The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
As a business strike, the 1904 is notoriously common. PCGS alone has certified more than 100,000 pieces as Mint State. However, proof 1904 double eagles are rare. Just 98 pieces were struck, and perhaps half that number have survived.
The rarity of proof Liberty double eagles has its root in their bullion value. Few collectors could afford to purchase an example in 1904, a time when $20 exceeded a week's wages for most workers. When hard times arrived, such as the Great Depression, a proof double eagle was an obvious target for redemption at the bank, since the sale of such a family heirloom was better than the alternative, going hungry or without shelter. Even early 20th century dealers with financial resources, such as B. Max Mehl, would often deposit proof gold coins, since their numismatic premium was so low that they were unworthy of the effort to sell them to collectors. By the 1940s, all U.S. gold coins achieved a premium above face, and proof pieces were on their way toward their present status as 'the caviar of numismatics.'
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