Remarkable 1899 Eagle, PR66 Ultra Cameo1899 $10 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. It has been nine years since we offered a proof 1899 Liberty eagle in so high a grade--and that piece, which formerly resided in the fabled Ed Trompeter Collection, was certified by NGC as PR66 Cameo rather than the PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC has assigned to the present coin. Although the recorded mintage is 86 pieces, proofs are extremely rare and seldom appear in the marketplace: Akers in 1980 estimated that only 25-30 pieces are known. The Breen Proof Encyclopedia notes, "Much rarer than commonly believed; seldom shows up." More recently, the Garrett-Guth Gold Encyclopedia seems to be understating the rarity of the issue by saying that "auction appearances are also among the most frequent for the series, with an average of two pieces coming up for sale every year." (The average actually appears to be 1.5 coins per year.)
Of course, such terms as "frequent" need to understood within the larger context of "Just how rare is proof gold overall?" More specifically, one might ask, "How rare are proof Liberty Head eagles?" As one measure, a quick perusal through Heritage's permanent auction archives will reveal that of the more than 26,000 Liberty Head eagles we have offered in the last 13 years since we began maintaining those archives, only a bit more than 1%, or 294 pieces, were proofs. It is also revealing to note that we have offered, in absolute terms, fewer Liberty Head proof gold proof eagles than any other Liberty Head proof gold denomination.
Finally, regardless of the absolute rarity of proof gold and proof Liberty Head eagles in particular, this special piece represents an amazing conditional rarity. Of the total 778 Liberty Head eagles that NGC has certified in all grades, only 122 are graded PR66 or PR67 by NGC, and of those pieces only 60 are PR66 Ultra Cameo or PR67 Ultra Cameo. It is absolutely true that the years 1898 through 1900 appear to be the most common issues for high-grade proof gold Liberty Head eagles with Cameo or Ultra Cameo contrast, but save for in comparison to some other proof gold dates, they are rare by almost any other conceivable measure.
The surfaces on this piece present a remarkable "white-on-black" cameo contrast, and the piece is evenly balanced from side to side. The rich reddish-gold surfaces are remarkably deep in their mirrored reflectivity, and the devices are heavily frosted. As one would expect from a high-grade proof gold coin from this era, the fields show a rippling, orange-peel effect. An outstanding Ultra Cameo proof ten, this PR66 Ultra Cameo example is one of two pieces certified at NGC, with only two PR67 Ultra Cameo pieces finer (1/08).
From The Ultra Collection.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28G6, PCGS# 98839)
Weight: 16.72 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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