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    Single Finest Proof 1869 Eagle
    PR67 ★ Ultra Cameo

    1869 $10 PR67 ★ Ultra Cameo NGC. The proof 1869 eagle issue was a rarity as soon as the calendar turned to 1870. Only 25 examples were in the recorded proof mintage, one of the smallest figures from the regular era of proof gold production, though not the smallest (claimed at 20 pieces by the 1874 and others in the late Reconstruction era). The pool of numismatists in the 1860s and 1870s was small, as coin collecting was still a nascent hobby at the time, and the number of collectors with the desire and financial wherewithal to sink more than $40 -- in the money of the time -- into a set of gold proofs for a single year. It is probable that even the minuscule mintage of 25 proofs was too much for the market to bear, and that at least a handful of eagles (and likely, by extension, double eagles) went unsold and were melted down near or after the change in the calendar year.
    Major sources such as the PCGS Population Report and the Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins agree on present-day survival of a dozen coins with one or two more possibilities. Perhaps not coincidentally, there are a total of 12 certification events for the proof 1869 eagle in the combined certified population, across all contrast designations, as of (12/11). Garrett and Guth write in the Encyclopedia, "Even though the 1868 and 1869 eagles have the same Proof mintages, the 1869 is slightly more common. However, one or two extra coins out of a total population of a dozen means that this date is extremely rare in proof condition." Such is the hair-splitting needed to define issues within the sequence of profound rarities in mid-19th century proof gold.
    Of the 12 pieces in the combined certified population, two are rated as non-Cameo, both by PCGS; in all likelihood, these were certified prior to that service's adoption of Cameo and Deep Cameo designations, for all other certified specimens are at least Cameo, and a production run of 25 pieces would not allow the frost "bloom" on the devices to fade away in time to strike non-Cameo pieces. Yet Deep or Ultra Cameo quality is not a guarantee for this issue, either; NGC has certified only three coins as Ultra Cameo, while PCGS recognizes only one Deep Cameo piece. Among these four, the present PR67 Ultra Cameo specimen is the single finest certified; moreover, it is the sole PR67 or better example known for the date, with a PR66 PCGS coin as its nearest rival (12/11).
    This Superb Gem's appearance is nothing short of extraordinary. Its contrast between amply frosted devices and boldly mirrored fields more than lives up to the Ultra Cameo designation, even through a light partial layer of milky patina that hovers close to the portrait. The color on that side is rich honey-gold, whereas the reverse is closer to yellow, yet both hues suit the piece in their own way. A handful of tiny planchet imperfections in the left obverse field have no influence on the technical grade and little more on the eye appeal. The collector who chooses to collect classic proof gold does so knowing the extreme rarity of the pieces he or she seeks -- as well as the steep prices that rarity can command. For such a collector, this coin is greatness. The only question is, at what price?(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28F7, PCGS# 98809)

    Weight: 16.72 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2012
    2nd-5th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,992

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