Certified as Proof-69 by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), a Florida-based third-party grading service, the gold and copper coin is tied with one other piece as the finest known example. A “High Relief, Wire Rim” variety, it was the top-selling lot of the 1,621-lot sale.
“Only a small portion of the already limited mintage of 12,367 High Relief double eagles produced in 1907 qualify as proof impressions today,” reads the auction catalogue. “The status of these coins has always been controversial, but their outstanding technical quality and iconic beauty cannot be denied.”
The proof status is controversial, auctioneers add, because “no specific documentation on the striking of proof High Relief double eagles has ever come to light” despite “extensive investigation in Mint archives.”
“The fact that all High Reliefs were specially produced is not in doubt. All the coins received special treatment and handling, and every High Relief received more than one blow from the medal press to bring up all the details of the intricate design. This special production process has caused some numismatists to believe all High Reliefs should be considered proofs, but other factors work against that.”
The mintage of more than 12,000 pieces was “extremely high” for a proof issue in the early 1900s, auctioneers say.
“Although few examples ever reached circulation, the mintage was officially handled like a business-strike issue and the coins were ostensibly released to Subtreasuries for distribution in the normal way. The High Reliefs were specially produced, like proofs, but they were routinely distributed, like business strikes, making it difficult to classify them as one or the other. Of course, Mint and Treasury personnel actually intercepted almost every coin released and either kept them as souvenirs or sold them at a profit to coin dealers and favored collectors, further complicating their perceived status with the general public, who seldom encountered any example.”
Expert opinion on the matter remains divided today.
The coin is pedigreed to the NGC-certified Tacasyl Collection, which includes 27 historic U.S. gold coins that realized more than $10 million US in a 2013 sale.
Among these coins is the 1907 Double Eagle, which had been off the market since the auction seven years ago, when it sold for $573,000 US.