, since most of the coins struck later in the year went unsold, it is likely that the "40 piece" mintage figure actually represents the number of coins available to 19th century collectors pretty accurately. The proof sets began appearing at auction almost immediately, with one set offered in lot 958 of the Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884). Most surviving 1883 double eagles were initially sold as part of these proof sets, but the sets were almost always broken up in later years. The auction prices realized record for the issue ($282,000) belongs to two PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS coins offered in separate Heritage auctions in 2014.

    The present coin was a highlight of the fabulous collection of Jacob Shapiro, popularly known by his numismatic alias, J.F. Bell. Shapiro built and sold three remarkable collections of U.S. gold coins over the years, with three different auction firms, beginning in the 1940s and continuing through the early 1960s. His son, David Shapiro, was one of the principals of RARCOA, which was founded in 1962. The first major public offering of that firm took place from April 26 through 28, 1963, and featured "The Outstanding J.F. Bell Collection of U.S. Gold Coins." This coin was described in lot 921:

    "1883. EXCESSIVELY RARE GEM PROOF. There were only 40 coins struck this year. Of the 40 pieces, just how many are remaining in superb Proof condition? It is a question that probably will never be answered. There are probably not as many as the 1876-CC Twenty Cent piece, one of which sold recently at $12,500.00. THIS IS THE LOWEST RECORDED QUANTITY OF ANY $20.00 GOLD. This superb Bell specimen has a frosty head and stars, upon a flawless mirror planchet of fiery, fiery gold. Assuming there might be 10 such gem coins in existence, some of which might be in Museums, one can easily see the unlimited potential of such coins. They can easily become numismatic 'Rembrandts.' We would recommend this extreme rarity at a figure of $7,500.00."

    The RARCOA auction was the last time this coin was offered publicly. We believe it later came into the possession of Mike Brownlee, who sold it to the founder of the S. Gus and Louise Alexander Collection. The collection was stored in a safe deposit box before the collector's death in 1993 and only recently discovered by his heirs.

    The coin offered here is a spectacular Choice proof specimen, with razor-sharp definition on all design elements. This coin shows the standard date logotype centered between the truncation and the dentils, with the left base of the 1 over the right edge of a dentil and the right side of the 3 about in line with the right edge of the lowest curl. The fleur de lys below the eagle's beak is slightly fragmented and there is a small raised area in the gap between the rays below the second E in STATES. The virtually flawless orange-gold surfaces show the slight orange-peel texture seen on the finest 19th century gold proofs, and the deeply mirrored fields contrast profoundly with the frosted devices. Overall eye appeal is terrific. Off the market for 55 years, this coin should find a home in the finest collection or Registry Set. The insert for a plastic Capital holder reading "A GEM FROM THE J.F. BELL COLLECTION" accompanies the lot. Population: 3 in 64 Deep Cameo, 6 finer (3/18).
    Ex: J.F. Bell Collection (RARCOA, 4/1963), lot 921; Mike Brownlee; S. Gus and Louise Alexander Collection.
    From The Estate of S. Gus and Louise Alexander. (Registry values: P9)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26E4, PCGS# 99099)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View all of [The Estate of S. Gus and Louise Alexander ]

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2018
    25th-29th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 28
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,583

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

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