One of the two finest seen of this date and with the ultimate degree of contrast as well as tied with one other as the Finest certified by either grading service. Boldly frosted on all the devices, which helps to produce the bright yellow gold hues that stand tall against the seemingly black mirror fields. Close study finds virtually no signs of handling, but two tiny pin prick nicks are mentioned for pedigree tracing, one between the second and third stars in the field, well left of Liberty's chin, another mid field between the last two obverse stars. A faint copper speck is noted near the forward edge of Liberty's chest at the truncation. Die diagnostics include extremely faint raised die lines, one below Liberty's eye, another behind her eye, and a third to the upper left side of the Y in LIBERTY from her curls. On the reverse a small raised dot (possibly die rust) is on the center of the post of D of GOD. Breen mentions the over polished area at the top right of the tail feathers near the arrows, which is seen here, and the petal of the fleur de lys below beak is disconnected, again from overzealous die polishing to get these mirror fields so exceptionally reflective. Study confirms the remarkable orange-peel texture in the fields, induced by the Philadelphia Mint by a process that forms this unique dried mud texture to the molecules that form the highly reflective mirror surface. The recorded mintage of 121 pieces seems too high, as PCGS estimates that between 25 and 30 are known today, which is borne out by the Census and Population Reports which tally a combined 30 pieces between both services, with likely duplication in those modest numbers. What happened to the other 91 or so pieces struck in Proof? Impaired from handling or even circulation pieces are limited to perhaps a couple of coins, and would retain their mirror fields even after moderate circulation. Were these melted? Perhaps we'll never know, but given the few seen today it would be plausible to conclude that not many more than 30 are around today. Of that tiny group, it is indeed a pleasure to offer what is likely tied with one other for the finest known of this date.
Three major types were produced of the Liberty double eagle. The first type was launched in 1850 as well as the denomination, using the prodigious quantities of yellow metal flowing out of the valleys and streams of California. As this gold was shipped to the East, the mints began to strike these large "double eagles" with a face value of $20. Unforeseen was this golden abundance when our monetary system was conceived by Jefferson and others, and the highest coinage denomination was the eagle for the first sixty years or so of production. These thicker gold coins were close in size to the silver dollar. The obverse design was similar to that of this 1887, although the placement of the head relative to the stars was changed in 1876. For the reverse the changes were subtle but important. The first big change came in 1866 when the new Motto was added to the reverse of IN GOD WE TRUST. In 1876 the denomination was changed from TWENTY D. to TWENTY DOLLARS. No other significant changes were made, other than tinkering changes to the master hubs. Coined over 57 years employing all but the Charlotte and Dahlonega branch mints, and the Liberty double eagle design lasted just long enough to see a few from Denver as well when that branch mint opened in 1906.
NGC Census: 2; none finer in the Ultra Cameo designation.