USA Coin Album: Little Known Gold Coin Varieties

Posted on 6/14/2022

Double Eagles offer a great opportunity for varieties as a result of generally high mintages and the use of many dies.

My study of desirable varieties within US gold coinage concludes this month with a look at Double Eagles, or $20 pieces. Due to the generally high mintages for this denomination many dies were utilized, and that translates into a greater opportunity for varieties. The collecting of gold coins by varieties is a fairly recent development, and this is especially true for the Double Eagle series. Nowadays, however, collectors are not so put off by the high base value of these coins, so seeking them by varieties is becoming more popular.

Throughout the entire Coronet Liberty series of 1850-1907 dates were punched into each working die by hand. Numerous repunched date (RPD) and misplaced date (MPD) varieties are known already. Some are these are included in the Cherrypickers’ Guide, but there are still plenty that have not been added, and these may be found at NGC’s VarietyPlus®. They are identified by VP numbers and cross-referenced to other identifiers whenever applicable.

The 1851 VP-001 Philadelphia Mint variety features its entire date repunched slightly counter-clockwise from the first impression, with duplicate numerals seen just below the final punching. It’s not listed in Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, and with a mintage of more than two million pieces you have a good chance of cherrypicking one for yourself.

An even more obvious RPD is known for 1854(P). VP-001 has the final date rotated clockwise to the lighter first impression in such a way that the earlier numerals are seen below numeral 1 and above numerals 54. The Cherrypickers’ Guide illustrates a nice RPD for 1896(P) as FS-301, but few collectors realize that there are two additional such varieties that NGC cataloged as VP-002 and VP-003. The first of these is the more obvious, with numerals 896 clearly duplicated just below the final date impression.

1851 $20 VP-001
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1854(P) $20 VP-001
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1896 $20 VP-002
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The San Francisco Mint provided collectors with back-to-back MPD varieties in 1873 and 1874. On the former duplicate numerals are seen embedded within the denticles and centered below numerals 18 of the date. For the 1874 edition the distinctive curves of the tops of numerals 87 are found within the denticles centered below their properly-placed counterparts. Neither variety is included in Breen’s Encyclopedia or the Cherrypickers’ Guide, though they’re good candidates for future editions of the latter work.

1873-S $20 VP-001
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1874-S $20 VP-001
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Repunched mintmark (RPM) varieties are likewise found within the Coronet Liberty Double Eagle series. The best known of these is 1891-S/S (FS-501), but a very similar variety for 1882-S presently appears only at the VarietyPlus® website. VP-001 reveals the bottom loop and serif of an earlier letter S hanging below the final impression in a position similar to that of the 1891-S variety.

1882-S $20 VP-001
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The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coined 1907-33 does not offer RPD varieties, as the dates were sculpted into the 1907 obverse model and then updated through hand engraving on the master dies for each subsequent date; they may vary a bit in style from one year to the next but never within a single year.

RPMs, however, are found, especially on the 1909-S entry. The Cherrypickers’ Guide lists one die as FS-501, yet three more have been identified by NGC and numbered with its own system. VP-002 and VP-003 were subsequently included in Roger Burdette’s masterful book on this coin series, Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles as Illustrated by the Morse & Duckor Collections. That work uses HA numbers, a reference to publisher Heritage Auctions. NGC identified VP-004 after that book’s 2018 publication.

1909-S $20 VP-002
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1909-S $20 VP-003
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1909-S $20 VP-004
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Several doubled-die obverse (DDO) and doubled-die reverse (DDR) varieties are known within the Saint-Gaudens series. Most have found their way into the Cherrypickers’ Guide, but a few are not included. Some of these others were first cataloged by NGC and then reprised in the Burdette book, 1922(P) VP-002 being a good example. It’s actually a tripled-die obverse. These lesser-known varieties offer an excellent opportunity for the keen-eyed collector.

1909-S $20 VP-003
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David W. Lange's column, “USA Coin Album,” appears monthly in The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

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