Roger Burdette's Saint Gaudens Double Eagles Book
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Didn't want to keep posting on the Silver Dollar book thread so I created this new thread so that I and others can discuss this great book and Roger can chime in from time-to-time.  I can't say enough about the book -- fantastic.  Best book on coins I've ever read.

Questions for Roger:  On Page 132, you have a quote stating regret that no 1908-D's were "set aside" for the Treasury Secretary (and maybe other Mint/Treasury higher-ups).  I presume getting a few was one of the perks of working for the Mint/Treasury. 

(1)  Did they have to pay for the coin(s) ?  If so, could they use paper currency or did they have to use gold coins ?

(2)  Could the higher-ups get these coins as soon as they came off the press, or did they have to wait for an Official Release date, an Assayer to finish testing, the coins to go to the Cashier or Customer Service Window, etc. ?

(3)  I take it these coins given to the Treasury Secretary or the Mint higher-ups would NOT have been registered on those Daily Cashier statements ?

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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When samples of new coinage were provided to public officials, the officials (or someone else) was expected to pay for the coins. Exceptions were for coins of little value such as one or two cents or nickels. Payments were in gold coin, gold notes or checks. At earlier dates, the Treasurer of the U.S. appears to have exchanged any form of legal tender currency for coins as an official courtesy. Proof sets and silver dollars were paid for in gold or currency although presumably there was a lot of flexibility in this -- most silver & minor proof sets were sold to Mint visitors for cash.

Examples ("specimens") provided for official approval were still US Mint property, unless the official was allowed to buy the sample. Although this was pre-release activity, I don't recall any official doing anything to differentiate the coin except for a note or simple cover letter. (See the Jefferson nickel situation.) Approval pieces were not legal coins until approved, so they were handled as misc. metal or scrap. It is unlikely there were counted in circulation production, but I've never seen anything explicit.

RE: The comment on p.132. In 1907 President Roosevelt "gave" MCMVII double eagles to many others in his administration plus members of the Supreme Court. These were not gifts - the recipients were expected to pay for the coins whether they wanted them or not. The Secretary of Treasury might not have wanted any of the 1908 coins; same for others.

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Permit me to add - Most government employees did not earn enough to be able to hold on to an Eagle or Double Eagle. Top political appointees usually could because they had substantial assets before appointment - their government pay was usually a "pay cut."

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As an aside - Rep. William Ashbrook was the most prominent coin collector in Congress at the time. Material from his personal diary will be found in the book Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908.

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8 hours ago, RWB said:

These were not gifts - the recipients were expected to pay for the coins whether they wanted them or not.

Or if they were actually given as gifts, then Roosevelt would have had to pay for them.  SOMEBODY had to pay, the metal had to be accounted for and the books had to balance.

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30 minutes ago, Conder101 said:

Or if they were actually given as gifts, then Roosevelt would have had to pay for them.  SOMEBODY had to pay, the metal had to be accounted for and the books had to balance.

Yup....I'm just seeing more evidence that WRITTEN ledgers did not have to take place as was the argument in the 1933 DE lawsuit.  Exchanges, purchases by VIPs, helping oneself to patterns and models....things were a bit loosey-goosey compared to what some so-called experts say.

I'm sure Roger has more on that as I approach Page 600 or so, but I'm trying to work my way up there by reading my way instead of cheating and fast-forwarding. :)  So I'll just have to wait a few weeks. xD

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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All of the pattern pieces were accounted for in separate documents, but because, in part, they were not real coins, the entries were bullion with various notations about the form of the bullion. Thus, the Philadelphia Mint was never completely sure the quantity of small diameter MCMVII pieces made or to whom they were distributed. Much the same for the Extremely High Relief patterns.

MCMVII circulation coins were dolled out like peppermint candy by President Roosevelt, and it took nearly a year to get all the money collected and the books sort-of balanced.

Simply put - the President's wishes and verbal comments created confusion. Bookkeeping surrounding the patterns and "gifts" was as much scribbled notes and fuzzy memories, as formal accounting.

(Historically, TR never paid for anything when he could get someone else to foot the bill AND TR could take the credit.)

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And what you said Roger -- and I know I'll get more when I hit the 1933 section in a few weeks -- was certainly true once it became apparent that the 1933's would be the LAST DE minted for a while -- or ever (as it turned out, for 53 years).

Basically, every year you probably had a few people who wanted to be first in line and get the new Saint DE's right off the press.  I remember reading that wealthy NY coin collectors would pay runners or dealers to bring the coin(s) up to them and give them $25 or $30 a coin.  Nothing to a millionaire, but a nice profit if you could combine it with other deliveries and business and pay for the trip from Philly to NY.

With tons of coins every year hitting the market though, there was no need to rush.  No need to worry about a deadline.  But once FDR's Gold edicts went into effect, you knew getting the 1933 could be tough and that's another reason why I think more people grabbed them than just McCann.  Had to be plenty of people at the Philly Mint who knew that you could make a quick 50% on those coins by selling them to wealthy Philly or NY collectors.  And in 1933, with most personnel probably making $1,000 a year, $10 here or there added up.

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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Just finished the 1909/08 section....can't believe nobody looked at the die closely (with a lens ?) and didn't see it.  Still not sure why they used a 1908...was it because everything else on the die aside from the date was perfect and rather than start from scratch and create minute differences elsewhere on the die...they figured use the 1908 die and then just massage the date from 1908 to 1909 ?

Interesting story in the book, I wonder if Barber or a Mint higher-up knew about it and said "screw it" or if someone down the line got chewed out.

Anyway, liked this story and the coin, I may put a 1909/08 on my WishList behind the 1907 HR.   I see a PCGS 65+ being bid at $21K on HA right now.   Unfortunately, that's a WEE BIT xD out of my price range.

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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The most likely explanation is that one of the diesinkers picked up the wrong hub in late 1908 when the new 1909 working dies were bring made (usually Oct-Nov). The hubs were identical except for last digit of the date and the shape of "9" might have been easily confused when working quickly. As you will read later in the book, I suspect Barber was aware of the error post-production. Thereafter he entered a completely new date and monogram every year so there could never be an accidental overdate.

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I think the way you have different gold sections in between the yearly Saint DE reviews makes the book really good, RWB.  I don't know if it was by design or accident but I much prefer the layout of your book rather than having all the non-yearly Saint stuff together followed by all the Saint yearly reviews together.   Sections like "The Gold Standard" kind of breaks up the monotony of reading year by year by year.

I enjoyed Aker's and Bower's DE year-by-years but aside from not being as detailed, they didn't have the additonal sections of gold-stuff like your book does (of which I'm sure there are more to come).  Great job !

Back to Page 173.....xD

 

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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The book's organization and character of the essays was intentional. The essays give readers background to the chapter that follows. Frankly, to put it all in one place would have been overwhelming. There is too much entirely new or unknown-to-collectors information to absorb in one massive essay. It was also necessary to get readers on a sound factual base regarding gold and "gold standard" so the later material can be understood.

The USA was an integral part of a global economy even back then, and double eagles were our little "ambassadors."

Edited by RWB

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16 minutes ago, RWB said:

The USA was an integral part of a global economy even back then, and double eagles were our little "ambassadors."

Yes, the reasons for shipping bags of coins vs. gold bars (400 ounces ?) was very interesting.  Learning so much from this book it's unreal.

TTYL.......(thumbsu

 

 

 

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Well, if you or anyone reading the book can figure out a simpler way to explain "gold point" please let me know.

:)

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2 hours ago, RWB said:

Well, if you or anyone reading the book can figure out a simpler way to explain "gold point" please let me know.

:)

I think you've done a good job from what I have read so far (Page 181 xD)...if I recall from Economics 101 the "gold point" was the level of exchange rates that would cause gold to flow to and from various countries.  Because you didn't have electronic futures and trading, you needed to actually ship the gold....BUT...often times, as I recall, the exchange rate would move just enough such that the gold would get to the shipping piers and then be called back.

Great Britain getting off the gold standard in 1931 helped them escape The Depression earlier than other countries.  Before that, as I recall, they tried to defend the pound at too high an exchange rate to assist parts of the British Empire.  Not unlike today when a country should devalue, but its banking system or companes are dependent on dollar funding and can't pay the higher rates/values that a surge in the value of the dollar from a domestic devaluation would entail.

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Here's something I haven't found the answer to (I'm in the 220's) but if you answer this later on in the book, ignore this post:  what led to some mintages completely staying in the vaults (i.e, 1927-D), not going overseas, and then basically being almost entirely melted down in 1934 ?

If shipping bags of coin was how we settled trade flows with Europe and South/Central America....and I realize international trade (as a share of GDP) was much less then than today.....you wouldn't expect one year's coin mintages to have hefty flows overseas/South Of The Border...and then the next year's to accumulate dust in a mint vault.

Trade shouldn't have been that volatile year-to-year that one year you ship out most/all of the coins and the next year 99.9% accumulate dust until FDR melts them down in '34.  Again, the 1927-D's come to mind:  if the public isn't using the coins that much then why did the 1923-D's escape and not the 1927-D's ?

The only time I would expect big changes in trade would be AFTER 1929 when the economic environment changed (market crash, Depression, Smoot-Hawley).  Without going more in-depth (and again, maybe you do later in the book)....I would expect coins fleeing each of the Mints to be somewhat consistent year-to-year, no ?

Again, if you address this later in the book ignore this post but I wanted to write it down before I forgot.

 

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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RE:"...what led to some mintages completely staying in the vaults (i.e, 1927-D), not going overseas, and then basically being almost entirely melted down in 1934 ?"

Later in the book.  :)

International flow of gold coins was only a small portion of the gold trade. Most of this was in bullion, Gold Certificates, or vault earmarks. Different economies also had preferences - South American countries preferred coin; Europe preferred certificate bars; Asia preferred small denomination coin and fine bars; North Africa and Asia Minor preferred sovereigns.

Flows also varied year-to-year based on agricultural supply, local political and climate situations, and competition between European and North American economies. Overall supply was much less balanced a century ago than now - there were few farm subsidies or incentives, and trade agreements were muddled in part by currency fluctuations and common use of money of account versus specie and fiat versions - all having the same names but different values.

To get to the coin-centric approach in the DE book, I had to carefully extract only that data from the other mass of information from multiple sources. Had that not been done, the information would be worthless to collectors. This sample is one-sixth of a larger table from the Department of Commerce's report for 1925.

Pages from Exports coin 1925.jpg

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To help understand the table (above) let’s look at one country. Canada was one of the US’s largest trading partners in 1925, so go to the far left column, under the North America heading and locate Canada. Scan across to the far right column Total Gold which shows $41,495,829 as the total gold import. Now move left one column Coin – Foreign where it shows that of the total gold imported $974,736 was in foreign coins. Move left another column Coin – United States which shows just $395 in US gold coin was imported from Canada in 1925.

Move another column left to Bullion, refined and we see that $35,626,253 was imported from Canada. This was probably all in fine gold certificate bars that ended up in the New York Assay Office vaults.

The takeaway is that talking about “Gold Imports” or “Gold Exports” is misleading. In a similar manner, talking about “Gold turned into the Treasury” is not the same as “Gold coins turned into the Treasury.”

OK. I've bored the members (and Moderators) to the point of tears. Enough for now.

:)

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Thanks for that info, Roger......while on the subject, what exactly did the NY Assay Office do ?

And how is that like/unlike the Assayer in these mints who test for purity of gold ?  Did they just randomly select a few dozen coins out of a few hundred thousand or few million ?  And did they also count the coin inventories like that Vault F in Philly where the 1928's were missing ?

I take it once the Double Eagles were struck, there didn't have to be an "OK TO GO" order from the Assayer before they could be released ?  I mean, how many times were they going to find out that the gold content was off, right ? 

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RE: "I take it once the Double Eagles were struck, there didn't have to be an "OK TO GO" order from the Assayer before they could be released ?  I mean, how many times were they going to find out that the gold content was off, right ?"

Two actions/approvals were required to make die struck pieces of bullion legal tender coins. 1) The Coiner had to examine the struck bullion and certify that every piece met all legal standards for coinage. 2) The Superintendent had to accept the coins and also certify their suitability as legal tender. (This was called "delivery.") Weight and purity check were made all along the production line, then once delivery had taken place, 2 Special Assay pieces were sent to Washington for examination, and the Annual Assay pieces were put aside for the Commissioners to test in February of the next calendar year.

"What exactly did the NY Assay Office do ?"

The NYAO accepted deposits of gold and silver, and paid depositors based on the pure metal content. Most payments were by check, and a few in coins. Unlike the small assay offices, however, NYAO also refined gold and silver, produced good delivery bars and stored bullion bars for shipment to Philadelphia for coinage or to banks for payments. They did not check US coins.

Edited by RWB

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1 hour ago, RWB said:

Two actions/approvals were required to make die struck pieces of bullion legal tender coins. 1) The Coiner had to examine the struck bullion and certify that every piece met all legal standards for coinage. 2) The Superintendent had to accept the coins and also certify their suitability as legal tender. (This was called "delivery.") Weight and purity check were made all along the production line, then once delivery had taken place, 2 Special Assay pieces were sent to Washington for examination, and the Annual Assay pieces were put aside for the Commissioners to test in February of the next calendar year.

"What exactly did the NY Assay Office do ?"

The NYAO accepted deposits of gold and silver, and paid depositors based on the pure metal content. Most payments were by check, and a few in coins. Unlike the small assay offices, however, NYAO also refined gold and silver, produced good delivery bars and stored bullion bars for shipment to Philadelphia for coinage or to banks for payments. They did not check US coins.

Wait...you're not saying the Assayer had to inspect EVERY PIECE that was struck, are you ?  If he did, he must have been going pretty fast on each coin....the coins could come tens of thousands per day.

Same thing with the Super....he's not certifiying EVERY COIN as "suitable as legal tender", is he ?  And not weighing every coin, right ?

I'm surprised they were this concerned with striking traits (weight and purity I get).....they must have known that 99.99% of the coins would never circulate and would be in those $5,000 bags in bank vaults, so who really cares if the "A" in Augustus is doubled or not....or if a minute die crack was present....etc.

Still, this is fascinating stuff.  I may have to re-read FMTM again, or at least the Philly Mint sections. :)

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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No, not the Assayer, the Coiner had that responsibility. The Coiner could also reclassify coins as bullion if necessary due to some error, damage, poor quality - almost anything. It was the job of the Treasury Department to make policy, not the US Mint Bureau. The employees did their jobs.

Coins, especially gold, were an critical part of international economic trust. That's partly why the Annual Assay Commission was authorized by law....people had to trust the currency was of it's legal composition.

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Yup, I get your point on trusting the currency and gold content.....I believe that was one reason why U.S. gold coins were so popular in Europe and in South/Central America...the people there didn't trust their governments.  They knew the U.S. didn't play games with gold coins.

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U.S. coins were neither more nore less popular in Europe or South/Central America than those of other large countries. Bank and central national reserves held a preponderance of coins from Britain & colonies, France, and to a lesser extent Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, etc. As with the US, most reserve gold was in bars and earmarks.

South America tended to hold a greater proportion of US $10 than Europe, and also a large proportion of sovereigns, compared to bullion. I suspect - but cannot prove - that some of this was due to chronically unstable governments. Coins were portable, reliable and widely accepted (gold bars were suspect), and each petty dictator likely made off with his steamer trunks filled with coins at a whisper of the next coup d'etat. The Central/South American countries have also had very divisive economic/political structures - a few of privilege and wealth at the top and the rest barely surviving. (The key to a stable country is a large, productive meddle class.)

Edited by RWB

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Just got to Chapter 3 and the Gold situation on World War 1.  It's a nice break from reading about coin-after-coin....like I said, it breaks the monotony.

I like the inclusion of the 2 newspaper articles announcing the closing of the NY and London stock exchanges.  Nice touch.

This book is much much easier to read than FMTM (at least for me).  Of course, I realize that was a super-indepth look at a specific operation whereas this book covers coins, the Gold Standard, and anything related to them.

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12 hours ago, RWB said:

The Central/South American countries have also had very divisive economic/political structures - a few of privilege and wealth at the top and the rest barely surviving. (The key to a stable country is a large, productive meddle class.)

Yup, and what we Americans have (thankfully) never experienced is that in Europe (due to wars) and South/Central America (due to incompetent governments and hyperinflation) their citizens have had their entire economic bases and their savings wiped out at various times over the last century or so.  We've never had that in the U.S.

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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Question On Mintmarks:  Roger, you go into depth on changing angles and shapes of mint marks (along with die cracks, and other minute imperfections).  Many of these you need a super-sharp eye to see OR a magnifiying glass.

Were these imperfections caused by the inability of the presses and their metal components to perfectly replicate strikes and maintain absolute perfection in lining up the rounds with the press ?  I'm thinking that compared to today's presses -- like with the 2009 Ultra High Relief coin -- you have computers and lasers assisting the dies and presses using high-tech.  Look at how many MS70's and MS69's the presses can create today.

I'm also wondering if today's presses use stronger metals (or combinations of metals) like alloys or titanium or aluminum.  I presume that in the early-1900's they just had steel or iron for the key striking elements.  If maintaining a smooth surface on the die was the key to avoiding die cracks, then simple iron or steel might not be hard enough to withstand 150 tons of pressure tens of thousands of times.

I'm sure we must have better/stronger metals today than 100+ years ago.

Edited by GoldFinger1969

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RE: "This book is much much easier to read than FMTM (at least for me)."

This is a frequent observation. FMTM is about technology, operations and related matters, all of which are both obsolete and arcane. Thus, much of the language is new to readers and interrelationships are not always obvious. Collectors focus on objects; FMTM is focused on the things that make the objects - kind of the "metadata of coins." The CD bundled with each FMTM book is an effective way to search for subjects that might be related.

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