Part VII and the last article in this series covers 1924 to 1933 Saint–Gaudens Double Eagles.
1924. Mintage: 4,232,500. The 1924 Double Eagle is easily the most common date of the series. Nearly 10% of the large mintage of over 4 million coins has been graded by the major grading services. NGC has graded over 100,000 coins in MS 64 alone! Much of Europe was in financial distress around this time and large quantities of this and other dated Double Eagles were sent overseas for international banking transactions. Many sat there for decades and large numbers continue to find their way back to the United States each year. Luckily, the abundance of coins available makes this a great candidate for a Type coin of the issue. NGC has graded two coins as MS 68, the last of which sold at auction for $48,875 in 2005.
1924–D. Mintage: 3,049,500. Despite a large mintage similar to that of the Philadelphia issue of this year, most of the Denver coins remained in United States vaults until the great melts of the 1930s. The coins were converted into bars that were sent to Fort Knox. At one time the 1924-D was considered one of the prime rarities of the series. Starting in the 1960s, however, small numbers were found in European vaults. Most coins found have scattered bag marks, and they usually are found in grades ranging from MS 61 to MS 64. Gems are very rare with less than a dozen certified by NGC. Survivors show strong luster and average strikes, but many have worn dies around the peripheries due to a lack of quality control (perhaps caused by the enormous amount of coins that were minted).
1924–S. Mintage: 2,927,500. The rarity and survival numbers of the 1924–S Double Eagle are nearly identical to the 1924–D issue. Despite a large mintage, most were melted and small numbers have been found in recent decades coming from European banks. Most seen are rather well struck and lustrous with the typical rounded rims seen on San Francisco coins. They are commonly found with die wear on the peripheral devices and lettering in the form of a shadowy ring. As with the 1924–D, Gem examples are very rare and only one coin has been certified as MS 66 by NGC. That coin sold at auction in 2007 for $55,200.
1925. Mintage: 2,831,750. The 1925 Double Eagle can only be considered common in most grades. Thousands have been graded and even MS 66 coins are considered one of the most available for the series. One doubled die reverse has been reported (FS-801) and NGC has certified two examples of this date as MS 66. Other examples of this die variety will likely be discovered.
1925–D. Mintage: 2,938,500. Despite a very large mintage, most were destroyed during the great gold melts of the 1930s. At one time this issue was considered a major rarity. Starting in the 1950s, coins began to trickle in from European banks in small numbers. Today, around 1,000 coins are known; most in the lower ranges of Mint State. Gem examples are very rare with less than 10 certified by NGC. A single coin has been graded by NGC as MS 66. The Smithsonian example (likely from the Lilly collection) grades just MS 63.
1925–S. Mintage: 3,776,500. Despite an extremely large mintage, the 1925–S is quite scarce today. The vast majority were sent to the melting pots. Less than 1,000 coins have been certified by the major grading services. Unlike the other rare dates of this vintage, small number were saved by American collectors at the time of issue. There are a few splendid Gems examples known for the date. The finest example I have seen is the nearly flawless coins that were once part of the Norweb collection. Interestingly, last week I was able to purchase two Choice examples of the 1925–S Double Eagle across the counter in Lexington, Kentucky. The family that sold them had lived in California at one time, and had no idea of the their value. It’s amazing what still shows up in the world of numismatics.
1926. Mintage: 816,750. Like most other Philadelphia issues from this period, a significant number were saved in European banks and have since made their way back home. This date is one of the most common issues in the series. The 1926 Double Eagle can be found in all grades of Mint State through MS 66. Less than 10 coins have been certified as MS 67. One in that grade sold for $14,950 in 2008.
1926–D. Mintage: 481,000. This date is much rarer than the 1924–D, 1924–S, 1925–D and 1925–S. Most of the ample mintage was destroyed in the great melts of the 1930s. Of the coins that survived, most grade MS 60 to MS 64. Gems are exceedingly rare. This date is one of the true condition rarities of the series. To date, none have been graded by NGC above MS 64. The Smithsonian collection contains three examples, one of which grades MS 67 and is undoubtedly the finest known. It was obtained directly from the United States Mint at the time of issue. At one time this date was considered more rare than the much vaulted 1927–D. As with the other rarities of this era, small numbers have been found over the years in groups coming from Europe.
1926–S. Mintage: 2,041,500. In similar fashion, the 1926–S Double Eagle suffered the same fate as its Denver brother of the same year. The rather impressive mintage was all but obliterated from the public’s hands, though a few have turned up in overseas bank hoards. Those that have survived show typical San Francisco beveled edges and slight weakness through the stars at the periphery. They are also usually frosty and lustrous. The 1926–S is the most common of the mint marked issues struck from 1924 to 1927. Choice examples can be found with moderate difficulty. Gems are quite rare and command substantial sums when available. The Smithsonian collection contains two superb examples, both of which would probably grade MS 66. Both were obtained from the US Mint at the time of issue. A single example has been graded by NGC as MS 67, but that coin has not traded at public auction.
1927. Mintage: 2,946,750. The 1927 Double Eagle is the second most common date of the series. Large numbers of the issue has survived and over 200,000 coins have been certified by the major grading services. This date makes an excellent candidate for a type coin. The production quality for this issue is outstanding and Gem examples of this date are among the best for the series.
1927–D, Mintage: 180,000. The status of the 1927–D Double Eagle as the rarest regular issue for the series is unquestioned. With the discovery of another ten 1933 Double Eagles, the 1927–D is actually more rare than that enigmatic issue! None have appeared in the European or South American hoards and this date was apparently all but eliminated by the massive meltings of gold in the 1930s. Nearly all 1927–D Double Eagles are in Choice or Gem condition. Amazingly, the Smithsonian collection contains three examples of the 1927–D Double Eagle, all of which are in Gem Mint State. I have seen several counterfeits of this date over the years. Most have been with added mintmarks. The 1927–D Double Eagle is a star for the series and is generally only available when a great collection crosses the auction blocks.
1927–S. Mintage: 3,107,000. The mintage for this date is tremendous considering how few are known today—around 200 coins. At one time this date was considered to be one of the rarest of the series. No hoards have been found, but scattered examples did show in shipments from Europe. When seen, this San Francisco issue shows the typical beveled edge and satiny gold luster. Striking quality is sharp at the centers and is sometimes found with minor weakness on the Capitol Building. At the time of issue collectors saved some very nice examples of this date. The finest graded by NGC has been MS 67, and that coin sold at auction in 1995 for the then staggering sum of $181,500. The Smithsonian collection contains three Gem examples of the date, one of which is a Superb MS 67. It’s incredible that someone saved these amazing coins from the melting pots and preserved them for future numismatist to study. It would be interesting to find out why so many great gold coins from this era were saved and sent to the Smithsonian. Remember, the Mint transferred its holdings to the Smithsonian in the early 1920s. A close relationship must have continued for many years between Mint officials and the Smithsonian. We are all lucky it did!
1928. Mintage: 8,816,000. The 1928 Double Eagle is one of the most common of the series, which is no surprise considering the staggering mintage of almost 9 million coins. Ample numbers of coins have been certified in all grades from MS 60 to MS 67. The production quality for the date was high and the 1928 Double Eagle is an excellent type coin. The 1928 Double Eagle is the last readily obtainable for the Saint–Gaudens series. The remaining issues are all rare to extremely rare.
1929. Mintage: 1,779,750. This issue starts the beginning of the rare, late date Saints–Gaudens Double Eagles. It is the most obtainable of the group from 1929 to 1932, but is still very rare and seldom available. The American stock market crashed in 1929 and the world economies sank into depression. Very few of this date were sent to Europe and many of the survivors seen are the result of some small hoards that surfaced over the years. A small hoard of 40 coins was discovered in 1984 in England and I personally purchased a small group of 10 coins in the early 1990s. With banks failing at alarming rates, it should be no surprise that many individuals squirreled away some hard assets. Today, just a few hundred are estimated to have survived the great gold melts of the 1930s. Most seen are MS 62 to MS 64. Gems are very rare.
1930–S. Mintage: 74,000. The 1930–S Double Eagle is a major rarity in any grade. The original mintage was much lower than others of the era, and most of these were destroyed. There are probably less than 100 survivors of the date. Those that did survive were likely held by American coin collectors or dealers and it is almost certain that none were shipped overseas from this Western mint. Nearly all are in Mint State condition. I have seen a few damaged or polished examples. For many years the 1930–S, 1931, 1931–D and 1932 Double Eagles traded for around $40,000 in Choice condition. In the last decade or so, interest in the Saint–Gaudens series has surged, and the purchase of any of these dates now requires a six figure investment in most cases. The Smithsonian collection contains three examples of this rare issue. One of the coins would probably grade MS 68 and is one of the finest examples of any date Saint–Gaudens Double Eagle I have seen. The coin is truly a miracle of survival!
1931. Mintage: 2,938,250. Unlike nearly all other earlier issues of the series, no examples of this date appear to have been sent overseas to European banks. As the Depression in America deepened in the early 1930s, the Philadelphia Mint coined a substantial number of Double Eagles during 1931. These sat around in Treasury or bank vaults, only to be gathered up a few years later and melted. Virtually the entire mintage was wiped out. Today there are probably less than 100 known in all grades. Most of the coins that do appear would grade from MS 62 to MS 64. A couple of superb examples are known for the date. The Smithsonian collection has three, one of which would grade MS 67, and the Phillip Morse coin is a Superb Gem. The date is highly sought after by collectors and usually only available when a great collection has made its way to auction.
1931–D. Mintage: 106,500. Despite a much smaller mintage, the 1931–D is of similar rarity to the Philadelphia issue of the same year. It seems that none of this date was sent to European banks, but small numbers of the issue have surfaced in the States over the years. In the late 1980s I purchased a group of eight Mint State examples from an Ohio dealer. The coins all had significant bag marks and would probably grade MS 62 to MS 64 today. As mentioned earlier, these dates sold for much less in the 1980s and 1990s. I seem to remember them selling for around $25,000 each. With banks failing at an ever increasing rate in 1931, it is surprising that more individuals did not seek the safety of gold. Perhaps they did, but were compelled by the harsh language of the Act forcing Americans to turn over to all holdings of gold to the government. The Smithsonian collection contains three examples, one of which is probably the finest known and would grade at least MS 67.
1932. Mintage: 1,101,750. As with all other Double Eagles coined in this decade, virtually the entire mintage was melted during the late 1930s. There are probably less than 100 examples known of the date in all grades. The population numbers for the issue are probably a bit exaggerated due to resubmissions. Most seen have scattered bag marks and would grade MS 64 or MS 65. The Smithsonian collection example is possibly the finest known and would probably grade MS 67. In complete contrast to the Indian Head Eagles of 1932, which are an extremely common hoard date, the 1932 Saint–Gaudens Double Eagle is very expensive and difficult to obtain. The 1932 Double Eagle is also very popular as the last collectible coin for the series. An NGC MS 66 example sold at auction for $92,000 in 2010.
1933. Mintage: 445,000. The 1933 Double Eagle claims the highest price ever paid for a coin at public auction. The coin that was reportedly once part of the King Farouk collection sold for $7,590,000, nearly 10 years ago in July, 2002. Many non–collector friends ask me why a coin would sell for so much. I explain to them that a coin with a great story sells for the most. The 1933 Double Eagle certainly has a great story. Not many coins have whole books written about them.
Officially, the Treasury never released 1933 Double Eagles into circulation. President Roosevelt issued a presidential order on March 6, 1933, prohibiting banks from paying out gold or gold certificates. Some 1933 Double Eagles did escape into the hands of collectors, many through the hands of Philadelphia Jeweler, Israel Swift. Two coins were presented to the Smithsonian for preservation and they still reside as a prime attraction in that collection. During the 1940ss several examples surfaced in the hands of collectors. The Secret Service became interested in the matter around 1944 and subsequently seized several examples and conducted a thorough examination of the matter. Sadly, the seized coins were melted by Mint officials. For decades the 1933 Double Eagle remained illegal to own and the subject of much conjecture about the existence of additional specimens. It had long been known that the King Farouk example had been withdrawn from the 1954 auction of his collection and had all but disappeared. The coin surfaced in New York City and was the center of a sting operation to arrest London coin dealer Stephen Fenton and American coin dealer Jay Parrino. The coin was seized and a long legal battle ensued. The case was finally settled when it was agreed to sell the coin at public auction and to split the proceeds 50/50 with the Federal Government. The coin sold for $7.5 million dollars in a single coin sale orchestrated by Sotheby’s and Stacks.
Jay Parrino was a major dealer at the time in the United States. He was far ahead of his time by purchasing nearly every great coin that appeared on the market. His strategy was brilliant, but a bit early. The trauma of the 1933 Double Eagle soured his interest in numismatics and he left the business shortly afterwards. The matter seemed settled until 2004, when 10 more examples of the 1933 Double Eagle surfaced in the safety deposit box of Israel Swift. Joan Langbord, daughter of Swift, sent the coins to the government for authentication. The coins were seized and a lengthy court battle began once again involving the 1933 Double Eagle. The family has lost most of the legal decisions up to this point. The final fate of these amazing coins has not been determined at this point. Mint officials have made clear that the coins will not be melted as they were in the 1940s. As mentioned earlier, coins with great stories are highly desirable and the final chapters on this amazing issue have not yet been completed!
More on Collecting Saint-Gaudens
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Indian Head Eagles, 1907-1911-S
Part III: Indian Head Eagles, 1912-1933
Part IV: Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, 1907-1909-S
Part V: Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, 1910-1914-S
Part VI: Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, 1915-1923-D
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