Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Friday, February 26, 2010

NGC Proof Like "PL" 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coins

My recent post on 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin Prices highlighted the fact that huge premiums were being paid for proof like coins which had received NGC's "PL" designation. Many readers wanted to find more information about how to identify proof like coins and how they are differentiated from non-PL coins.

Bob and Rich Leece or Robert B. Leece Numismatist Inc. (, who have probably handled more UHR Double Eagles than anyone, were willing to provide their expertise for an article published on Coin Update.

The following excerpt from the article is their description of the characteristics of Proof Like Ultra High Relief Double Eagles and how they can be distinguished from non Proof Like coins.

A PL coin has a definite Proof Like and Shinny Mirror Surface on ALL of the Obverse and Reverse of the coin. The only difference from the UHR PL coins and other Modern Proof coins is that the UHR PL coins do NOT exhibit the Cameo Contrast that is evident on standard Modern Proof Coins. In our opinion they fit the standards of Proof in all other aspects. Once you have seen a PL and a NON PL UHR side by side it the difference becomes more obvious. A NON Proof Like coin has a satin matte like surface not unlike a standard MS or burnished modern coin.

The problem lies in that there is a wide range of "in between" surfaces. They range from almost PL to very slight faint hints of PL. There are also coins that are PL on the Obverse but not on the reverse. The range can be drastic. From our experience a UHR is much more likely to have a PL Obverse and non-PL reverse. It seems to me that the definitive distinction of a PL coin is a coin that has FULL PL surfaces on Obverse and Reverse including and MOST importantly in between the rays on the reverse of the coin. That is the most likely part of the coin to lack the true PL surface.

The full article contains additional information and images of Proof Like UHR Double Eagles, including an estimate of the proportion of coins qualifying as proof like and how they could have been created.

Read the full article:
Proof Like 2009 Ultra High Relief Double eagles Fetch Big Premiums



At February 26, 2010 at 11:51 AM , Anonymous Falcon said...

OMG check out CSN price for the slabbed Braille coin
Own the first 2009 Louis Braille Silver Dollar. This stunning coin features a mirror-like background with a frosty design that commemorates the Bicentennial Anniversary of the reading and writing Braille System. Graded PR69 by ANACS.

CSN Price : $9,999.99
It would be cheaper to buy several UHR coins

At February 26, 2010 at 12:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is obviously subscribing to the policy that "a fool and his money are soon parted." Holy cow.

At February 26, 2010 at 12:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone know why PCGS doesn't offer the proof-like designation on these?

At February 26, 2010 at 12:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

They might not want to fool with it, but it DOES seem strange that they are letting on of the other guys offer something they aren't offering themselves.

At February 26, 2010 at 12:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, that's ONE of the other guys, not "on". Darn typos!

At February 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but when did the James Monroe Dollar rolls and bags sell out? I just noticed it today. I was hoping when they sold out the coins would re-appear under the "Direct Ship" program, but they are not there.

At February 26, 2010 at 6:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

PCGS does not offer the PL designation for this UHR coin because none of these coins fit the definition of PL-Prooflike or DMPL Deep-Mirror Prooflike as it has been defined since the inception of third party grading services. This is an excerpt from the correct definition of PL and DMPL. A coin fitting the description of PL or DMPL must display at least a slight contrast of cameo effect.

"Deep mirror prooflike (D.M.P.L. or D.P.L., depending on the grading service you use) coins have fields that are nearly devoid of any cartwheel lustre. In addition, the term "cameo" is sometimes used to denote a P-L or proof coin with exceptional contrast. A cameo coin should have mirror fields, and the devices should display mint frost or "cartwheel" with little or no mirror-like reflective qualities."

NGC is incorrectly grading these coins that should only be deemed "Early Die State", not "PL"!

-Educated Numismatist!

At February 26, 2010 at 7:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah educated, but you forget that astronomical prices wouldn't be supported unless new spiffy phases or descriptives are attached. Strict accuracy is bent when suited or required in persuit of the almighty dollar, no pun intended. (Wink)

At February 26, 2010 at 7:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Educated- Have you ever seen the average proof set in the 1950's? There is absolutely no "contrast" on 90% of all the proof coins, but yet they are proofs. A mirrored coin with zero cameo or "contrast" is still a proof coin.You sir, are not educated.

At February 26, 2010 at 9:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The non-cameo contrast of the proof coins from the 50's and 60's is a result of negligence and poor quality control. The resulting non-cameo coins were not the intended result. PL and DMPL designations refer to business-strike coins that have similar qualities of cameo proof coins (the intended result)!

These UHR coins graded "PL" by NGC are more directly related to being "First Strike" coins. However, the two major grading companies have already destroyed the meaning of what "First Strike" really means!

-An educated answer from an educated numismatist!

At February 26, 2010 at 11:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What gets me about this issue is not so much the premium paid for the PL designation but the premium paid for the ER (Early Release) designation. At least the PL designation addresses the inherent quality of the coin. The ER designation is just an artifact of the Mint screwing up on their distribution of the issue: So much for "buy the coin not the slab".

The NumisMedia Price Guide
2009 $20 Gold Ultra High Relief MS 70 $2040
2009 $20 Gold Ultra High Relief Early Release MS 70 $2500

At February 27, 2010 at 4:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must not be educated. I thought that "proof" was a method of production (added pressure, polished dies, etc..), and that the early proofs were not designed to be cameo, but cameos resulted from worn dies. I also thought that the current cameo production is a result of popular demand for the earlier cameos. I know, I am assuming that the Mint would actually produce something the "people" wanted.

At February 27, 2010 at 5:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean I can't get a 'First Strike' of this variety. Oh, I am so disappointed. Does that pertain to the first day, the first month, or the first 25,000 coins produced? For those who chose to collect it, the UHR in the box, should frankly, be good enough on its own.

I have not, and never will purchase any coin inside a slab that has been 'evaluated' or 'graded' by these grading scam operations. Remember too, they also issue 'population reports' on these coins, which then creates artificial after-market rarity. It's as if the Mint stopped making coins after producing your MS-70 Ultra Cameo First Strike. What a load of crap. NGC and PCGS and other 'unbiased', 'professional' graders are for profit operations. Keep your money, and maybe you can collect more coins. What a concept!

At February 27, 2010 at 12:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to be an expert...that's why I only buy proof coins from the mint.

Life is too short to play games. America seems to be in a "period of time" when there is very little honesty left especially when it comes to our celebrated "profit motivated economy".

To tell you the truth, I keep a very close eye on what the mint sells me.


At February 27, 2010 at 9:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the author said... if you had a PL in hand and could compare it to a "regular" uhr... you would definitely see the difference.

I've had three PL designated UHR's. Two 69's and one 70. I sold (still kicking myself) the 69's but have seen the value of my 70 about double. And I expect that it will only continue to go up in value for years to come.

And a quick note to Michael... thank-you for keeping up the hot link to ebay sales of the MS70 UHR's... I check these sales via your link almost daily.

Everyone here should thank Michael for this wonderful resource. I only started about 18 months ago... I've learned a lot from readying this blog and it seems that Michael's insights have never seriously steered me in a wrong direction yet.

At February 28, 2010 at 1:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want someone to show me a worn die state example of this coin that has worn to a matte finish! Oh, how surprising! You CAN NOT! Every single 2009 UHR gold coin has a slightly reflective surface. There is no argument to discuss here! A "PL" example has yet to surface! Sorry! All of you who have a coin graded "PL" by NGC should sale them to the gullible collectors while you still can. This grade has absolutely no merrit and will not carry premiums for long. If you are the collector, don't waste your money!

At February 28, 2010 at 1:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a JOKE! Even these guys who are the so-called experts can't explain why NGC has graded some of these coins as "PL". Trust me people, this is a SCAM! The person who wrote the previous post is entirely correct! I have seen tons of these coins and they do not represent the qualities of a "PL" coin. This is just another way of one of the leading grading companies illegitimately trying to gain market share! PCGS has it right. PCGS has not and probably never will grade one of these coins as "PL" because there are none of these 2009 UHR gold coins out there that fit the definition of "PL".

At February 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it all boils down to collector choice, just like the whole "First Strike" or "Early Release" thing. If collectors attach a premium to a "Proof-Like" or "PL" designation, that's their choice. Personally, give me raw gold coins over graded ones any day, simply because the same amount of money that would be spent on fancy designation graded coins will buy more of the actual metal itself, which is where the REAL value lies.

At February 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I opened my UHR box looked at the coin and the first thing I said was It's a proof. I was actually disappointed, expecting a mint state coin. I would call my coin PL because it ain't no where near what a mint state coin looks like. I would compare the looks of this coin to a Franklyn proof or the coins in the 1964 Mint Proof set.

At February 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm typically suspect of these designations but I acquired 8 uhr coins from the mint over the year and they are all stunning but one was far sharper and more brilliant... And yes proof like. If others posting see one in person they would agree. I'm pretty certain many of you with the negative posts on this designation have not seen a comparison first hand.... When you do feel free to re-post your thoughts.

At February 28, 2010 at 9:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen many of these so-called "PL" coins and had many of them physically in my hand. Those with the negative posts are right! They all have a reflective finish, no matter whether it is considered "PL" by NGC or not. I agree with the "First Strike" terminology that someone posted. That is the only difference! The "PL" designation does not fit! If these are deemed "PL", then all 100% of the UHR coins should be graded "PL"! I can see some people at least have a little sense! These coins are not in "PL" condition when you refer to the definition of a "PL" coin. Great Discussion!

At March 3, 2010 at 10:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems to be an obvious example of a grading company CREATING a coin type. Look for more of this in the future since PCGS and NGC are so competitive (e.g., First Strike, Early Releases, etc.).

At March 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The so called Prooflike coins have no satin, cameo, or otherwise non reflective qualities. They are fully relective like some brilliant proofs of the 50's & 60's. The are both rarer and different from than the run of the mill partly frosty examples, and to suggest that the hobby will neither note nor value the difference, particularly in the long term, is probably naive. I think we're hearing alot of sour grapes from owners of average coins who are a bit miffed and just wish the Prooflikes would "go away". Arguing over definitions won't do it chums!

At March 13, 2010 at 12:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NGC-designated "PL" coins have no distinct difference in finish aside from the lack of die polish that is apparent on 85 to 90 percent of the total coins out there. The shiny or reflective finish is consistent throughout the entire mintage of these 2009 UHR coins. The "PL" designation is a serious foul up by NGC, misguiding collectors and investors through the improper use of a grading term. These "PL" coins are most consistent with the true definition of "First Strike" terminology, not "PL". The term and its use by NGC in this particular case is inappropriate, incorrect, and misleading to the numismatic community.

At March 13, 2010 at 6:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The NGC-designated "PL" coins have no distinct difference in finish aside from the lack of die polish that is apparent on 85 to 90 percent of the total coins out there."

There is more surface difference between these 10-15% 'no die polish' coins and their common counterparts than there is between many dipped and non dipped UNC gold. The latter case gets a dipped coin "body bagged" details graded by NGC. Surfaces matter regardlesss of cause. NGC get's credit for non hypocritically pointing it out.

At March 14, 2010 at 2:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question I posed to NGC on their blog:

The Prooflike designation (PL) for some NGC graded 2009 UHR $20’s is quite controversial on a few website blogs. Would you consider offering some authoritative insight to the community as to why you chose to “create” this designation, why you feel the term “prooflike” was the best or most appropriate term, and how specifically you define the characteristics that distinguish these coins from those without the designation? Thank you very much.

NGC’s response…

It was quite apparent from the beginning of the Ultra High Relief program in 2009 that there were substantially different looking finishes to the surfaces of these coins. While many exhibited a frosty and satiny finish, there were others that displayed a remarkably “dark”, reflective surface. These were the coins that would be designated “PL” or proof-like by NGC. To qualify for the PL designation, NGC requires that the fields exhibit a pronounced reflectivity on both sides of the coin. One sided PL coins will not receive the designation. Because of the deep concave design, the reflectivity can be challenging to discern, and this is why NGC looks not only at the “blackness” or “darkness” of the fields, but also demands that a clear reflection is noticeable at shorter distances than one would expect for other series of US coins. The distance from the surface that you can realistically expect to capture the reflection may only be a maximum of an inch away before the concavity no longer allows you to see the reflection. Therefore, NGC relies heavily on being able to capture a clear reflection at these shorter distances to still qualify for the PL designation. As with other PL determinations, it is the clarity of the reflection that is key coupled with the fact that both sides must display this reflection. There are many of the Ultra High Relief issues that show prominent reflection on one side or the other. But these can not be deemed PL unless both sides demonstrate the necessary clear reflection.

At April 19, 2010 at 12:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First I would like to say that I have enjoyed reading the discussions about whether the UHR are Proof Like and whether NGC is exploiting the reflective surfaces as a Marketing Initiative.

I have 6 raw coins in my possession and 3 Graded MS70 FS by PCGS and 1 MS70 by PCGS.

All of the 10 coins exhibit some degree of reflectiveness, but some are more reflective than others as others have noted and posted.

Without a Standard to compare (ie NGC PL coin) I do not know if my better reflective UHR meet with NGC standards or NOT.

I wrote to Robert Reece of Rarusgold who was selling some of his PL coins and who is quoted in articles about PL Coins asking if he could send me some close up photos when you can see the properties of this coin. He replied that it was too difficult to show the difference between a NGC PL MS70 and a Regular NGC MS70 and told me not too waste my extra $3000 and just buy the regular MS70.

Well I have many many close up photos of these coins showing the reflectiveness and in some cases the shininess (where in 1 the shininess is almost like glass/crystal).

So Michael if you are willing to find a repository for some of my photos and other I am sure would contribute photos of their Coins. We could all get a better idea of just exactly what is a PL coin and what is not.
You also mentioned that you would try to get a photo of a PL UHR and a non PL UHR. Once you get that we can all have our 2 cents worth.

At December 8, 2010 at 5:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ordered 3 UHR's from the mint last year. It was apparent to me that was was amazing looking compared to the other two. The coin reminded me of a plastic toy and didn't seem real. The reflection was undeniably proof like. I just sent them in and sure enough one of the was rated MS70PL. I'm still waiting to get them back bu I'm almost sure it will be the one I'm talking about.

At June 12, 2011 at 2:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bot 5 UHR altogether from the Mint; and 3 towards the end of the year. The later productions from the Mint are way better than the ones I bot earlier in the year (May-Jun09)
In fact, all 3 of the UHR I bot towards year end all appear proof-like and have sharp reflective mirrors. I never grade any of my coins from the Mint; but these 3 compared to the earlier 2 have sharp contrast in appearance.


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