Ultra Cameo PR67 1899 Double Eagle
1899 $20 PR67 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. The present 1899 Liberty
Head double eagle, certified at the Superb Gem proof level and with
the Ultra Cameo designation from NGC, is one of the most remarkable
coins in this memorable auction, which is noted for top-notch
quality overall. The recorded mintage of the issue was 84 coins,
but far fewer survive today: Garrett and Guth put the number
somewhere under 30, including the single Smithsonian Institution
example -- a PR63 -- and several impaired proofs. The authors point
out in the second edition of their Gold Encyclopedia that
the 1899 issue is "popular as the last issue of the 19th-century
double eagles," although purists would argue that title actually
belongs to the 1900 twenty. In any case, the 1899 is, of course,
the last issue dated in the 1800s.
Among the Finest Proof Liberty Twenties
The PCGS CoinFacts website pegs the number surviving, in all grades and contrast levels, at 32 pieces, estimating that only 10 of those are in Gem condition or finer. Notwithstanding, PCGS has certified only a single Cameo example in PR66, and there are none finer at that service in any contrast level.
NGC has graded four submissions at the PR67 Ultra Cameo plateau including the present piece -- and "plateau" it is, as there are none finer. The total NGC submissions in PR67 include 11 Ultra Cameo coins and 17 in Cameo (the highest a single PR67 Cameo), and as usual, those 28 grading events represent a virtual certainly of numerous duplicate occurrences. PCGS examples of the 1899 account for 24 more grading events, the finest a single PR66 Cameo.
Rarely have we had the privilege of offering examples of this issue in PR67 Ultra Cameo. A similarly graded example from the Jim O'Neal Gold Type Collection in our FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2012), lot 5076, brought $166,750, and four years ago in our Phoenix Signature (Heritage, 3/2008), lot 1759, another PR67 Ultra Cameo, brought $218,500. The most recent such appearance was for this specimen, sold in April 2012 for $207,000. Considering the healthy market for proof gold, we expect that this incredible-quality coin, with the added CAC green label, will certainly hold its own against those comparable auction records.
It bears pointing out that the present coin, besides being among the few finest certified of the 1899 issue, is also among the finest certified of the entire Liberty Head type, save for four submissions that NGC has graded at the PR68 level, only one of which is an Ultra Cameo -- an 1891. PCGS has certified only two Liberty Head twenties at the PR67 level, a PR67 non-Cameo 1896 and a PR67 Cameo 1907. Among all Liberty Head issues, Type One through Type Three, NGC has certified 18 submissions in PR67 Ultra Cameo, including one 1861, one 1864, and one each of the 1869 and 1870; all the rest are Type Three examples.
Turning to the coin at hand, what immediately jumps out at the viewer is the incredible orange-gold-on-jet-black appearance of the surfaces on each side, a function of the enormous contrast set up between the profoundly mirrored fields and the pristine devices, thickly coated with mint frost. The contrast is so lush, so exorbitant that little "flashing" or tilting of the piece is required to appreciate the effect. The surfaces are so clean that careful and extensive perusal with a loupe reveals little that can be used for future pedigree identification.
The offering of this coin presents some happy collector the opportunity to obtain one of the finest proof examples of the Liberty Head double eagle available today.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 26EL, PCGS# 99115)
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