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.
Communication between the West Coast and the Atlantic states was slow at best during the early years of the San Francisco Mint, and when policies or designs changed, the California facility often did not receive word for at least a month. This led to situations where San Francisco began production of a series, only to change course soon after. Today?s collector can recognize these events, the most famous being the 1861-S Paquet Reverse double eagles, which San Francisco struck satisfactorily and released before it was informed that the Paquet dies were, in the judgment of Philadelphia officials, unusable.
The occurrence with the most far-reaching consequences, however, took place in 1866. After the debut of IN GOD WE TRUST on the nation?s coinage with the two cent piece of 1864, Philadelphia proceeded with plans to place the motto on dies for the five cent nickel issue and the larger-diameter silver and gold coins. While Philadelphia delayed production of 1866 pieces for the denominations in question until the reverse dies were ready, San Francisco proceeded with production of No Motto coins until it received the With Motto reverse dies. This resulted in two distinct varieties of 1866-S coins for the half dollar, half eagle, eagle, and double eagle.
While the 1866-S No Motto double eagle is clearly the more elusive of the two issues, its mintage and distribution remain enigmatic. While many sources, including the Guide Book and Doug Winter and Adam Crum?s An Insider?s Guide to Collecting Type I Double Eagles, claim a mintage of just 12,000 pieces, Garrett and Guth, in their 2006 volume Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, state an estimate of 120,000 coins. This latter figure is in agreement with research conducted by R.W. Julian, and the value is logical, with the With Motto reverse dies not arriving at San Francisco until March, that Mint had an ample window for a six-figure production, even if striking only took place in February, as stated by Winter and Crum. The mintage for the later With Motto pieces, in excess of 840,000 pieces, offers further circumstantial evidence.
The total population of survivors, however, tells a different story. Garrett and Guth give their assessment: ?There are probably no more than 200 examples known in all grades.? The episode of the Paquet double eagles may offer insight, when Philadelphia notified San Francisco that the Paquet reverse should not be used and any struck examples were to be destroyed, officials there replied that while they could stop using the Paquet dies and melt the struck pieces they had on hand, San Francisco had already released a number of Paquet double eagles and could not recall them. It is entirely possible that not all of the 1866-S No Motto double eagles struck were paid out, and if some of those coins never left the Mint, the anomalously low survival rate for the 1866-S No Motto twenties makes much more sense.
While the past remains speculative, the present-day truth remains that this issue is challenging in any condition, and a near-Mint example such as the present piece is a precious prize.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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