20 TH CENTURY COINS
1907 The ASG Specimen of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
2015 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
Shrinking to the size of a coin was the first difficult step. The development of the manufacturing process was a technical feat. The double eagle in Ultra High Relief required seven strikings in the hydraulic press. Between two strikings, the piece was annealed and then washed in nitric acid to maintain the highest possible purity of the gold surface. The result was superb from the viewpoint of the color and brilliance of gold.
In the first trial in February 1907, one of the dies broke during the manufacture of the fourth unit, providing the argument to demonstrate that mass production was impossible.
The story did not stop there, simply because it was so tempting to repeat the feat. Twelve or thirteen additional coins were minted between March and July 1907, and three more on 31 December 1907 just before the yearly destruction of the outdated tools.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens had died on August 3, 1907. The informal promise to provide a sample to the Saint-Gaudens estate had not been met. When the widow claimed, the Mint chose to part with one of the pieces kept in its cabinet rather than recreating the tools.
The widow had marked the ASG initials on the edge of her coin before presenting it in long-term loan to the American Numismatic Society. Withdrawn many years later from ANS by the Saint-Gaudens estate, it is now resurfacing. In an almost perfect condition like many other units from this pattern model, it is graded PR68 by NGC and PCGS.
It will be sold with no reserve by Heritage in Orlando on January 7, lot 4412. Two weeks before the sale, the bidding is at $ 1.3 million before fees. The only specimen graded PR69 (by PCGS) was sold for $ 2,76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012.
1907 The First Group of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles
2012 SOLD for 1.06 M$ including premium
One of the most interesting US coins from the 20th century was sold for $ 1.06M including premium by Heritage on August 3, 2012, lot 5434. It is now for sale by Bonhams in New York on December 16, lot 1508 estimated $ 1.25M.
Here is its story as I told it in 2012 :
President Roosevelt used to shake up preconceptions, often with common sense. In December 1904 he wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury that the U.S. coinage is an "atrocious hideousness"
and suggested to entrust Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the gold coins.
The original of the typed letter, signed by the President, recently discovered, was sold by Heritage for $ 94K including premium in the same sale as the double eagle discussed here.
Inspired by ancient coins, Saint-Gaudens suggests a ultra high relief and begins working on the double eagle ($ 20). Three groups of tests are carried out in 1907. As a whole, no more than twenty coins are minted. Afterwards, the relief will be leveled to facilitate mass production.
One of them, which I described as the most beautiful coin of the United States, in an amazing condition (graded PR69 by PCGS), has been sold for $ 2.76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012 .
The coin of the next sale has a slight evidence of having been carried in an unidentified pocket and is only graded PR58, but it is exceptional for another reason: it is a coin of the first group, which was extremely limited.
Indeed, only three specimens are identified as originating from this experimental session, from 7 to 14 February 1907. One of them, plain-edged, had one of its dies broken during the minting.
The coin for sale is one of the other two, recognizable by a sans serif typography (something like Helvetica) of the letters on the edge, from a design used at this location on the previous year which will be soon abandoned.
1907 The Death of Saint-Gaudens
2010 SOLD 360 K$ including premium
Famous U.S. sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens also liked creating medallions. Although he was already in his terminal cancer, it is to him that President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the redesign of gold coins, the $ 10 eagle and the $ 20 double-eagle.
Saint-Gaudens completed this work just in time. The mint sent him one of the two proof coins of the eagle, which he received just before his death happening on August 3, 1907. He never saw his double-eagle. The other copy was sent to the President.
These first two copies of the eagle have a specific feature: the edge of the coin is plain. One of them suddenly appeared in a sale organized by Heritage Auction Galleries in 2003. After a second round on the market when it was sold by Stack's $ 322 K in 2008, it is coming to Boston at Heritage on August 11.
This coin is illustrated on the press release shared by the auction house. The sales history is discussed in the catalog.The other specimen has never been located.
The currency of Saint-Gaudens had a remarkable longevity, which was interrupted only by the removal of both the eagle and double eagle in 1933 when the second Roosevelt ended the gold coinage.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold 360 K $ including premium, this eagle has barely exceeded its 2008 price. The media effort had yet been important, but the doubt remaining about its origin has certainly played against it. Unless the other copy appears suddenly, we'll never know if it was the specimen sent to the artist or the one sent to the president.
1907 The Dragon Coin
2009 SOLD 92 K$ including premium
In the early twentieth century, the Qing dynasty was in full decline. In 1875, the dowager Empress Cixi placed on the throne a child of three who ruled nominally under the name of Guangxu but exercised no authority. Between 1899 and 1901 the Boxer Rebellion had exacerbated the xenophobia of the Chinese of that time.
In such conditions, the dragon coins (dollars, taels, maces, candareens), which usually show inscriptions in English on one side and on Chinese on the other side, seem anachronistic.
Heritage sells a tael on September 10 in Long Beach, lot 20547. On the side where the dragon is found, we read: "Pei Yang - 33rd Year of Kuang Hsu".
Pei Yang was the name of the mint in the province of Chih-li (Zhili) which in 1928 became Hebei, near Beijing. At the same time, similar bilingual coins were also produced in the province of Kiang Nan.
Kuang Hsu is the old spelling of Guangxu. The 33 rd year of his reign corresponds to 1907. The following year, Guangxu and Cixi died one after the other two days apart.
The tael for sale by Heritage is in mint condition with a beautiful gold and gray patina, and is estimated 80 K$.
1910 Satin or Matte
This initiative generated some development difficulties. The first prototypes of the double eagle, designated as Ultra High Relief, were conceived like medals and could not be used for mass production.
After this spectacular error, the relief is flattened but not enough to use the traditional finishing techniques. Many tests are carried out in Philadelphia. Pattern coins that did not precede a production release have generally been melted. A 1907 satin finish eagle graded PR67 by NGC, which had belonged to the Mint director, was sold for $ 2.2M including premium by Heritage in January 2011.
Collectors expect a brilliant surface in their proof coins. The Mint takes the opposite option of sandblasting the pieces to obtain a matte surface. After the decline in sales of the 1908 proof coins, the factory returned in 1909 and 1910 to a satin finish which aroused in its turn the disapproval of the very influential collector William Woodin.
Tests continue, often without being documented, to try to reconcile technical constraints and customer satisfaction. A 1910 double eagle of a previously unknown finish has just been discovered. It has been graded SP66+ by PCGS and will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on August 4, lot 4113.
The surfaces of that specimen have a better reflection than the satin finish, certainly due to a careful polishing of the dies. The color is bright, between gold and orange, and the strike is razor sharp.
This experiment was not followed. After a debate at the 1910 ANA Convention, the proof coins were sandblasted again in 1911.
1916 The Last Imperial Dragon
2011 SOLD 203 K$ including premium
There was one last emperor of China after the fall of the Qing.
Yuan Shikai was the only candidate able to maintain some tradition in the following of the fallen Empire. This former military officer soon controlled the power against the revolutionary Kuomintang. In 1914, he struck silver dollars in his image.
Caught in a political whirlwind, he thought he could maintain his power by self-proclaiming himself as emperor, on December 12, 1915. Thus began on January 1, 1916 the year 1 of Yuan with the reign name Hung Hsien, a politicallyambiguous name meaning "constitutional abundance".
This was quite ephemeral. His military colleagues disapproved the initiative, and moreover he was sick. The last Chinese emperor abdicated on March 22, 1916, and died on June 6.
We perfectly understand the extreme rarity of a presentation coin of the year 1 of Hung Hsien made by the Tientsinmint to commemorate the accession of Yuan to the supreme dignity.
This is a gold coin with a face value of $ 10. On one side, the military dictator shows his profile and his epaulets, as on the silver coins of 1914. On the other side, the change in continuity is symbolized by a dragon with seven clawsholding a bow in his mouth and a bunch of arrows in one of his hands.
It is estimated U.S. $ 100K, on sale by Stack's Bowers in Hong Kong on August 22, and once belonged to the collection of King Farouk.
1921 $ 20 Satin Finish Coin
2021 SOLD for $ 2M by Heritage
In 1921 the Peace dollar is a high relief coin. Some experiments of satin and sand blast finishes on silver were made at the Mint but not recorded and not documented in period. The discovery satin coin was revealed at the 1975 ANA. The top graded, PR66 by NGC, was sold for $ 100K by Heritage on January 9, 2014, lot 5344.
Nobody suspected that some gold coins had been satin finished after 1916.
The discovery 1921 $ 20 Saint-Gaudens coin was sold at auction in 2000 by Sotheby's. The coin had been treasured by the family of the Mint director who had certainly commissioned this undocumented experiment. The consignor was aware that it was not a coincidence that its date was the same as the peace dollars. This coin is graded SP58 by PCGS.
Only one similar coin has surfaced. In much better condition, it is graded PR64+ Roman finish by NGC. It was sold for $ 1.5M in August 2006 by Bowers and Merena, lot 4504, and for $ 2M by Heritage on August 18, 2021, lot 3499.
Bidding is already over $1.2 million for this NGC-certified 1921 Roman Finish Double Eagle. Learn more about this coin and others being offered in a Heritage Auctions sale this week: https://t.co/p55d0Fzj9O#coins #numismatics #goldcoin #rarecoin #vintagecoin #doubleeagle #uscoin pic.twitter.com/QpURPdvD0P— NGC (@NGCcoin) August 15, 2021
1921 All the Saints (Gaudens) of Dr Duckor
2012 SOLD 750 K$ including premium
A perfect piece has never been handled. Under these conditions of maintained cleanliness, color may vary due to the presence of a small amount of copper forming alloy with the bulk gold.
The $ 20 double eagle of Saint-Gaudens type is the most prestigious of American gold coins. Regular production was carried out from 1907 to 1932, but the number of variants exceeds the number of years because it also includes the identification of the mint. D stands for Denver, S for San Francisco, and no letter code means Philadelphia.
From one year to another, the produced quantity could vary considerably, depending on available reserves. The highest rarities are 1927-D and 1921.
The collection of Dr. Duckor, although not unique, is exceptional because the collector was only interested in mint state (MS) coins graded 65 or higher by PGCS. It includes only production coins (business strikes), and no test piece (proofs). He sells it on January 5 at Heritage in Orlando. Each coin will be sold separately.
The article remarkably documented by CoinWeek is illustrated by several lots of this sale.
Graded MS66, his 1921 double eagle is one of the two best examples recorded. The other one of same grade fetched $ 1.1 million including premium at Heritage in November 2005 in the sale of the Morse collection.
Dr. Duckor had owned a MS66 1927-D in an earlier phase of his collection. This variant is so rare that he had given up on finding a similar specimen. The only 1927-D at MS67 grade was sold $ 1.9 million including premium by Heritage in the sale of the Morse collection already mentioned above.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, $ 750K including premium, is good but remains below the price of the coin sold in 2005.
1927 It was Crisis !
2010 SOLD 1.5 M$ including premium
Since 1907, this model used the Saint-Gaudens design, with a standing Liberty holding the torch as the front side, and on the reverse side an eagle flying across the sun. This expensive coin did not much circulate. The productions of previous years were sufficient, and the 180 000 coins of 1927 remained in storage.
In 1933, President Roosevelt took strong monetary measures to tackle the crisis. It was now illegal for individuals to own gold and the government melted the reserves. This decision makes today the happiness of US numismatists, as we shall see below.
Production of Denver in 1927, or 1927-D, has almost completely disappeared. It would be only 13 remaining copies of this type. The circulation had not occurred but it was not banned, allowing Americans to consider this issue as the King of regular coins. An almost perfect copy was sold $ 1.9 million including premium by Heritage in Dallas in November 2005.
The 1927-D copy which is coming on January 7 at Heritage in Orlando is the second in condition ranking. It is offered with a $ 1.1 million starting bid.
The 1933 double eagle is not a regular issue, because it did not have the permission to circulate. One copy was legalized by the U.S. government, during a sale at Sotheby's on June 30, 2002. The hammer fell at $ 6.6 million ($ 7.6 million including premium).
POST SALE COMMENT
$ 1.5 million including premium for this double eagle 1927-D, in accordance with the price guide published before the sale for its condition (grade 66).
1933 The Mass Destruction of the Gold Eagles
2015 SOLD for $ 820K including premium
Some variants that awaited their release in the stock thus became extremely rare. A 1927-D double eagle graded MS66 by NGC was sold for $ 2 million including premium by Heritage on 9 January 2014. The single copy that could be subsequently approved by the government of the 1933 double eagle was sold for $ 7.6M including premium by Sotheby's and Stack's on July 30, 2002.
The $ 10 gold eagle from its last year is less rare than the 1927-D $ 20. From the 312,500 units which had already been produced, all of them by the Philadelphia mint, about 30 survive. None of the known coins had had time to circulate.
The best of these 1933 $ 10, sold for $ 720K including premium by Stack's in October 2004, was later graded MS66 by NGC. Another one, graded MS65 by PCGS, will be sold by Heritage on April 23 in Schaumburg IL, lot 5419.
1933 Gold Eagle
2011 SOLD 360 K$ including premium
In March 1933, President Roosevelt gave the order to stop the release of all gold coins belonging to the Federal Reserve. The government had much in stock, and some years that had not yet been made available have become extremely rare.
So I have already discussed a double eagle ($ 20) made in Denver in 1927 (1927-D, Saint-Gaudens type) sold $ 1.5million including premium by Heritage on January 7, 2010.
I then reminded the hammer price of $ 6.6 million recorded in 2002 by Sotheby's on the only double eagle of 1933 that has been legalized by the US government. With charges, the buyer had paid $ 7,590,020, including $ 20 for the monetization of his coin.
The eagle ($ 10, St. Gaudens type) is less prestigious, but the number of units made in 1933 that escaped destruction is also very limited. They come from regular production in Philadelphia mint in the weeks preceding thePresidential order.
One specimen is for sale on January 6 at Tampa by Heritage Auction Galleries. Its condition is graded MS65. Only one other example is identified with a more perfect condition than this one..
POST SALE COMMENT
The $ 10 Indian Head gold coins of Saint Gaudens type were minted from 1907 to 1933. The pieceof the last year, presented in my article, was sold for $ 360K including premium.
In the same sale, a coin from 1907 that had belonged to the Mint Director of that time was sold for $ 2.2M including premium. The catalog stated that this exceptional specimen was perhaps a proof.
1937 A Dot for the Late King
2010 SOLD 400 K$ including premium
2019 SOLD for $ 310K including premium
The abdication of Edward VIII on December 11, 1936 comes at the worst time for the monetary calendar : the British Royal Mint had already begun preparing the 1937 dies with his effigy.
At that time a shortage happens on three Canadian coins. For these 1 cent, 10 cents and 25 cents, it is indeed impossible to display the name and portrait of the resigning king, and the availability of dies identifying his successor is not yet scheduled.
For these three denominations, the Royal Canadian Mint prepares the first dies for the 1937 production by reusing the 1936 design with the name and effigy of the late King George V. The date of 1936 is also reused : the mark of 1937 cannot be suitable for this king who died in January 1936. The new coin is only differentiated from the real 1936 coin by a tiny dot below the date.
The Canadian plant produces a very small number of specimens of the three dotted coins and of the three unmodified denominations, 5 cents, 50 cents and 1 dollar. A small production for urgent circulation is released for the dot 25. The dot cent and the dot 10 will not be issued.
An employee of the Royal Canadian Mint had kept a complete set of the six specimens. Acquired together in 1954 by a collector, they were sold separately by Heritage in January 2003.
This group included the best of the three known George V dot cent 1936 coins. Certified Specimen 66 Red by PCGS, it was sold for $ 400K including premium by Heritage on January 3, 2010. I discussed it in this column before that sale. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This specimen still had a layer of protective lacquer put by the factory to improve its short term preservation. Slight discolorations were reported in 2010. This coating has been removed and the coin is now graded SP 65 Red and Brown, also by PCGS. It is estimated $ 250K for sale by Heritage in Chicago on August 15, lot 31048.
RESULTS including premium :
1 cent : SOLD for $ 310K
10 cents : SOLD for $ 66K
1943 Planchet Game
2021 SOLD for $ 840K including premium
This decision is poor. The new coin is easily mixed with the dime and is magnetic. The copper is restored in 1944 in a brass. These modifications generated in very small quantities in the three production centers the two most famous errors of the 20th century US coinage, the 1943 bronze cent and the 1944 steel cent.
The design was not changed, with Lincoln's profile on the obverse and sheaves of wheat on the reverse. The steel cent is lighter, 42 grains instead of 48. It is also harder, requiring more pressure from the machine. This setting increases the sharpness of the lines on the 1943 errors.
The commonly accepted technical explanation, valid for all three sites, is that the press loading hoppers were not completely empty of blank planchets before the change of material. The time allotted to the inspection was inevitably short : the cost of producing the cent exceeded its face value.
Only one 1943 error is known regarding the Denver site. It has the best sharpness, confirming that it was made at the very beginning of production, but some zinc smears indicate that it was preceded by steel coins. A bronze planchet from the previous year was undoubtedly introduced into the machine by an operator who picked the brown cent in the outflow.
If so, the intention was only playful. The coin did not surface until 1979. Its provenance was blurred by the whimsical story invented by a dealer that an operator made it as a gift to a lady friend. A 1981 auction catalog even added that it was a Christmas present.
This unique example of a 1943-D bronze cent, graded MS64 Brown by PCGS, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 20, lot 3005. It comes from the Simpson collection just like the best San Francisco coin, graded MS63 Brown by PCGS, sold for $ 500K including premium by Heritage in November 2020, and the best PCGS-inspected Philadelphia coin, graded MS62 Brown, which will be sold on February 23, 2021 by Heritage in Dallas, lot 3008.
RESULTS including premium :
1943-D SOLD for $ 840K
1943 Philadelphia SOLD for $ 370K
1943 The War Cent
2014 SOLD 330 K$ including premium
The greatest rigor is necessary for the technicians of the mint whenever a change is decided. The error rate of the U.S. Mint concerning actually circulated coins was extremely low at all times, which proves the extreme reliability of release controls.
These abnormal coins are eagerly sought by American collectors. They are right, because their very existence attests the manufacturing practice. Technological expertises, including non-destructive testing of the chemical composition, has made such progress that numismatists know to separate errors and fakes.
The US 1 cent coin of 1943 is one of those innovations that attract the errors. The government is trying to save copper, an essential material to the war effort. This regular issue is exceptionally made in zinc-plated steel.
There were many disadvantages. Users confused the new white coin with the dime that is ten times more expensive.They are magnetic devices which disrupt the coin operated machines. In addition, they oxidize rapidly.
By accident, a few 1 cent coins dated 1943 were struck in bronze, either from leftover planchets for the previous year or by mixing with planchets prepared for foreign operations. The first of these errors was discovered by a schoolboy in 1947 from coins supplied to him by a machine in his college.
Other copies were identified afterwards, affecting the three production centers of 1 cent. Two units have reached millionaire prices in private sales : the best bronze 1 cent from San Francisco and the only known example from Denver.
The 1943 1 cent bronze coin for sale by Stack's Bowers on January 24 in New York has not yet revealed its secret. Discovered by chance by his owner who was sorting his coins, it is considered as an authentic piece of the Philadelphia factory. It is in very good condition, PCGS MS-63.
This specimen is unique in its chemical composition (91.7% copper, 7.5% zinc, 0.8% silver), which does not correspond to any standard used in Philadelphia. Would it be the sole survivor of undocumented tests carried out in the factory ?
It had been discussed by PCGS before the sale.
POST 2013 SALE COMMENT
Here is an interesting price in the category of error coins of the twentieth century: $ 320K including premium.
POST 2014 SALE COMMENT
The same specimen now graded AU55 by PCGS has been sold for $ 330K including premium by Legend-Morphy on May 22 in Las Vegas. I had not seen it before the sale. It is shown both sides in the report published after sale by Numismatic News.
1943 The Red and Brown Error
The production quality is not satisfactory and the steel cent is too easy to confuse with the 10c dime. Copper is reintroduced in the 1944 cent.
These changes generated a few errors in the three mints, Philadelphia, San Francisco (S) and Denver (D), with two possible causes : tests had been carried out with other compositions, and some planchets from the previous year could remain stuck in the press loading hoppers. The discovery coin was found in 1947 by a schoolboy in the change from a cafeteria machine.
The only known example of 1943-D cent in bronze was sold in private sale for $ 1.7M in September 2010. A 1944-S cent in steel graded MS66 by NGC was sold for $ 374K including premium by Heritage on July 31, 2008.
A 1943 cent without a mint mark, therefore coming from Philadelphia, has an atypical alloy, 91.7% copper, 7.5% zinc and 0.8% silver, of which no use has been identified. Graded MS63 RED by PCGS, it was sold for $ 320K including premium by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013. Re-inspected by PCGS and graded AU55, it was sold for $ 330K including premium by Legend-Morphy on May 22, 2014.
On March 26 in webcast, Legend Rare Coin Auctions sells a 1943 cent from Philadelphia with a 1942 alloy, lot 167 estimated $ 375K. Here is the link to the website of the auction house.
This coin graded MS61 RB (Red and Brown) by PCGS is the only one in its class to retain the original orange color of the copper, beside a violet-blue patina on the smooth brown surfaces. The sharpness of the strike attests to the use of new dies in consistency with the hypothesis of the stuck planchet liberated in an early phase of the new production. Please watch the video shared by PCGScoin.
1975 No S with Roosevelt
2019 sold for $ 456k including premium
The restart in 1968 is accompanied by industrial changes. The pieces for the Proof set are now produced in San Francisco. The dies are made as previously in Philadelphia. The polishing of the dies, to provide the bright and reflective surface that is not needed for circulation coins, is done in San Francisco.
The Proof set pieces are now marked on the obverse with the S identifying San Francisco. The same plant may also produce in parallel S-less circulation coins in case of an overload in Philadelphia. If by mistake an S-less die is polished, mixings become physically possible. Just like philatelists at the time of the two-colored stamps, collectors eagerly look for such errors.
The release control of the San Francisco plant is thus subject to the severe test of a validation by the general public for quantities that may exceed 10 million units, all denominations combined. If the anomaly is not detected in production, several hundred no-S proof coins can be distributed in the sets. This happened with the 1970 Roosevelt dime, the 1971 Jefferson nickel, the 1983 Roosevelt dime and the 1990 Lincoln cent.
The rarest of these errors is the 1975 no-S proof Roosevelt dime, known in only two units. One of them is kept in its Proof set for forty years in the same collection. It is graded PR66 by PCGS.
The best unit, graded PR68 by PCGS, was sold in its Proof set for $ 350K including premium by Stack's Bowers on August 13, 2011. It is sold individually in its PCGS carrier by Heritage in Long Beach on September 6, lot 4715.