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    1894 Double Eagle, PR66 Ultra Cameo
    Only 50 Examples Struck
    Tied for Finest Certified

    1894 $20 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. The 1894 Liberty double eagle claims the lowest proof mintage of the decade, at a meager 50 pieces. The 1894 proof twenty is even more difficult to locate than that small production figure would indicate, suggesting that the rate of attrition was quite high for the issue. NGC and PCGS have combined to certify a total of 27 coins in all grades (12/12), but that total undoubtedly includes some resubmissions and crossovers. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth offered the following commentary on the 1894 proof double eagle in their Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933:

    "The population numbers for the 1894 double eagle must be studied carefully to understand the rarity of the 1894 Proof issue. Many of the coins certified have been in various states of impairment. Very few choice examples are known. Of the original mintage, there are probably only 15-20 coins known. These include multiple examples housed in museum collections. One of the finest examples seen in recent years has been a PF-64 coin that sold at auction in early 2005 for $54,625."

    Interestingly, the coin referred to in the above citation is none other than the present specimen, when it appeared in lot 30544 of the FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005). As a measure of the rarity of the 1894 proof twenty, we can find no record of any public offering of this issue since that time, and the price realized still stands as the record for any auction appearance of this issue today. Of course, prices on all coins have changed dramatically over the last eight years, and even a record price in 2005 is no indication of what the piece will bring in 2013.
    Although a few collectors, like Virgil Brand and John M. Clapp, began systematically collecting large denomination gold coins in the 1890s, it was not until the late 1930s that collecting double eagles became widely popular. The few early specialists that did collect double eagles usually acquired them as part of complete gold proof sets, ordered from the Philadelphia Mint every year. Today numismatists recognize proof coins as different issues from their business-strike counterparts, usually employing different dies and different production methods, etc. In earlier times a proof coin was considered to be a sort of super high-grade specimen of the yearly coinage, not a separate issue from the business-strike coins at all. This attitude is reflected in the description of lot 354 of the David S. Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907):

    "1894 $20, $10, $5, $21/2. Of the $21/2 4,122 were struck. Complete set. 4 pcs."

    Note that Chapman included the mintage figures for both business-strike and proof coins in his quarter eagle totals. Because collectors did not consider the proofs special separate issues, many coins were sold cheaply, or even spent at face value, during hard times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because few collectors were actively collecting large gold coins, the double eagles were particularly vulnerable to this kind of attrition. The large face value of the double eagles made it very tempting to spend them when financial pressures loomed, while it was easier to justify holding on to the smaller denominations. These circumstances account for the number of impaired specimens noted by Garrett and Guth.
    The present coin is a spectacular Premium Gem, with stunning cameo contrast between the richly frosted devices and the deeply mirrored fields. The virtually pristine surfaces show the orange-peel texture of the best 19th century gold proofs. The design elements display razor-sharp detail throughout and eye appeal is tremendous. The coin offered here combines great historic interest, absolute rarity, and the highest available technical grade in one irresistible package. It may be years before a comparable specimen becomes available. Census: 2 in 66 Ultra Cameo, 0 finer (12/12).
    Ex: FUN signature (Heritage, 1/2004), lot 30544, realized $54,625.(Registry values: P2)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26EF, PCGS# 99110)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2013
    9th-14th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,656

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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