Counterfeit Detection: 1927-D Double Eagle

Posted on 11/1/2020

A phony mintmark makes this gold coin appear to be worth millions.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation®

The 1927-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle (gold $20) is considered the rarest regular-issue United States coin of the 20th century. Although it has a mintage of 180,000 pieces, most examples were lost to the massive meltings of the 1930s. Nearly all known survivors are Mint State (MS), with the majority graded in the MS-65 to -66 range.

It’s likely that most were obtained directly from the Denver Mint and never circulated, so only those few specimens survive today. An MS-66 example is listed in the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) Price Guide at over $2 million. NGC recently received a purported example of this extremely rare issue for grading.

1927-D Saint-Gaudens $20 with an added mintmark.
Click images to enlarge.

Of course, due to the extreme rarity of this double eagle, each one submitted to NGC is examined extremely closely, especially when it does not seem to match any other known pieces. Any time that a small difference makes a coin worth almost 1,000 times more than a more-common issue, those small details must be thoroughly examined for authenticity.

In this case, the obvious concern is whether a mintmark has been added. That is exactly what happened here, as a tiny “D” (denoting the Denver Mint) has merely been glued on.

The “D” mintmark, located on the obversedirectly above the date, was glued onto the coin’s surface. Note the seam along the bottom edge and areas of discoloration.
Click image to enlarge.

As you can see on the close up shown here, there appears to be a small seam around the bottom of the mintmark, and some discoloration also is present. The latter is caused by the glue used to affix the letter to the coin’s surface.

Applying just one drop of acetone to this phony “D” likely would cause it to fall right off! This type of alteration is well worth it for the forger, as they were able to buy a 1927(P) Saint-Gaudens double eagle for a couple thousand dollars, plane the D off a common-date Denver example, and appear to add over $2 million in value to the Philadelphia piece.

This coin was submitted under NGC’s “Early Bird Tier” with a value of only $3,000, so it is likely that the submitter assumed it was altered and wanted to confirm. Whenever you are looking to purchase a key-date coin (especially one that’s potentially worth millions), it is important to only purchase a specimen that has been authenticated and graded by a third-party service like NGC.

Reproduced with permission from the July 2020 edition ofThe Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

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