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MS64 1863-S Double Eagle, Small S
Breen-7217, From the S.S. Republic
Tied for Finest Certified

1863-S $20 MS64 NGC. Breen-7217. Small S. Ex: S.S. Republic. This superlative 1863-S double eagle from the Galt's Gulch Collection is the single finest certified and only MS64 example of the issue we have ever had the privilege to offer, and it also has the added NGC Star for superior eye appeal. The single finest we had previously offered was an MS63 NGC example more than five years ago in our Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/2006), lot 4067, another Small S example recovered from the S.S. Republic that brought $27,600. All of our other offerings have been in MS62 or lower grades. This MS64 example is tied with another MS64 at NGC as the finest graded there, and together with two MS64 submissions at PCGS, those four are the only MS64s certified (10/11).
The S.S. Brother Jonathan and S.S. Republic both sank in 1865, the former in the Pacific, the latter in the Atlantic, and both shipwrecks carried high-grade examples of the 1863-S, 1864-S, and (especially) the 1865-S among their inundated treasures. Two years after their mintage, of course, there were a quite a few circulated specimens of the 1863-S, but some Mint State coins were found as well. The NGC Census Report attributes 172 examples of the 1863-S to the S.S. Republic and 23 examples to the Brother Jonathan in all grades. Of those, a total of 47 Mint State pieces came from the S.S. Republic and 13 from the Brother Jonathan.
Due to the shipwreck recoveries the 1863-S double eagle was, of course, in earlier days much rarer in Mint State than it is today. Despite the mintage approaching 1 million coins, these large gold pieces were workhorses of commerce in San Francisco and throughout the West. Both Philadelphia and San Francisco concentrated on double eagle coinage in 1863, the midpoint of the Civil War, at the expense of other gold denominations, most of which were produced in only token quantities (and proof-only format, in the case of the 1863 Philadelphia quarter eagle).
Writing in his 1988 Complete Encyclopedia, well before the discoveries of any shipwreck treasures containing the 1863-S, Walter Breen wrote that both the Medium S (Breen-7216) and Small S (Breen-7217) were "very scarce" and "rare," respectively, regardless of condition, but that both varieties were "ex. rare UNC." Now, of course, the shipwreck recoveries have thrown all those earlier rarity estimates into a cocked hat. This near-Gem Star-designated example is still conditionally quite rare, of course, but it appears that the Small S coins in our Permanent Auction Archives outnumber the Large S pieces by a factor of about two to one.
The eye appeal of the present piece is blatant even to the most casual observer, and if this piece were in a Gem-certified holder, one would be unsurprised. Warm orange-yellow color and a bold strike prevail throughout. The obverse is essentially free of distracting contact, save for a small patch of scrapes near star 4. A few tiny luster grazes appear on the reverse but are equally minor. Another standout S-mint Type One double eagle in this great collection of historic, mostly shipwreck coins. Offered with S.S. Republic presentation box and DVD.
From The Galt's Gulch Collection.(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 269R, PCGS# 8940)

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Auction Dates
January, 2012
3rd-8th Tuesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 5
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 1,063

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