SPECIAL NOTE: Prior to March 2011, PCGS designated all 2009 Ultra-High Relief Double Eagles only as "Mint State." In recognition of the special appearance of some pieces, PCGS added (in March 2011) the Prooflike (PL) designation to qualifying coins.
The 2009 Ultra-High Relief was a reprise of the extremely rare, double-thick, small diameter patterns proposed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1907. Only two such patterns remain today, both of which are part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. The original patterns weigh as much as a normal $20 gold piece but they were struck to the diameter of a $10 gold piece. Thus, they are much thicker and smaller in diameter than a normal $20 gold piece. The 2009 version is slightly different than the original patterns in that the rim is slightly flattened and does not come to the sharp, knife edge as seen on the originals.
Public response to the new Ultra-High Reliefs was tremendous. Though considered bullion coins, they were sold by the Mint at a hefty premium over the value of the gold they contained.
The finish on the modern version is unlike the brilliant Proof finish on the original patterns. Though not quite matte, the surfaces have more of a satiny appearance. Because of the increased depth of the designs, the Ultra-High Reliefs sport a medallic appearance quite unlike that of a normal coin. The striking, unusual appearance is a large part of the coin's appeal.
Some question exists as to whether these coins were intended to be struck as Mint State or Proof. There is no status indication anywhere on the Mint's website (www.usmint.gov). In the literature that accompanied each of the coins is a small facsimile of a letter authorizing the minting of the coins which contains a reference to "Proofs." However, the Certificate of Authenticity that was issued for each and every coin states clearly "business strike". Thus, PCGS recognizes these remarkable coins only in Mint State (and now with the Prooflike designation).