P. Scott Rubin:
The 1887 Double Eagle was only issued in Proof. The United States Mint at Philadelphia reported striking 121 1887 Proof Double Eagles and no coins for general circulation. This was the last of a seven year run of low-mintage Double Eagles issued by the Philadelphia Mint. In three of the years from 1881 to 1887, the Philadelphia Mint issuance of Double Eagles consisted only of Proofs in 1883, 1884 and 1887. Both Proof and circulation strike Double Eagles were issued in 1881, 1882, 1885 and 1886.
The 121 Proof Double Eagles reported in 1887 was a larger-than-average mintage for the era. It is likely that not all of these coins were sold and some may have been melted at the end of the year or early the following year. Today only about thirty 1887 Proof Double Eagles are believed to have survived.
In 1887, few people collected Double Eagles. The coins were expensive to own and they were not worth much in the secondary market. The few individuals who did collect these large denomination coins would, in most cases, not have cared which Mint issued the coin. The 1887-S Double Eagle was the most plentiful of the year, this collectors had no need to pay a premium for a Proof coin from the Philadelphia Mint.
The first auction appearance of an 1887 Proof Double Eagle was in the 1890 S. H. & H. Chapman sale of the Cleneay Collection. The coin was offered as part of a Gold Proof Set of 1887. From 1890 to the 1940s, auction records show that only three or four appearances of 1887 Double Eagles took place each decade (seven examples offered in the 1920s are the only exception). In the 1940’s, sixteen examples appeared at auction. From 1960 to date, there have been approximately fifteen 1887 Double Eagles offered each decade.
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