1899-S $20 MS68 NGC. Ex: Eliasberg. Aside from coins ...
Essentially Perfect MS68 1899-S Double Eagle, Purchased Directly From The Mint By George Clapp In 18991899-S $20 MS68 NGC. Ex: Eliasberg. Aside from coins struck in the past fifty years, it is rare that one finds a 100+ year old coin, especially a high denomination gold coin, that can trace its pedigree directly back to the Mint. The great copper collector and general U.S. coin enthusiast George Clapp visited the Mint in 1899 and purchased at least one complete set of all the denominations struck in San Francisco that year. This is one of those coins, and to our knowledge it has only been in two major collections since that time with an unknown number of owners since 1982. George Clapp sold his collection of gold coins to Louis Eliasberg in July 1942 via Stack's for more than $100,000. It was this transaction between Clapp and Eliasberg that formed the foundation of what was to be the only complete set of United States coins ever assembled.
We will never be certain what compelled George Clapp to visit the Mint in 1899 and purchase coins of that year at face value, but one thing that may have figured into his purchases is the uniformly high visual appeal of the coins produced in that Mint in that particular year. Excellent luster characteristics are known through all the denominations; however, what is also an unfortunate characteristic are the heavily abraded surfaces usually seen on 1899-S coins. This, of course, is not a factor on this particular piece as it shows only the slightest luster graze on the obverse. There is also an abrasion on the obverse rim between stars 1 and 2. The reverse is essentially perfect. The striking details are fully defined in all areas with complete obverse and reverse star radials and full hair detail. The mint luster is softly frosted and close examination shows evidence of very light die striations on the obverse. These have almost faded out on this particular coin but can still be seen above the coronet. Which brings up another interesting point. Even though the Bowers catalog of the Eliasberg gold coins (1982) states that this coin was "a 'specimen' piece saved at the time of issue," there is no evidence that anything special or out of the ordinary was done to produce this coin, except perhaps double striking it. A magnifier reveals that this piece was struck from a later state of the dies as there are several minute die cracks around the obverse rim. Curiously, there is also a P-shaped bit of thread that was struck into the coin just above Liberty's eye. The coin also displays a subtle intermingling of rose and lilac coloration, which is not apparent to the casual viewer but is immediately visible with a magnifier.
In the entire series of Liberty double eagles, including all three types, there are only two coins that have been certified as MS68, and both are 1899-S. It is certainly tempting to say this second piece represents a resubmission of this particular coin, but we are not sure that is the case. Another Superb Gem 1899-S double eagle is also known, from the Dallas Bank Collection. That coin is nearly perfect also and may well have been certified as MS68 as well. Nevertheless, one is unlikely to ever encounter another Liberty double eagle that is as perfectly preserved, has the mint luster, and overall eye appeal of this amazing coin.
Purchased directly from the San Francisco Mint by John Clapp, November, 1899 at face value; John H. Clapp Collection, 1942, to Louis Eliasberg; Eliasberg Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/82), lot 1002. (#9036) (Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 26CN, PCGS# 9036)
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