Go For The Gold This Fall –$20 Saints Are Great Value!

Posted on 10/13/2016

Heritage Dallas sale rakes in $8.5 Million; Fresh top grade material captures record prices!

Action in the metal market has always translated into heightened demand. As a great trader told me long ago, “There is nothing as powerful as movement, any movement of consequence up or down. It is stagnation which leaves potential buyers on the sidelines.”

This sentiment rings especially true this October. Silver, the noble white metal, has given up about 10% over the last month as some profit taking was overdue. With that said there are decidedly more buyers for 90% US silver coins than sellers. As one dealer addressed, “Customers like a perceived bargain. Even though silver was trading at the same level about 4 months ago (with spot then surging and topping the $20 benchmark in August) it appears a good time to buy.”

I agree dollar cost averaging is a great technique. No one will ever be sure where the top of a given market will be; conversely the same is true on the down side. Gold has also pulled back about 6% during the same cycle surrendering about $85. Markets do tend to vacillate more erratically especially prior to presidential elections. Pundits, market mongers, everyone has a theory as to which candidate would mean and do what for the long-term economy. While demand has remained constant for bullion related and semi-numismatic gold items, in the present market it is amazing to me that the wildly popular $20 St. Gaudens type coins are trading in such a narrow range.

Right now there is less than a $200 spread between NGC MS 62 and MS 65 $20 Saints! Way back in my time machine when I first professionally started tracking these trends, the price was slightly more than double the dealer “ask” within the same MS 62 to MS 65 grade! To be precise it was $555 “ask” for MS 62 and $1,170 “ask” for MS 65 (this was based on $429 gold spot).

It has been said before that the premium over melt for these coins is extremely low. As I write this, melt value for a $20 Saint is $1,220. Currently sell offers for spot free MS 64 Saints on trading networks are as low as $1,400 per coin which is just 15% over melt value!! Yet back in the dark ages, some 12 years ago to make the point, the same MS 64 coin was commanding a whopping 77% over melt! The coveted full gem MS 65 designees were bringing 182% over melt compared to just 34% over melt today for the same coins!

Now as spot prices have escalated the premiums have all but eroded away to the point where it behooves seasoned collectors or new hobbyists to salt way a few high grade $20 Saint type coins. I heartily recommend MS 65s if the budget allows. For the newcomer you will most likely acquire the 1924 as your first type coin. A quick scan of the NGC Census will explain why. Of the nearly 1 million $20 Saints graded by NGC approximately a third of the series total is accounted for by the 1924 reporting in with over 313,172 in all grades. Not surprising 37% of all coins in the series graded as MS 65 are also dated 1924.

If you included the No Motto 1908 and 1927 with the 1924, this trio accounts for 62% of all coins appearing on the $20 St. Gaudens census. While the No Motto 1908 or 1927 are “much scarcer” compared to the 1924, according to the NGC Census you can acquire some much better coins as “type” for just a few hundred dollars more. They will still run well below the 182% over melt from my October 2004 data!

Coins such as the 1911-D, 1914-S, 1923-D are all great candidates and can be secured for about $1,900 in MS 65. You can even take a look at the 1914-D in the same grade for about $400 more! This quartet accounts for just 6.1% of the entire $20 St. Gaudens census in MS 65. A double eagle coin such as the 1914-S in Gem MS 65 will equate to less than 58% over spot! Or 20% less than a common 1924 graded MS 64 would have cost you a dozen years ago. All things considered this is a tremendous value.

For the advanced collector or beginner with a nice stipend, this is a great time to tackle the ever popular and beautiful series. While completing a full set of $20 Saints is a virtually impossible endeavor due to high priced rarities and the next to impossible 1933, there is an entry tier to entice one. In this tier numerous desirable MS 62 to MS 65 coins can be acquired over time and not break the bank. Do your due diligence and check auction records and upcoming sales. You can easily find over 20 St. Gaudens double eagles in the $2,000 and under price point.

As I am writing this my mind is racing back to when I was on the prowl for my first $20 Saint. I was 15 and bought a lovely Mint State No Motto 1907 for the princely sum of $77! Yeah I know that dates me but what a thrill! I can still remember saving up for that day. It took several months to get that amount of cash during the summer of 1972. It was my goal to trade some coins and work odd jobs to accumulate the necessary funding for this enterprise. Prices were less volatile back then and a few weeks or month or two wasn’t going to change the status quo. Usually any changes would be modest and would come after the new installment of the Red Book was released. I had observed several possible coins for my collection at a local show each trading between $75 to $80 ranges earlier that year but didn’t have the money to make the move.

I recall that a few days before the big day came I had asked my dad to take me to yet another coin show. This venue I explained was a bit larger and I was sure I would find a $20 Saint. Dad knew that was all I was talking about since school let out in June. So my father capitulated and took me to yet another Saturday show, this one in Manchester, New Hampshire.

When I entered the convention hall the floor was much busier and there was much more buzz than at the local shows that I had attended previously. There must have been 100 tables or so. What atmosphere! My heart was beating quite rapidly as I scanned the floor and took things in.

I soon became acclimated to my surroundings. Perhaps I should have taken my time, but as I was strolling the floor at the third table I spotted “the coin”. It was a $20 Saint housed in a black plastic Capital holder. I saw it gleaming at me and beckoning me to the dealer’s showcase. I asked to look at her and the dealer obliged. It was the inaugural 1907 issue. I pulled out my magnifier, but never really closely examined the coin as I was so excited that the double eagle was in my hand. I asked the price and after the dealer quoted me $77 he probably thought that the kid who had asked him was just curious. But almost as the price was uttered from his lips I pulled out my wad of four $20 bills and gave the dealer the cash. He was a bit surprised but said thanks and gave me my $3 change. The coin, yes I still have it, is the only $20 gold coin in my personal collection. Over the nearly 45 years I have owned this coin she has acquired an even more lustrous and lovely yellow honey gold coloring. I have had a few others in my lifetime but they have been either sold or traded away but not this one. Hey the 1907 is a great stating point being the first year of issue as well as the no motto variety.

As we rapidly wind down 2016, there is still much defining action in the market. The just concluded Heritage Dallas US Coin Signature Auction (October 3-5) realized a solid $8.5 million. A varied and quality sale featuring desirable key dates and Type material, many in stellar fresh condition, easily captured record results. A few of the NGC standouts include the following:

1938-S Arkansas Commemorative Half Dollar NGC MS 67 $11,163
A popular and scarce issue whose original production was limited at 3,150 pieces. This ultra gem is tied at the top of the NGC Census. Spectacularly preserved and original this is a record price for NGC MS 67 racing to over 30% above the current NGC Price Guide valuation.

1878-CC Morgan Dollar NGC MS 66 PL $12,925
This always popular first year Carson City issue is also tied for the finest known within PL designation. Boldly struck and minimal marks scattered amongst the defining prooflike surface no doubt helped propel this coin to a record price some 40% above the current NGC Price Guide valuation!

1926 Quarter Eagle American Sesquicentennial NGC MS 65 $3,055
Reporting in with a mintage of 45,793 this is a relatively plentiful final issue within the gold classic commem series. Although over 1,100 coins reside in MS 65 this coin has glorious eye appeal, lovely gold and orange coloring which sets it apart from many of her contemporaries.

1910-S $5 Indian Head NGC MS 62 $22,325
A truly scarcer issue especially in higher Mint State grades. Only 34 coins grade higher than this auction specimen according to the NGC Census, with the loftiest grade being in MS 65. Based on the coins dynamic appearance and bold strike, it is fairly certain that this is a prime example for an upgrade or two.

Mark this date on your calendar friends, November 17 at high noon for the final installment of the 2016 Golden Centennial tribute series—the 2016 gold Walking Liberty Half goes on sale!

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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