1899 $5 Ultra Cameo PF-68★ NGC
Christian Gobrecht, designer and engraver
Obverse: Head of Liberty facing left, her hair in an elaborate chignon, wearing a coronet on which LIBERTY is emblazoned; around, thirteen stars; below, 1899.
Reverse: Displayed eagle, head facing left, with shield emblazoned on its chest holding olive branch and three arrows in its talons; around, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; above eagle on scroll, the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST; below, FIVE D.
Condition: NGC Proof 68★ Ultra Cameo (Certificate number: 1963253-007 Photo Proof 10-07).
White, frosty devices, sit on extremely deep, nearly 'black' mirrored orange-peel surfaces. Richly toned a deep reddish-yellow. An infinitesimal (mint-made) lintmark before Liberty's nose. A shadowy toning spot to the left of D on the reverse, and 'breaks' in the frost on the left wing are consistent with the Carter coin. A nearly flawless coin, as the grade suggests.
References: Breen (Encyclopedia) 6767; Breen (Proofs) p. 200; Garrett & Guth (Encyclopedia) p. 305; Akers (1979) p. 303-304. (PCGS 98494)
Condition Census: One of the finest known. NGC lists but one other example as equivalent, and one finer (however, when the Tacasyl coin was certified by NGC [10-07] the Photo Proof noted "...tied with just three others as finest certified..."); the example sold August 2009, and possibly in October 2008, was catalogued as NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo CAC, but lacked the star designation; PCGS has lists no examples finer than Proof 66+ deep cameo. (07-13)
Rarity: Very rare. The official mintage is 99 proofs, but Breen (Proofs) calls the survivors "underappreciated," Akers calls all proofs of this date "rare," and Garrett and Guth note that as the last proof issue of the 19th century it is quite a popular date.
Provenance: The Tacasyl Collection; possibly The Amon G. Carter, Jr. Family Collection, Stack's, January 18-21, 1984, lot 714, Gem Proof, "A sensational coin of which there can only be two or three in this state of preservation." ($22,000)
Note: In the wake of the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, northerners insisted that a token of their faith (which they saw has having guided them through the Civil War) be emblazoned on our nation's coinage. Congress passed enabling legislation on March 3, 1865, and the following year the addition of the Motto, IN GOD WE TRUST began to appear on the new issues (with the exception of the quarter eagle), creating a new design variety.
1899 was a relatively quiet year in United States history. The close of 1898 saw the Treaty of Paris signed to end the Spanish-American War (although its ratification in February 1899 followed a bitter debate in the Senate). As the year drew to a close, Garret A. Hobart, the well-liked and well-respected Vice President died. This set the stage for the selection of a new running mate for President McKinley in 1900, and the beginning of the remarkable ascent of New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt to the Presidency.