1873-CC $20 Liberty Type 2 PCGS XF45. A date from a mint that is all too entirely popular with collectors! The original mintage of the 1873 Carson City $20 gold double eagle was 22,410 coins only, and it’s estimated by professional numismatists that some 250 to 350 circulated coins survive, with most of those VF, EF to a lesser degree, and with AU pieces scarce but occasionally available. Dave Bowers suggests 8 to 12 mint states known in his 2004 book on the $20 gold series.
We acquired this coin recently in Europe and were quite aggressive about it since as one can clearly see this is definitely a “PQ” or “Premium Quality” coin with surfaces that rival many Choice About Uncirculated examples (read $15K and up) we’ve seen over the past few years. There are no marks whatsoever, save a small mark (mint-made?) on the obverse field at approximately 8:00.
To quote a good essay on the period surrounding 1873, our friends at the Goldberg auction company had this to say ten years ago when they sold a MS-63 example in the September Pre-Long Beach auction:
“Everybody in numismatics is aware of how difficult this date is to find. It turns out that 1873-CC was a very rare year for any coin denomination from Carson City. Collectors universally proclaim its importance. But what do we know of the year itself? Without some historical point of view, what is this, after all, but just another rare coin? Yet the ’73-CC is a lot more than that. President Ulysses S. Grant was in his final term as President, struggling with the issues of Reconstruction in the East and South, fending off scandals in his administration, and having to come to terms with a sharp, hard Panic in the summer and fall of 1873. It was the age of rogues called Carpetbaggers. Railroad tycoons were picking the pockets of the unsuspecting taxpayers. President Grant probably already had the cancer which would end his life in 1885 — one of the ravages of the war he had helped the Union to win. For numismatists today, of course, this important year signaled the passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, in which hard-money gold currency advocates of the time convinced Congress to demonetize silver. This, of course, was the reason Carson City would coin no silver dollars the next year (although the new Trade dollar would take its place in the coining presses, it was rarely in use in America itself but was for Asian export only). In the Western third of the country, which concerns us most here, railroads were snaking across the landscape. The year before (1872) a deadly plague attacked horses, killing or sickening millions of them (the long-forgotten Great Epizootic of 1872 as it was called back then). The invention of barbed wire was still a year off (1874) and the Indian Wars occupied the energies of William Tecumseh Sherman of the U.S. Army, a butcher to the last drop, which would soon engender blowback in the personage of a remarkable Native American commander who called himself Crazy Horse (1876). Verily, 1873 was a busy year! Place this 1873 Carson City double eagle rarity against those realities. It’s a “real” coin, and not only part of a remarkable heritage — but also a palpable image of the times themselves. To paraphrase a line from Indiana Jones: this coin isn’t just passing through history, it IS history!”