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Description

1926-D Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, MS65
Premier Condition Rarity

1926-D $20 MS65 PCGS. CAC. Ex: Brahin. "The 1926-D is one of the rarest and most underrated issues in the series," writes David Akers in A Handbook of 20th Century United States Gold Coins 1907-1933. The date is a premier condition rarity in the Saint-Gaudens series, and the present coin is a magnificent representative. In terms of overall rarity, Akers rates the 1926-D favorably with the 1925-S. He continues:

" Until the 1950s, in fact, the 1926-D was thought to be rarer than the legendary 1927-D. While a few pieces have turned up in foreign banks since then, there has never been a find that even approaches the status of a hoard in terms of size or significance. When offered in today's market, which is not often, the 1926-D almost always grades somewhere in the MS-60 to MS-63 range. A full MS-64 is a very rare coin, while Gems are encountered only once in a very long while. In fact, there are only five-to-seven examples surviving that grade MS-65 or finer, and none of these pieces are Superb Gems."


Data from third party grading services supports Akers assessment of the rarity of the 1926-D in high grades. Currently, PCGS has certified three MS65 examples and two MS66 coins; NGC has yet to see any Gem or finer specimens (10/09). It is also noteworthy in this regard that the 1926-D has, to the best of our knowledge, made only eight appearances in MS65 or better grades through the major auction firms in the last 15 or so years. The most prominent of these is the PCGS graded MS66 Morse specimen, which realized $345,000 when we offered it in November 2005. The finest known example may be a specimen in the Smithsonian, which Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth report is a Superb Gem.
The Denver Mint coined 481,000 double eagles in 1926, a smallish mintage for the series, but certainly not indicative of the coin's rarity today. Like many other mintmarked issues of the 1920s, the 1926-D was primarily used to back U.S. currency, and most of the mintage was held in reserve in Treasury vaults or domestic banks. After the Gold Recall of 1933, the great majority of the mintage was melted and stored as ingots at Fort Knox. Only a handful of specimens were released into circulation domestically, and only 30-45 coins are known today in circulated grades. A few bags were probably used in foreign trade, and these examples found refuge in foreign banks during the great Recall. Almost all specimens known today in lower Uncirculated grades, perhaps 175-200 examples, are from these European holdings. Fortunately, a few Gem specimens were purchased directly from the Mint and preserved by dedicated collectors to provide the available population of a half dozen or so high grade coins known today.
The 1926-D did not appear at auction until the mid-1940s. Probably the first appearance was in the World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 1044, where it realized $1,300. The coin went on to even greater heights in its next appearance, as lot 916 of the Dr. Charles W. Green Collection (B. Max Mehl, 4/1949), where it realized $2,500. The Green auction was a breakthrough in double eagle collecting, and the number of collectors pursuing the big gold coins probably at least doubled after this sale. The 1926-D was definitely in the front rank of American rarities at the time, and was considered by most to be the rarest Saint-Gaudens double eagle. Fortunately for present day collectors, small numbers of 1926-D double eagles began to turn up in the early 1950s from the European sources alluded to before. By the time of the Adolphe Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), the effect of the European finds began to be felt. The catalogers still touted the issue as a great rarity, but the price realized declined to $2,000. This trend has continued in recent times, with the result that the 1926-D has become an underrated coin in the current market. Garrett and Guth rate the 1926-D as the 10th rarest date in the 54 coin series today.
The Gem example presented here displays dazzling luster that radiates from satiny peach and yellow-gold surfaces, tinged with traces of emerald and reddish-gold at the margins. A sharp strike occurs on the design elements, save for the usual softness in the Capitol dome. A die ejection mark in the upper left obverse border is seen to some degree on several higher grade 1926-D twenties. In addition to the Morse MS66 coin, we have only handled three MS65 coins in our past sales, including this piece from the Kutasi Collection. This is a highly attractive and appealing Gem that easily ranks in the Condition Census of all 1926-D twenties.
Ex: Charlotte Collection (Stack's, 3/1991), lot 1215; later, Kutasi Collection (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3300; Heritage (5/2007), lot 2803.
From The Jay Brahin Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GE, PCGS# 9184)

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Auction Dates
January, 2010
6th-10th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
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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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