1912 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, PR66+
1912 $20 PR66+ PCGS Secure. CAC. As the various proof
finishes offered by the Mint in the early 20th century became
increasingly unpopular with the public, production totals dropped
accordingly. Only 74 proof Saint-Gaudens double eagles were struck
in 1912, using an innovative sandblast process in place of the
earlier matte and Roman finishes. The sandblast finish created an
even mustard coloration over both sides of the coin, with tiny
sparkling facets that can be observed with magnification. This
sparkle gives the surfaces a vibrant "life" to balance the deep
monochromatic coloration. The design was slightly modified in 1912,
adding two stars to the obverse to signify the admission of Arizona
and New Mexico to the Union. Unfortunately, the sandblast finish
proved just as unpopular as the matte and Roman proofs of earlier
years. It is likely that some of the coins went unsold and were
melted after the end of the year.
Only 74 Pieces Struck
Only One Finer Example at PCGS
The 1912 proof double eagle was especially elusive in the first half of the 20th century. There was no example of this issue in the exceptional collection of B.W. Smith when that gathering was offered by B. Max Mehl in 1915, even though he had a specimen of both the 1911 and 1913 proofs. When he offered a 1912 proof in lot 2359 of the William Forrester Dunham Collection in June of 1941, Mehl noted:
"1912 Sandblast proof. Rare. For some reason this date seems to be more scarce and difficult to obtain than any of the other dates of this series."
The lot realized $75, considerably more than any of the other proof Saints in the sale (Dunham had a complete run of these from 1908 to 1914). When David Akers did his seminal work on gold coins in the 1970s he studied 443 auction catalogs for his book on double eagles, going back to the John Story Jenks Collection (Henry Chapman, 12/1921). Akers found only 17 appearances of the 1912 proof in all those catalogs, which were deliberately selected for their extensive gold coin offerings, with the Dunham coin being the earliest citation in his survey.
Although the 1912 proof is definitely a rare coin in an absolute sense, with an estimated surviving population of 45-55 examples in all grades, present-day numismatists do not believe it is any more difficult to locate than the other proof Saints, except the 1908 , which is the most common issue. Apparently, many examples of the 1912 were impounded in long-term collections like those of Virgil Brand, Colonel E.H.R. Green, and John M. Clapp, and did not surface until much later, accounting for their elusive nature in pre-1940 offerings. The 1912 appears at auction two or three times per year in recent times. Recent sales include the magnificent PR67 PCGS coin in lot 5936 of the Chicago Signature (Heritage, 8/2013), which realized $211,500.
The present coin is a spectacular high-end Premium Gem, with razor-sharp definition on all design elements and virtually pristine mustard colored surfaces. A tiny alloy spot inside the loop of the D in DOLLAR is the only pedigree marker we can find. The artistic sandblast finish gives the coin a classic medallic appearance and the CAC certification confirms the quality and appeal of this specimen. Only one finer example has been certified at PCGS so Registry Set enthusiasts should bid accordingly. Population: 8 in 66 (1 in 66+), 1 finer (8/13).
From A 1912 Gold Proof Set Acquired Directly From The Mint.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GZ, PCGS# 9209)
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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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