Market Analysis: 19th century Proof gold simmers in auctions
- Published: Feb 16, 2023, 8 AM
Proof U.S. gold coins led bidding at the pre-Long Beach auctions of Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers and at those held after the convention via Heritage Auctions.
An 1896 Coronet gold $20 double eagle graded Proof 66 Deep Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service found a new home for $300,000 at the Goldbergs’ sale on Jan. 27. These Gem Proof double eagles have long been trophy coins in the marketplace, with the Philadelphia Mint perfecting their techniques in the 1890s, resulting in deeply mirrored fields and frosty devices. This coin remained ungraded and in the safe of the collector who purchased it in the 1960s and was only recently submitted to PCGS, who rewarded its originality.
The catalog provides some transparency in why this piece does not have a Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, stating, “We believe this coin should be regraded, and probably it will get a point more or better grade. Furthermore, it was sent to CAC, but they felt it should be conserved to lighten the original toning and thus did not award this spectacular coin with a CAC sticker of approval. After consulting with the client, it was decided to just leave this gorgeous, original coin alone and let the market decide its value for an original, uncleaned and stunning gem deep cameo proof double eagle.”
It came from a modest mintage of 128 Proof strikes, of which many have been cleaned or otherwise impaired, with PCGS’s population of 18 Deep Cameo coins likely inflated due to resubmissions of the same coin that were not removed from population reports.
While the 1896 issue is easy to understand and appreciate, Heritage’s offering of a unique Proof 1855-S Indian Head gold $3 piece was perhaps fitting for a connoisseur’s cabinet. Unique as a Proof and graded Proof 64 Cameo by PCGS, with a green CAC sticker, it realized $2,160,000 on Feb. 9.
Unlike the Proof double eagle, which came from a documented mintage and was sold directly to collectors, Branch Mint Proof coins are all rare, and this San Francisco Mint issue was likely produced to celebrate the first production of the denomination at that Mint, which had opened the year prior. Absent any official documentation on its production, the coin’s quality has to largely serve as the evidence of its Proof status. It delivers, showcasing a bold strike with a sharp, squared edge and deeply mirrored fields that have the “orange peel” look often seen on 19th century Proof U.S. gold. First reported in the 1970s, it has sold many times since its first offering at a 1984 auction where it brought $41,250. Its most recent previous sale was at Heritage in 2011 for $1,322,500, so this Feb. 9 price was a nice improvement on that.
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