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Finest Known Example of the Extremely Rare 1920-S Double Eagle, MS66 PCGS

1920-S $20 MS66 PCGS. Eliasberg/Duckor. Because of the unparalleled quality of this extremely rare Saint-Gaudens twenty, we have to wonder if this piece was obtained directly from the mint and was one of the coins used by members of the Assay Commission. There is no direct evidence to indicate this, but Roger Burdette uncovered a series of letters from Dr. Thomas Louis Comparette to George Godard, Librarian of Connecticut and the person responsible for updating the Joseph P. Mitchelson Collection that had been donated to the state in 1911. Comparette actually admitted his actions were "irregular" and today we would probably say they amounted to insider trading. In a letter to Godard dated March 1, 1921, Comparette wrote: "Here are two eagles struck at the San Francisco mint in 1920. With some difficulty I was able to secure four specimens from the pyx, of which I send you these, one for your collection, the other for [Connecticut State] Senator Hall..." A year earlier Comparette wrote to Godard about double eagles: "Herewith I am sending you a [1920] Twenty Dollar gold piece, just struck. It is for the Reserve Funds and not to be issued for general circulation, and the securing of the specimens for others than the government collection is probably irregular, so please do not let the fact become public knowledge. For others will demand specimens as soon as they learn that a few are out."
We do not know and cannot know 85 years after the fact if this coin was a part of Comparette's "irregular" dealings with Godard, and possibly others. However, it seems a reasonable speculation given the extraordinary condition of the coin and its presence in the Eliasberg Collection, who purchased John Clapp's collection intact in 1942, and Clapp obtained many turn-of-the-century coins directly from the mint. Did Clapp also have access to Comparette and Assay Commission coins?
The 1920-S is a rarely-seen double eagle. When found, most examples are in the AU58-MS62 grade range with very few finer. This is the finest example known and only three Gems have been certified. The orange-gold coloration seen over each side is accented by an occasional streak of lilac that adds considerable visual appeal. Softly defined, as almost always seen on 1920-S twenties, there are no obvious marks that could be used as pedigree identifiers on this magnificent coin.
Ex: Eliasberg (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/82), lot 1051, where it brought $30,800; purchased by Dr. Stephen Duckor; sold by Dr. Duckor 3/00; and subsequently purchased by Phillip Morse.
From The Phillip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage.(#9171)(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 26FZ, PCGS# 9171)

View all of [The Morse Collection: Palm Beach, November 3, 2005 ]

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Auction Dates
November, 2005
3rd Thursday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 3,293

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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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