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Condition Census 1866-S No Motto
Liberty Double Eagle, Lustrous AU58

1866-S $20 No Motto AU58 PCGS. The year 1866 saw the addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to the double eagle denomination, a result of the upsurge in religious belief during the Civil War. Although the two cent piece had featured the motto since its debut in 1864, it would be two more years before the double eagle design would be revised to include it. It must be remembered that all die production for the branch mints, until the latter part of the 20th century, was done at the Mother Mint in Philadelphia. So it was no problem to incorporate the reference to God on P-mint dies; San Francisco, on the other hand, had to either wait for new dies, or reuse an old reverse die. According to Breen's Complete Encyclopedia, six 1866-dated obverses were shipped from Philadelphia in November 1865, but the new reverses bearing IN GOD WE TRUST were not shipped until March 1866. Meanwhile, in February 1866, a mintage of double eagles was accomplished with the obverse dies paired with reused leftover dies from 1865.
The mintage of No Motto 1866-S double eagles has been estimated at 120,000 coins. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth commented in 2006 concerning the issue:

"The Without Motto [compared to the 1866-S With Motto] is by far the rarest. It is actually one of the rarest double eagles of this type. Nearly all of the coins seen of the date are very well worn or heavily bagmarked. There are probably no more than 200 examples known in all grades. Extremely Fine pieces are rare, and in About Uncirculated the issue is considered a major rarity. Even by today's more liberal standards, there are no known Mint State examples. Both the Bass and Smithsonian specimens grade just Extremely Fine."

Since those words were published, there have been a few pieces certified in the lower Mint State grades, although AU58 examples such as the present coin are tied for the lower end of the Condition Census. Specifically, NGC has certified three examples, one each in MS60, MS61, and MS62. PCGS has graded one single coin MS60. As always, those data are subject to duplications and crossovers.
Heritage since 2006 has handled three examples, all certified AU58 PCGS, in its Signature Auctions:
--Central States, 4/2006, lot 4217, which realized $172,500;
--2007 FUN, 1/2007, lot 3717, which brought $195,500; and
--2008 FUN, 1/2008, lot 3317, which garnered $149,500.
The present piece, as far as we can determine from photographs in our Permanent Auction Archives, duplicates none of the above pieces and thus becomes the fourth of the five examples certified in AU58 at PCGS (and again, that service has only certified a single coin finer, in MS60). As expected for a lightly circulated gold coin from the Old West, the surfaces show some abrasions. The most mentionable are a pair in front of Liberty's nose, in the obverse field between star 2 and Liberty's mouth, between stars 12 and 13, and a mark below the eagle's right (facing) wing. Those marks will serve as pedigree identifiers. In keeping with the AU58 grade, there is almost complete mint luster found throughout both sides, and the light, attractive reddish patina further enhances the appeal.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 269W, PCGS# 8945)

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Auction Dates
May, 2009
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