Premium Gem 1925-S Twenty
1925-S $20 MS66 PCGS Secure. CAC. The 1925-S Saint-Gaudens
double eagle, while acknowledged as a scarce date, has always been
somewhat overshadowed by some other mintmarked issues of the 1920s.
In the 1940s, the 1924-S and 1926-D were perceived as the ultimate
rarities of the Saint-Gaudens series, and when those dates became
more available due to European finds, the previously unappreciated
1927-D was waiting to assume the mantle. However, despite the lack
of fanfare, the 1925-S has always been a scarce issue in any
condition, one of the most elusive of the series in high grade.
Underrated Condition Rarity
Unlike many issues, the 1925-S was released into circulation in significant quantities at the time of production. Research in Mint records conducted by Dr. Charles W. Green in the 1940s indicates that 454,700 examples were released through official channels, from a reported mintage of nearly 3.8 million pieces. As a result, the 1925-S is the only mintmarked double eagle of the decade that is seen more often in circulated grades than Mint State. The widespread circulation may account for the 1940s perception that the 1925-S was less rare than other mintmarked issues of the era, because dealers could remember seeing the coins in circulation and assumed they were plentiful or even commonplace.
The majority of the huge mintage, the third-largest of the series, was held in domestic banks and Treasury vaults until the Gold Recall of 1933. Of the coins released into circulation, most of them must have been turned in by the public at the time of the recall, to be melted and stored at Fort Knox. Double eagles were often used in foreign trade before about 1930, and large numbers of some dates were preserved in European banks, safely out of reach of the U.S. government actions, until they could be found by numismatists in the 1950s. If the 1925-S was extensively used in foreign trade, most of the transactions must have been with English firms, as few examples have surfaced in the many finds in French, Swiss, and Central American banks. Coins that went to England tended to be melted down, to be reissued as sovereigns, rather than preserved intact as they were in Continental banks. The 1925-S has maintained its status as a scarce date and high-grade rarity throughout the last eight decades.
In lot 110 of the Dr. Thaine B. Price Collection (David Akers, 5/1998), Akers offered this assessment of the 1925-S:
"... the 1925-S is one of the major rarities in the series and has long been regarded as such. Even back in the 1940's it was considered a rarity, not as much so as the 1924-S, 1926-S, and 1926-D, but more or less on par with the 1924-D, 1931 and 1932. I do not recall ever seeing or hearing of any hoards of this issue, not even from the 1950's or 1960's when quantities of many of the Saint-Gaudens issues previously thought to be rare were discovered in European banks."
Present-day numismatists recognize the 1925-S for the rare issue it has always been in high grade. PCGS has certified only this single coin in MS66, with two examples finer (10/11). The coin offered here is tied for third place in the PCGS Coin Facts Condition Census.
The present coin is a spectacular Premium Gem, with well-defined design elements and tremendous eye appeal. The surfaces are evenly colored antique-gold, with light accents of orange over surfaces that show soft but thorough luster. The pleasing surfaces are free of all but the smallest abrasions, the most obvious on the lower eagle feathers. A small die crack runs from the top of the eagle's head to the forepart of the wing. This coin represents a rare combination of high technical grade and abundant eye appeal on an issue that is rarely encountered so fine.
Ex: Manfra, Tordella and Brooks; David W. Akers (privately, mid-1980s).
David Akers Comments:
The 1925-S had an extremely high mintage, close to four million pieces, but virtually all of them were simply kept in bags, stored by the Treasury and later melted after 1933. Some coins clearly were placed into the channels of commerce through local banks though as evidenced by the existence of many circulated examples. Some were also sent to Europe between 1926 and 1933 most likely in mixed date bags of circulated and uncirculated double eagles rather than single date bags of uncirculated 1925-S coins. Beginning in the 1950s, most of these coins were repatriated to the U.S. and now, as a population rarity, the 1925-S is really more accurately described as scarce rather than rare. It is similar overall to the 1925-D although in the choice uncirculated 63 and very choice uncirculated 64 grades the 1925-S is substantially more rare than the 1925-D. Even in the 1940s, the 1925-S, although recognized as very scarce, was never thought to be one of the major rarities of the series due, no doubt, to the availability of quite a few circulated pieces. In fact, those that did appear at auction were typically circulated (cf. WGC 1946) or in the lower mint state grades. Although condition rarity was not a big factor at that time, really nice examples of very scarce or rare dates (say, MS63 or better by today's standards) were generally so noted in catalog descriptions but no 1925-S during that era was described as a gem in a major sale. Since virtually all of the specimens later found in Europe were typically in the grades from AU50 to MS62, the 1925-S is still rare today in MS63 and very rare in MS64. At the gem MS65 grade level and above the 1925-S is one of the major rarities of the entire series. Probably only four to six exist in MS65 but, remarkably, above that level an additional four examples exist that stand out from the rest of the population. The highest graded example is the MS68 specimen from the Norweb collection. I purchased it at the Norweb sale in November 1988 and later sold it to Dr. Thaine Price. Dr. Price's collection was sold in 1998 and the coin is now in the collection of an East Coast Saint-Gaudens specialist. The second highest graded is the MS67 example now in the Simpson Collection. I purchased this coin from Stack's March 1991 sale and sometime later sold it to dealer Jay Parrino. The next two specimens are also superb and have great stories to go with them. In 1986, I went to New York to visit my good friend, Gerald Bauman, at MTB as I did regularly to buy some coins, have lunch, talk sports and generally just have a great time visiting and laughing with one of my all-time favorite people. While I was there, one of the other numismatists at MTB who handled the walk-in traffic, came up to Jerry and said an elderly lady was there with a single coin to sell that Jerry needed to see. Jerry left and then returned about 20 minutes later and laid down a fabulous 1925-S double eagle on the coin tray I always carried with me. He said it had been wrapped in tissue and carried in a small bag, like a change purse. He also indicated that the woman said she had owned it most of her life (but was not a collector of any sort) and that he had offered her a very fair price for it and she had accepted. I purchased it just moments later from him for $1,000 more than he paid for it and I sold it days later to Dr. Duckor for an identical mark-up. It is now the only specimen graded MS66 by PCGS. The fourth superb example of this issue was consigned to Paramount in 1980 by a doctor from Washington, D.C. He said it had been in his family for as long as he could remember and that it was given to him by his father. It was the only gold coin in the entire consignment with the others all being U.S. commemorative half dollars that his father had purchased directly from the issuing commissions, mostly issues in the 1930s but a few earlier. He had no idea where his father acquired the double eagle but he had told me on the phone that it was just a common coin and certainly "no big deal" anyway. When I received the coin in the mail with the rest of the consignment, it was in a plain manila 2x2 envelope, not wrapped in anything else and the envelope bore only the notation "$20 gold, 1925," without any indication as to mintmark. No wonder he didn't think it was a big deal. The coin realized $20,000.00 in the Paramount sale, a record for the issue at that time. I didn't buy it from the sale but did purchase it privately two years later. I kept it in my personal collection for five years and then sold it to dealer Les Fox who included it in his "Rare and Important United States Gold Coins" sale in October 1988, which was conducted by Stack's and cataloged by myself and Norman Stack. I don't know if it has been certified yet but I graded it a superb gem, MS66 or better. Perhaps it is the lone MS66 appearing in the NGC population report.
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: N1) (NGC ID# 26GC, PCGS# 9182)
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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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