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1911 $20 PR68 NGC. The matte proofing process was an import from Europe, and it certainly epitomized the word "foreign" to ...

2005 December Dallas Signature Auction #398

 
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Auction Ended On: Dec 13, 2005
Item Activity: 9 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Dallas, TX
Description:
Nearly Perfect PR68 1911 Double Eagle
1911 $20 PR68 NGC. The matte proofing process was an import from Europe, and it certainly epitomized the word "foreign" to collectors of American coins. American collectors never really "got it." Mint employees could see how the process worked and appreciated the multi-faceted sandblast finish imparted to the coins, but that appreciation never translated to the collecting public. The Mint did attempt to placate collectors for two years, in 1909 and 1910, by striking the brighter "Roman Finish" proofs, but officials abandoned that experiment in 1911 and returned to the proofing process that was previously used in 1908. The sandblast process continued through 1915, but diminishing mintages told the story: the public was not going to buy something new that they didn't want. Even today, matte proof coins are an acquired taste. Most beginning collectors do not appreciate them, just as most beginning collectors do not like toned coins. In general, as collectors' interests and appreciation for coins mature, they come to understand the matte proofing process just as they understand and appreciate the original "skin" on a coin.
The problem with matte proofs is the fragile nature of their surfaces. Just as it is a different process from a highly polished, deeply reflective proof, the source of problems on matte proofs is different. What would be seen as a contact mark on a reflective proof shows up as a shiny spot on a matte proof. The lack of such shiny spots indicates the technical preservation of matte proofs, and almost always also indicates the eye appeal and grade of such coins.
This is a magnificently preserved piece of matte proof gold. Curiously enough, the only coin we have seen that challenges the preservation and eye appeal of this piece is the other PR68 that was in the first offering of Phillip Morse's collection of Saint-Gaudens coins. The surfaces are essentially perfect. We do not see any shiny spots, contact marks, or even alloy spots on this splendidly preserved proof. This is a coin that truly must be seen to be fully appreciated. The NCG Census Report shows three pieces certified at this lofty level, but we have to wonder if that third piece actually exists or if it represents a resubmission of this or the other Morse coin in hopes of a PR69 grade. If any coin is a candidate for such a grade, this is it.
From The Phillip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage, Part Two.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 26GY, PCGS# 9208)

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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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