Impressive PR66 1911 Double Eagle
1911 $20 PR66 NGC. A hundred years ago the Mint was
considerably more responsive to collectors and sensitive to public
criticism than today. It is difficult to imagine how a small group
of present-day collectors could significantly influence how proof
coins are manufactured. But in 1910 highly influential collector,
William H. Woodin, wrote Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Abram
Piatt Andrew his opinion of the "Roman" Finish gold coins made in
1909 and 1910:
First Year of Issue After Resumption of the Matte Proof Process
"If any collectors objected to this finish [the sandblast finish from 1908] it was because they did not understand that the St. Gaudens designs are not adapted to the production of polished proofs. The present proofs of the St. Gaudens designs and of the Pratt designs are simply rotten. I know of no other way to express it ... "
Woodin was one of the foremost collectors in the early 20th century: he co-authored the first reference on patterns, and 23 years later was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by Franklin Roosevelt. His influence was extensive in both Mint affairs and numismatic circles. Once he expressed his dissatisfaction with the "Roman" finish of 1909-1910, Andrew asked Woodin to become the point man to see if the ANA would pass a resolution in favor of reverting to the sandblast finish of 1908. Woodin took on the task, but first warned the newly appointed Mint director that "I can get quite a number of letters favoring dull proof coins from collectors, but I could not get all collectors to agree on anything. They are a very peculiar class of people as a rule, and you would be amused if you could hear some of their ideas."
The resolution recommending a switch back to sandblast proofs passed at the ANA convention on September 7, 1910. Andrew wrote to Woodin later that month: "I have referred your correspondence with regard to the matter to the Director, and I have little doubt that he will agree with the desires of the American Numismatic Association."
When one looks at the mintages of proof twenties, it is difficult to reach the same conclusion that Woodin and the ANA came to in 1910. By all accounts, the 1908 sandblast proofs were unpopular. Undoubtedly, collectors did not suspect such a finish when they ordered their gold proof sets and 101 proofs were sold that year. In 1909, the first of only two years for the Roman finish only 67 proof twenties were sold. Collectors likely thought they would receive a sandblast finish coin again in 1909, thus the low number. In 1910 collectors bought 167 proofs, the highest number in the series. One might reasonably conclude that collectors did indeed like the untreated finish. In 1911 the production dropped to 100 proofs, and for the rest of the series numbers were far below 100.
Over the years experts have estimated that survivors number from 20 to 25 examples. Based on those we have seen coupled with data from the major grading services, we believe that somewhere between 40 and 50 proof 1911s survive. As a rule, the texture of 1911 proof twenties is similar to that from 1908, with coarser granules over the matte surface. Generally, however, the color is not as dark as seen on the first year of issue. On this piece, the granularity is virtually identical to the 1908, and the color is more reddish-tinted than the typical olive or khaki on the 1908. A few shiny spots are seen over the high points on each side, but the only notable contact mark is on the long ray below the eagle's beak.
From The Ralph P. Muller Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GY, PCGS# 9208)
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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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