Collecting Saint-Gaudens, Part III - 1912-1933 $10s

Posted by Jeff Garrett on 3/15/2012

In Part III of the series, Jeff Garrett discusses 1912 through 1933 Saint-Gaudens Eagles.

1912. Mintage: 405,000. The 1912 is one of the more common of the early P Mint issues. The date is popular at the moment having just reached the 100 year milestone and issued the same year the Titanic sank. Most examples seen are well struck with yellow gold surfaces. Interestingly, the 1912 Eagle has two extra stars added to the rim for the addition of Arizona and New Mexico to the Union. Although several Gem examples are known, only one has been certified by NGC in MS 67.

1912–S. Mintage: 300,000. Although the mintage of the 1912–S $10 approaches that of the Philadelphia issue, it is much rarer in all grades. Most examples seen are very softly struck, especially on the high points of the eagle’s wing. The date is difficult to obtain in all levels of Mint State. Most of those found in Mint State are at the lower grade range and Gem examples are very rare. The Smithsonian collection contains four examples with the finest grading Extremely Fine. This is explained by the fact that the Smithsonian collection was formed decades ago before small groups of Mint State coins were discovered in European banks.

1913. Mintage: 442,000. This date is considered one of the common Philadelphia Mint issues. The coin can be found in nearly all grades, including gem condition. Most examples seen are well struck and luster is not an issue. Occasionally very attractive examples are seen with deep green-gold colorations.

1913–S. Mintage: 66,000. This date is the second rarest Indian $10 after the 1911–D. The 1913–S is rare at any level of Mint State and difficult to locate. Prices for the issue rise sharply at every stage of the Mint State ladder. Unlike other San Francisco issues, the strike is usually at par or better. The Smithsonian collection contains a single AU example. Two fantastic coins of the date exist, both grading MS 67. The first coin was part of the legendary collection of Harry W. Bass. That coin last crossed the auction block at $143,750 in 2004. The Ex. Robert Kruthoffer specimen sold for $54,000 in 1981; a respectable price for the time. It resold in 2007 for $299,000. It was later certified by NGC as MS 67. These two coins are miracles of survival!

1914. Mintage: 151,000. The mintage for this issue is somewhat less than earlier Philadelphia Mint issues. The outbreak of the World War I probably had something to do with that. The date can be found with relative ease in all grades below Gem. Gem and Superb Gem coins are quite rare. Most coins seen are well struck and light green–gold color is the norm. Only one coin has been certified by NGC at the MS 67 level and it has never been sold at public auction.

1914–D. Mintage: 343,500. Like its Philadelphia cousin, this date is generally well struck and lustrous. While most were melted, enough examples survived to go around for collectors today, including several in gem Mint State grades. This may in part be due to the fact that most are quite lustrous and fully struck by the dies. It is likely that a significant number of the survivors traveled from Denver to eastern banks. From the banks of the east coast, these coins were soon sent over to Europe to wait out World War I, subsequent depression, and the next world war before returning to these shores. Only a handful have been certified at the MS 67 level.

1914–S. Mintage: 208,000. The 1914-S $10 is scarce, but not impossible to locate in Mint State. Most examples seen are well struck and with average luster. At one time the date was quite scarce in Mint State, but a steady stream of coins has been recovered from European banks over the years. The Smithsonian collection contains four circulated examples. Gems are very rare, with less than 20 graded MS 65 and just two or three at MS 66. A single coin has been certified by NGC as MS 67.

1915. Mintage: 351,000. The 1915 $10 can be found in most levels of Mint State with relative ease. It is one of the more common of the Philadelphia issues. Most seen are well struck and fully lustrous and this date stands out as one of the finer examples of this design to come off the dies. NGC has graded five coins at the MS 67 level and the last to sell at auction realized $31,625 in 2010.

1915–S. Mintage: 59,000. Not only was this a low mintage date, but few survivors made it from San Francisco to the eastern banks where they could escape to Europe to wait out the first half of the 20th century. Most ended up being melted during the 1930s and returned as gold bricks to Fort Knox. Most examples of the date entered circulation and AU is the most commonly encountered grade. Any Mint State 1915–S $10 Eagle must be considered highly desirable. Starting in 1915, the United States Mint began saving handpicked examples of its gold coinage for the Mint collection. This practice continued until the end of United States gold coins in 1933. In the 1920s the Mint collection was transferred to the Smithsonian where they reside today. The Smithsonian collection contains a Choice MS 64 example of the 1915–S $10. The single finest example of the date I have seen is the Ex. Robert Kruthoffer coin. I sold the coin to him in the early 1980s for around $25,000. It was actually how we met. When I called to offer him the coin, he was immediately excited to purchase it. It was a difficult transaction, but for anyone who knew Robert they would not be surprised. He sold the coin for $29,000 in 1981. It later resold for an amazing $198,000 in 1989 at the peak of that bull market. I imagine that this coin is now certified at the MS 67 level.

1916–S. Mintage: 138,000. This date and mint was well represented in the European banks and examples continue to be found there. Most seen however are at the lower end of the Mint State range with Choice and Gem examples quite scarce. The date is usually found well struck with subdued luster. The Smithsonian collection contains two Superb Gem examples, one of which would easily grade MS 67. The Norweb coin appears to be the finest example in private hands.

1920–S. Mintage: 126,500. This is the third–rarest date overall in the entire series behind the coveted 1933 and 1907 Rolled Edge variety. It is actually the rarest date in Mint State. The vast majority of this issue was melted in the great gold melts of the 1930s. Any example of a 1920–S Ten Dollar is cause for excitement. Most examples seen are softly struck, especially around the central portions of the obverse. Most are also weakly struck at the top part of the date. Surprisingly, a few Gem examples survive, including an MS 66 in the Smithsonian collection.

1926. Mintage: 1,014,000. This date is very common in all grades with thousands of Mint State coins known. Along with the 1932, this date is considered the most likely candidate for a Type set. Interestingly, there are no known examples graded MS 67. Many were saved in Mint State, but very few with utmost care.

1930–S. Mintage: 96,000. So many Indian Head Eagles were coined in 1926 that for a few years gold Eagles were simply not needed. Thus, coinage of the denomination halted until 1930 when the San Francisco Mint struck 96,000. Very few, however, found their way into circulation. Almost none have honest wear. The few lower grade coins are usually the results of mishandling or damage. The vast majority of the issue met its fate in the melting pots. A great photo from the 1930s exists of mint sealed bags of the date piled several feet high. Three or four coins exist in MS 67, including a nearly perfect coin in the Smithsonian collection.

1932. Mintage: 4,463,000. One can only wonder why such a large number of Eagles were coined at the absolute depth of the Depression. This is far and away the most common date in all grades and the standard of reference for the type coin to represent the Indian Head Eagle. Most show typical, strong Philadelphia luster and bold strikes. Preservation ranges through the grading spectrum up to and including MS 67. The auction record for the date is $22,425 for an NGC MS 67 that sold in 2011.

1933. Mintage: 312,500. Only a dozen examples of the 1933 $10 have been certified by NGC in all grades. The date is clearly the rarest and most popular date of the series. Although 1933 Double Eagles have been declared illegal to own in most cases, the legality of 1933 Eagles has never been questioned. Virtually the entire mintage was melted before leaving government hands. Owning an example of this date is certainly one of the highlights of any numismatic collection and a feat precious few collectors can ever hope to accomplish. The Smithsonian collection contains an MS 65 example. At one time the late, great collector Robert Kruthoffer owned the finest known example of this date as well. He sold his coin in 1981 for $79,000. It later was certified MS 66 by NGC and sold for $718,000 in 2004. Kruthoffer was clearly right, but way ahead of his time!!

NEXT TIME-An indepth discussion of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles.

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