The second in sequence and the lowest-mintage of three proof-only double eagle issues from the decade of the 1880s, the 1884 saw a proof emission of only 71 pieces. The low-mintage double eagle issues of the 1880s – including the proof-only dates, 1883, 1884, and 1887, as well as the low-mintage issues where circulation strikes were made, such as the 571 pieces for 1882 (along with 59 proofs) and the 751 pieces for 1885 (along with 77 proofs) – were the result of intentionally-low double eagle productions on the part of U.S. Treasury officials.
The move was intended to increase the circulation of smaller-denomination gold coins, the eagle and half eagle, among the American populace, and perhaps to try to encourage future gold depositors to order those smaller denominations in preference to the double eagles.
The production numbers, in any case, are highly misleading. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, in the second edition of their Gold Encyclopedia, estimate that only 15 to 20 pieces survive today of the proof-only 1884, or somewhere between 20% to 30% of the original production. This makes the 1884, unsurprisingly, the lowest-survival issue of the three proof-only issues.
Our July 7-10 Summer FUN Signature Auction features a near-Gem Cameo proof, as graded by PCGS. This coin offers prevailing deep orange-red color that contrasts against lighter yellow-orange and scattered areas of dark brownish-orange patina near the rims; overall a piece that possesses excellent eye appeal. Any visible contact marks are infrequent and inconsequential.
As expected, offerings of this date in high grade are seldom seen, but we did handle an example in the same grade and service in our FUN Signature auction in 2014, which realized US$164,500.