1861-S $20 Paquet AU58 NGC....
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Recovered From the S.S. Republic
That such a rare and high-grade coin could be recovered aboard the S.S. Republic must be laid at the feet of equal parts distant tragedy and modern-day serendipity.
German emigré Anthony C. Paquet came to the United States in 1848 and had done contract work for the Mint from his engraving shop in New York City before he was hired as an assistant engraver on October 20, 1857. Although he worked on letter punches and various pattern issues, his work on circulating U.S. coinage proved remarkably short-lived. One example was the modified obverse for the 1859 Seated Liberty half dime, the so-called Transitional patterns listed in the Guide Book. The modified Paquet Reverse for the double eagles was similarly short-lived -- purportedly because the rim was too narrow according to Philadelphia Mint officials, who promptly notified the San Francisco Mint by telegraph to discontinue the issue. Despite the claimed unsuitability of the design, 19,250 Paquet Reverse double eagles had been struck before the message was delivered from the telegraph terminus in St. Joseph, Missouri, to the West Coast mint. Those pieces were put into circulation and promptly forgotten about. The issue is unknown in Uncirculated condition, although NGC and PCGS combined have certified a few dozen examples in the various AU grades.
Acquisition of any Paquet Reverse double eagle can be considered a badge of accomplishment for advanced numismatists. The issue is one that slipped quietly into the channels of commerce with no contemporary numismatic notice. The 1937 discovery of a Paquet Reverse 1861-S under an old barn in Hull, Texas, reignited interest in the variety, but it would be late 1959 before Walter Breen would publish correct information on the issue in Numismatic Scrapbook magazine in the general form we know it today.
The S.S. Republic, like the S.S. Brother Jonathan, sank in 1865, although in this case in the Atlantic Ocean off the Georgia coast, sailing from New York for New Orleans with a reported $400,000 (face value) in gold coins. (Note that in the four years after its production, this Paquet Reverse coin had managed to work its way from San Francisco all the way to the East to find itself aboard the doomed vessel.) Recoveries in 2003-2004 yielded a wide variety of eagles and double eagles, along with several hundred silver Seated half dollars.
Even among the many treasures of the Galt's Gulch Collection, this high-grade Paquet Reverse 1861-S stands out equally for its rarity and eminent collectibility. Only a trace of high-point wear appears on the obverse, on Liberty's eyebrow and the hair just above, separating this piece from Mint State. A few small marks on the cheek are undisturbing but among the few signs of contact worth mentioning, along with a small field scrape just below the forward bust truncation. The reverse shows two small digs in the field, above the W in TWENTY and left of the C in AMERICA, also minor. Generous luster proceeds from surfaces that display moderate orange-gold coloration prevailing and splendid eye appeal overall. The strike is well-executed, showing no mentionable weakness, allowing the curious Paquet font on the reverse to be seen to full advantage. Comes with S.S. Republic presentation box and DVD. Census: 9 in 58, 0 finer (10/11).
From The Galt's Gulch Collection.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 269L, PCGS# 8936)
Service and Handling Description: Coins & Currency (view shipping information)