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1870-CC Liberty Head Double Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1870-CC Double Eagle. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1870-CC Double Eagle. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The United States Mint facility in Carson City, Nevada struck a paltry 3,789 1870-CC Liberty Head $20 double eagle gold coins, delivering the entire mintage over the span of four months, starting in March and ending in July.

1870-CC Double Eagle Deliveries

March April May June July
1,322 398 1,137 462 460

Were more made?

In 2000, Michele Elizabeth Frazer published an article wherein she claims, yes, they were.

Frazer, who claims to be a distant descendent (by way of her grandfather’s grandfather’s sister’s step-niece) of Henry F. Rice, a former Wells Fargo Express agent who served as the superintendent of the Carson City Mint from September 1870 to May 1873. Rice was a polarizing figure, his tenure marked by firm opposition to the Carson City Mint and its continued operations.

According to Frazer’s story, Rice discovered a quantity of about 3,600 deficient double eagles put in storage by the first superintedent, Abraham “Abe” Curry, and concocted a plan to steal the coins with the help of two unreliable delivery men.

However tantalizing Frazer’s account is–and who doesn’t like a good buried treasure story?–there is no evidence that any of it took place. We reached out to numismatic researcher and CoinWeek contributor Roger Burdette about it, and he called Frazer’s piece “a pleasant bit of 23-year-old fiction.”

Moving on to what’s real, the 1870-CC is one of the great rarities from the Carson City Mint. It is the rarest Type 2 Liberty Head double eagle, there are no known Mint State examples, and the coin is ranked #75 in Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth’s 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (5th Edition, 2019).

There are two known die marriages for the issue. A key way to differentiate the two can be found with the mintmark placement. On the Winter 1-A, the CC is small, with the letters close together and positioned over the top serif of the N and the left arm of the T. On the Winter 1-B, the CC mint mark is located predominately over the N and the gap between the N and the T. It has been determined that the majority of surviving examples exhibit the Winter 1-A die pairing.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Every known 1870-CC Liberty Head double eagle is circulated to some extent and even the finest known, those graded XF45 or better, all exhibit significant surface impairments, typically in the form of numerous deep scratches.

Stolen 1870-CC double eagle. Graded NGC AU58 at the time of the 2011 theft. Image: Heritage Auctions.
Stolen 1870-CC double eagle. Graded NGC AU58 at the time of the 2011 theft. Image: Heritage Auctions.

The finest example of the issue has also been missing for more than a decade and may have been destroyed.

On October 17, 2011, a Brinks shipment from PCGS en route to Heritage Auctions containing a recently discovered and finest known 1870-CC double eagle (NGC #3414402-001) was stolen. As it was encapsulated in an NGC holder after being returned from PCGS, one could infer that the coin did not cross and was kept in its original holder at the time it was returned. Heritage is still offering a $100,000 reward for the coin’s safe return.

Most coin collectors will never own one 1870-CC Liberty Head double eagle, but collector Donald E. Bently owned two; both were sold by Heritage in 2014.

Top Population: PCGS AU53 (1, 3/2024), NGC AU55 (1, 3/2024), and CAC XF45 (1:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • NGC AU58 #3414402-001: Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2012, Lot 3000 – Not Sold / Stolen.
  • NGC AU55: Bowers and Merena, March 2009, Lot 3909 – $414,000.
  • PCGS AU53: Stack’s Bowers, August 13, 2011, Lot 7762 – $357,500 Reserve Not Met.
  • PCGS AU53 #60110622: Private Collection, purchased via Universal Coin and Bullion, 1999; Doug Winter; The Nevada Collection; Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2004, Lot 3139 – $368,000; “Donald E. Bently Collection”, Heritage Auctions, March 20, 2014, Lot 30435 – $411,250; “The Prestwick Collection”, Heritage Auctions, November 11, 2021, Lot 3699 – $1,620,000.
  • NGC AU53 #1826809-001: “The Wyoming Collection”, Heritage Auctions, January 2004, Lot 3129 – $359,375; Stack’s Bowers, August 7, 2012, Lot 2012 – $352,500. Series of diagonal marks on Liberty cheek
  • PCGS AU50 #47428487: “The Joseph Bellini Collection,” Stack’s, January 1985, Lot 1118; As PCGS AU50 #6565379. “The Old West CC Collection,” Heritage Auctions, December 4, 2014, Lot 3858 – $305,500. As PCGS AU50 #47428487. Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4365 – View. New cert. number.
  • NGC AU50 #957276-001:  “The Olivia Collection”, Heritage Auctions, October 6, 2022, Lot 3312 – $630,000. No star radials present on stars 1-4, rim hit on star 2, rim hit on chin, curved hit on. neck, diagonal hit to the right of 0. On the reverse, hit above W, hit to the bottom right of the eagle’s wing, deep diagonal hit almost touching the second A of AMERICA. CC over NT. Winter 1-A.
  • NGC AU50 #4883069-001: Heritage Auctions, August 4, 2020, Lot 4042 – $312,000.
  • NGC AU50 #3264938-008: Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2015, Lot 5442 – $270,250. Reverse die rotated 20°. Radials visible on nearly all stars, but sharpest on stars 5-10. Large dragon scratch above Liberty’s forehead, two small rim hits on Liberty’s chin, diagonal scratch to the left of Liberty’s ear. On the reverse, hits between IN and GOD. CC over N and the space between N and T. 
  • PCGS AU50 #6565379: Stack’s January 1985, Lot 1118; Heritage Auctions, December 4, 2014, Lot 3858 – $305,500.
  • PCGS AU50 #6576255: “Donald E. Bently Collection”, Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2014, Lot 5821 – $305,500. Two large diagonal scratches to the left of Liberty’s nose. Lighty struck hair. Stars 10-13 worn down or flatly struck. Reed marks at the top of Liberty’s head with a deep vertical scratch in the hair to the right of TY. CC over N and the space between N and T. 

  • NGC AU50 #3531774-001: Allen Rowe purchased a complete set of Carson City gold and shared this coin on Cool Coins! Episode #5 (above).
  • PCGS XF45 #46870981: “Rocklin Complete Collection of Carson City Double Eagles”, GreatCollections, May 14, 2023, Lot 153208 – $433,125.
  • PCGS XF45 CAC #44882777: “The Fairmont Collection-Hendricks Set”, Stack’s Bowers, April 6, 2022, Lot 5413 – $810,000. Fairmont Collection on insert. 
  • PCGS XF45 #3088726-004: Heritage Auctions, March 2009, Lot 3270; Heritage Auctions, April 2014, Lot 5820 – ; “The Cameron Collection”, Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2021, Lot 5174 – $384,000.
  • PCGS XF45 #34485683: Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2018, Lot 5119 – $300,000.
  • PCGS XF45 #60199970: Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2010, Lot 2251 – $230,000. Dark mark to the left of Liberty’s mouth. Stars are faint. Dark spot between stars 7 and 8. Series of parallel scratches on Liberty’s face; CC over N and the space between N and Y. Legend weak. Hit to the left of the scroll. E PLU and UNUM worn.
  • PCGS XF40 CAC #06996656: “The Husky Collection”, Stack’s, June 2008, Lot 2108 – $299,000; “The Bender Family Collection, Part I”, Heritage Auctions, August 24, 2022, Lot 3630 – $456,000. Bender Collection on insert; Heritage Auctions, February 9, 2023, Lot 3861 – $480,000.
  • PCGS XF40 #43495179: Hirum Murdock, in the 1870s; Lois Murdock Whiting; Raymond Arthur Whiting; Biloine Whiting Young; Scott Thomas Young; Heritage Auctions, October 7, 2021, Lot 3605 – $360,000.
  • NGC XF40 #654780-007: “The Selman Family Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2021, Lot 5173 – $360,000.

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Design

Obverse:

Longacre’s classical left-facing Liberty on the obverse is said to be modeled after an old Hellenistic sculpture, the Crouching Venus. A beaded-edged coronet with the word LIBERTY is placed on her head, and curled locks both drape down the back of the neck and sweep from the front to form rolled curls at the back of her head. Thirteen six-point stars encircle inside a denticled rim, and the date is centered at the bottom.

Reverse:

The reverse displays UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the top two-thirds inside a denticled rim, and the denomination TWENTY D. is centered at the bottom. An eagle with outstretched wings is in the center, clutching three arrows in the left claw and a small olive branch in the right, with a shield placed across its breast.

The eagle, head turned to its right, is holding in its beak one of two top extensions of an elaborately curled and parted double scroll or ribbon, which some suggest represents the double eagle denomination. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is divided, with E PLURIBUS in the center of the ribbon to the left and UNUM in a similar location on the ribbon to the right.

Above the eagle’s head, below STATES OF, 13 small six-pointed stars form an oval. Seven of the stars are on the blank field, and six overlap sunburst-like rays, forming an arc between the eagle’s wings. Within the oval is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1870
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: CC (Carson City)
Mintage: 3,789
Alloy: .900 Gold, .100 Copper
Weight: 33.40 g
Diameter: 34.00 mm
Edge Reeded
OBV Designer James Barton Longacre
REV Designer James Barton Longacre
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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