Gem 1924-S Double Eagle
1924-S $20 MS65 PCGS Secure. CAC. Ex: Duckor/Morse. To
numismatists of the 1940s, the 1924-S was the rarest and most
valuable date of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. The 1924-S
Saint was more difficult to locate than such great modern rarities
as the 1927-D, the Ultra High Relief, and the currently
uncollectible 1933. B. Max Mehl, the leading numismatic auctioneer
of that era, gave his thoughts about the rarity of this issue in
lot 879 of the Charles W. Green Collection (Mehl, 4/1949):
Prized Condition Rarity
Incredible Quality and Eye Appeal
"1924 $20.00 Gold, San Francisco Mint. This coin has never been in circulation, but it does show slight evidence of having been handled with other coins. It has practically full mint luster, especially on reverse. Of excessive rarity. This is the first specimen to be offered at auction. Such great collections as the Bell and 'World's Greatest' did not have a specimen. This is only the second specimen that has passed through my hands. The other one was the one in the Berenstein Collection which I purchased some two years ago. I sold the 1924 S at private Sale for $1,600.00. I understand that as much as $3,000 was asked for a single specimen. To the best of my knowledge, only three specimens are known to exist."
The lot, which sounds like a lower Mint State offering, realized $1,000, a hefty price for any coin at the time. Today we know that Mehl was incorrect in his belief that the 1924-S had never been offered before, as Abe Kosoff had cataloged an example in lot 711 of the 1947 ANA Convention Auction, which he also claimed as the first appearance. Our study of early auction appearances reveals at least one other prior listing in lot 369 of Sale 397 (Morgenthau, 4/1939). The coin realized $72.50 in 1939, a far cry from the $1,600 Mehl charged for the Berenstein piece, or the incredible $2,200 the coin in Kosoff's 1947 ANA sale garnered. Max Berenstein was a New York City jeweler and sometime coin dealer who put together a remarkable collection of double eagles in the late 1930s, including an example of the 1933 that was later seized by the Secret Service.
Mehl's estimate of only three known was probably not far off the mark regarding specimens available to collectors in the U.S. coin market at the time, but the availability of the 1924-S was radically changed in the 1950s, when scattered specimens began surfacing in European banks. By the end of that decade, the 1924-S had declined in the rarity rankings from "Impossible" to just "Very Scarce." However, most of the European finds consisted of bagmarked examples that graded no better than MS60 to MS64, and the 1924-S remains a great rarity in higher grades to the present day. Population data from the leading grading services shows PCGS has graded 446 total specimens, but only two examples in MS65, and a single finer coin in MS67. It is doubtful that more than 10 to 12 specimens of the 1924-S survive in Gem condition or finer. The magnificent MS67 PCGS example in the Thaine B. Price Collection (David Akers, 5/1998) holds the prices realized record for a 1924-S at $187,000.
The present coin is one of the finest known examples and traces its history to the Phillip H. Morse Collection, perhaps the finest collection of Saint-Gaudens double eagles ever offered up to that time. This piece occupies the number two spot in the PCGS Coin Facts Condition Census, and David Akers once described the coin as "a high-end MS65 that would be graded MS66 by some." We heartily concur with Akers' assessment. Engaging cartwheel luster is complete, thick, and rich, over reddish-orange, consistently colored surfaces. The strike appears quite close to full. Even with diligent searching, we can find little obvious reason this coin grades a "mere" MS65, despite the presence of a couple of minuscule bagmarks on Liberty's left (facing) gown, as the surfaces elsewhere are virtually abrasion-free. This leads us to believe it is among the most undergraded coins in the entire Duckor Collection, another instance of Dr. Duckor's superior eye for quality and visual appeal. The discerning collector should not hesitate to bid accordingly.
Ex: Portland ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/1998), lot 7951, realized $33,350; Phillip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6671, realized $97,750.
David Akers Comments:
In the past 60 years, the 1924-S has dropped a very long way from once being considered not only the rarest issue of the Saint-Gaudens series, but also the rarest of the entire denomination, surpassing the 1856-O, 1870-CC and the famous proof-only rarities of the 1880s. It was also considered more rare than the 1907 MCMVII Extremely High Relief, the 1927-D and the 1933, all of which are multi-million dollar coins today. The prevailing opinion as late as 1950 was that only three or four specimens of this date were known and, when one sold, it invariably brought an extraordinary price. The C. David Pierce specimen in the 1947 Buffalo ANA sale, a superb gem and the finest known to this day (Simpson-Stellar-Price- "Mr. Lima, Ohio" collections), sold for a remarkable $2,200, a price realized by only a few coins during that era. (For example, John Jay Pittman bought his nearly perfect 1792 Half Disme one year later for only $100 and thought he paid too much.) A four figure price paid for a coin was anything but commonplace then. The reputation of the 1924-S as a rarity was rather short-lived, however, because beginning in the early 1950s and continuing over the next several decades, significant quantities of the 1924-S, and other formerly rare dates such as the 1922-S, 1924-D, 1925-D, 1925-S, 1926-D, 1926-S and 1929, in particular, were found overseas in French and Swiss banks. These coins were returned to the United States as they were acquired by U.S. dealers and their buyers and quickly found their way into the numismatic marketplace and eventually the hands of collectors. By 1956 uncirculated examples of the 1924-S had already dropped into the $300-$350 range and prices continued their decline further over the next 10-15 years. Not many specimens of any of these issues that were found in European hoards were particularly high quality (many great examples of the 1922-S were found later in the Central American hoard, however); generally AU55 to MS62 was typical. All of these hoard dates are still very scarce to rare today in MS64 and, most are extremely rare in gem condition, including the 1924-S. The aforementioned superb gem 1924-S originally from the 1947 ANA sale is clearly the finest known, but this Duckor specimen is also exceptional and one of the three or four finest known specimens of the issue. In particular it has fantastic satiny surfaces and blazing color and luster and its overall eye appeal is unsurpassed by any example I have seen.
From The Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection.
Seller is donating a portion of their proceeds, and Heritage is donating the same portion of the Buyer's Premium, from the sale of this lot to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. See page 3 for details.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 26G9, PCGS# 9179)
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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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