Prior to this year, mintage figures for Proof gold dollars was tiny. Beginning in 1882, production climbed as collecting (and speculating in) Proofs of this denomination became popular. 1881 is sort of a "final year" for low mintages with just 87 pieces struck; it is likely that around half of these are known. What I like about this date is that is sells for just a small premium above the late 1880's dates but it is decidedly scarcer, especially in Gem. This example is as close to being a PR66 as you could imagine and I feel that the only thing that kept NGC from grading it as such is the presence of a few tiny lines in the left obverse field. That said, I have seen inferior coins graded PR66 by both services and I have seen few Proofs of this era with the stunning black and white contrast that this piece displays. Both sides have extremely deep mirrors that display some light natural color that gives them further overall eye appeal. This is the only PR65+ Ultra Cameo of this date currently graded by NGC with only five finer for the date with the UC designation. It is my belief that Gem Proof gold dollars such as this are very good values right now, especially when one considers what larger denomination Proof gold in this grade costs.
One of only 20 Proofs struck. Unlike the other low mintage Proof quarter eagles of this era, the 1875 is a rarity in business strike format as well with a mintage of just 400. In Proof, there are an estimated dozen or so 1875 quarter eagles of which maybe four or five Gems are known. The present example has the strongest cameo contrast that I have seen on a Proof of this date and it certainly deserves to have received the Ultra Cameo modifier. It has extremely stark black and white contrast between the devices and the fields and the visual impact is really quite stunning. There are no significant hairlines or lintmarks; a small spot on the obverse serves as quick identification. In Heritage's January 2011 sale of the Miller Collection, there were two Proofs of this date that were graded many years ago as PR64 by NGC but both seemingly were destined to upgrade to PR65 by today's standards; they realized $46,000 and $47,294, respectively. This is one of just two graded PR65 Ultra Cameo by NGC and it is amongst the finest known examples of one of the the rarest single dates in the Liberty Head quarter eagle series. Many people do not realize this, but a Gem Proof 1875 quarter eagle is rarer than the legendary Three Dollar gold piece of this date and the latter is a $250,000+ coin in Gem Proof.
Ex Heritage 9/08: 3351 where it sold for $48,875