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Description

Impressive MS64 1920-S Ten Dollar
One of the Finest Pieces Known

1920-S $10 MS64 NGC. In a Coin World article from seven years ago, Randy Camper makes an interesting observation about the ten dollar Indian series:

"Indian Head eagles dated 1916 and earlier are all found today in almost the exact proportion to their original mintage. These coins were widely distributed to banks at the time they were struck and saw active use in the channels of commerce. By comparison, the availability of coins dated after 1916 is not always proportional to their mintage."

Using that passage as the theme sentence for the 1920-S ten, this issue is much easier to understand in terms of availability (or lack thereof) and price. The mintage was 126,500 pieces. Neither high nor low for the series. The lowest mintages were recorded for the 1911-D with only 30,100 pieces produced and the 1908-S with only 59,850 pieces coined. But both of these were struck prior to the 1916 cutoff mentioned in the above passage, and they are scarce but occasionally obtainable (the 1908-S more so). The rarest issue in the series is the 1933. The mintage for that year was an unimpressive 312,500 pieces. Second rarest is the 1920-S, followed closely by the 1930-S. With substantial mintages for each of these three later issues, the only answer to their rarity is melting. While we know large-scale meltings occurred in the mid-1930s after President Roosevelt's Gold Recall Act of 1933, no records were kept of the dates and mintmarks melted. Indeed, why would such records be kept?
The best estimate of the number of 1920-S tens that remain today is around 100 pieces. A substantial number (probably more than half) of the known coins are circulated, which indicates that the cutoff was not quite as neat as the 1916 date given above. Instead, the rarity of the 1920-S is based on two factors. First, the vast majority of the number minted was melted. Second, of those that were designated for distribution to banks in 1920-1921, most were indeed circulated. A few pieces that were not actually spent in the channels of commerce were set aside. But it appears that only accounts for 40-50 pieces.
The 1920-S is also a major condition rarity. A couple of dozen pieces are known in the lower grades of Uncirculated, and then the availability begins to rapidly thin out. Only nine pieces have been certified by both of the major services in MS64 (probably minus a couple of resubmissions). In Gem grade, only five have been graded, two in MS66, and the finest known is MS67 (the Duckor coin).
The surfaces of this piece show thick mint frost, the finish that is almost universally seen on the 1920-S, although Akers says several are known with satiny luster. The color is rich reddish-gold with little variation in hue. Sharply defined overall, only slight softness is seen at the top of the eagle's wing and on TY in LIBERTY. This latter weakness is almost diagnostic, but the Thaine Price coin showed no softness on the banner. Lightly abraded, the only noticeable surface flaw is a shallow vertical luster scrape above the eagle's left (facing) wing. A rare opportunity to acquire this key to the ten dollar Indian series.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 28H8, PCGS# 8881)

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Auction Info

Auction Dates
January, 2009
7th-11th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
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The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens as Illustrated by the Morse and Duckor Collections
Revised Edition by James L. Halperin, Mark R. Borckardt, Mark Van Winkle, Jon Amato, and Gregory J. Rohan, with special contributor David W. Akers

The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is an issue-by-issue examination of these two artistically inspired series of gold coins. Each date and mintmark is reviewed with up-to-date information, much of which has never been previously published. The book is based on two extraordinary collections: The Phillip H. Morse collection and the Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor collection.

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