1927-D Double Eagle, MS63
1927-D $20 MS63 PCGS. This is the seventh appearance (with
duplications) of 1927-D double eagles at Heritage Auctions in the
years since 1995, when we first handled the Museum of Connecticut
History example, #5 in the roster below. Even as we begin
cataloging this example certified MS63 PCGS, we are watching quite
a number of rare coins cross the $1 million mark in our 2014 FUN
Signature auction -- including the ex: Dr. Stephen Duckor 1927-D
double eagle certified MS66 NGC that grazed the $2 million level,
closing at $1,997,500 (Heritage, 1/2014, lot 5597).
Crucial Key Example of America's
Rarest Regular-Issue 20th Century Coin
The price realized was an all-time record for a 1927-D. The strongest bidder for the MS66 NGC coin paid exactly $100,000 more than the top-graded, sole-finest-certified MS67 PCGS ex: Phillip Morse example that we handled in 2005, which brought $1,897,500.
Is there any way that the present offering of an MS63 PCGS example could not pose a major opportunity for the next buyer?
Relevant aside: The Heritage January 2014 FUN Signature auction was a record-breaker for the company as well as the numismatic industry at large. Besides the 1927-D at close to $2 million, a 1787 Brasher doubloon, Punch on Wing, graded MS63 NGC realized $4,582,500, and the famous "Hawaii Five-O" 1913 Liberty nickel graded PR64 NGC-CAC garnered $3,290,000. An 1884 Trade dollar certified PR65 PCGS-CAC came to close to $1 million, bringing $998,750. Seven other U.S. coins closed in the range from $500,000 to $1 million, including a spectacular MS65 PCGS 1792 half disme, a PR66 Cameo PCGS 1879 Coiled Hair stella, a PR64 NGC-CAC 1838-O half dollar, a 1909-O half eagle in MS66 PCGS, an 1826 Capped Bust half eagle in MS66 PCGS-CAC, and an 1870-S silver dollar graded XF40 PCGS.
Between the U.S. Coins, U.S. Currency, and World Coins venues with auctions in Orlando and New York, Heritage sold more than $105 million worth of coins and currency during the week of January 5 through 12, 2014. A "Grand Watermelon" $1,000 Treasury note of 1890 brought $3,290,000, another world record for the most valuable piece of currency ever sold.
The relevance of the paragraphs above to the present offering of a 1927-D double eagle is twofold: Firstly and of great importance, it is clear that buyers are continuing to flock to classic rarities. Each one of the coins and notes mentioned above is a classic, key collectible within its respective series, as is indeed the 1927-D double eagle -- very much so. (We believe some buyers in these "classic rarities" categories, as well, may not fit the "typical well-heeled collector" category; they are, rather, connoisseurs who may equally purchase fine wines, fine art, luxury real estate, and top-notch rarities from other collectibles categories.) Secondly, we believe the prominence of great Heritage Signature auctions such as the present Bently Collection offering brings levels of awareness and bidding activity that are unmatched elsewhere in numismatics. We would be greatly surprised if the present coin did not set a new record for this issue and grade.
Another point about the 1927-D double eagle is crucial to understanding its importance; namely, its intrinsic rarity and desirability as the key to the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. The 1804 silver dollars, by way of contrast, were struck in special proof format from novodel dies to establish diplomatic relations with Oriental potentates. Collectors of U.S. coins can very well collect the remainder of the 1794-1803 silver dollar series without ever attempting to obtain an 1804 dollar. The five 1913 Liberty nickels were struck under circumstances that are murky at best, and collectors can assemble fine collections of the 1883-1912 Liberty nickel issues without owning a 1913.
No such possibility exists with the 1927-D double eagle. It is simply the rarest obtainable issue, the key within the Saint-Gaudens series, a coin essential to the formation of a complete set. (In this way, it is far more important than the 1933 double eagle, of which but a single example is legal to own.) It is a regular-issue U.S. coin, the rarest from the 20th century. There are no hidden mysteries, no special circumstances of its production, no clandestine strikings. It is a issue for which the original quantity struck (although quite low, at 180,000 pieces) is simply irrelevant. Few were released at any time, and most were melted several years after their production. Given the MS63-MS67 grade range of the seven survivors that trade infrequently, it seems clear that none were ever exported overseas, only to be rediscovered and repatriated decades later -- an important factor that further explains their great rarity.
The roster below enumerates 13 examples, divided into three categories -- Infrequently Traded Examples (seven coins), Mystery Coins (two pieces), and Museum Specimens (four coins). The Museum Specimens and Mystery Coins are unavailable or unseen in decades. Of the seven remaining Infrequently Traded Examples, all are in MS66 or MS67 except for the present MS63 PCGS coin. This offering of the key 1927-D double eagle poses a remarkable and significant bidding opportunity for the collector (or connoisseur) to acquire an attractive and collectible example certified below the Premium Gem grade level.
The 1927-D normally comes with a good strike and appealing luster, and the present piece is certainly no exception. A few of the lower left-side stars on the obverse are flatly struck, but even the Capitol dome and its pillars show considerable detail. Liberty's head, sandal, the rock details, and the eagle feathers on the reverse are all nicely sharp. Deep, thorough orange-gold coloration is as expected but nonetheless increases the appeal. A scattering of mostly small marks determines the grade, including a sprinkling on Liberty's right (facing) calf. Larger marks include a diagonal field mark between Liberty's hair and the rays below; a thin luster graze running diagonally downward into the field from the olive stem; a mark at the base of the R in LIBERTY; a near-vertical mark touching two rays to Liberty's right; and on the reverse, a vertical mark on the eagle's neck, and a few ticks scattered on the eagle's unfurled wings. Bright mint luster engages the viewer throughout both sides. On the obverse, a thin die crack runs from LI to the torch to the B. A thin die line runs vertically through the eagle's beak.
1927-D Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
Heritage Revised Roster (Updated February 2014)
David Akers, cataloging in 1998 the Dr. Duckor coin in the Price Collection (#6 below), said he had examined 12 different examples of the 1927-D and that there are a "few auction records for pieces that I cannot match with the specimens that I am familiar with." With the benefit of 16 more years of hindsight that Akers lacked, we stand by the roster below, yet admit the possibility that a small handful of examples many have gone for many decades without ever appearing in the public eye. Even so, there are, today, effectively only seven examples infrequently trading in the numismatic marketplace.
Infrequently Traded Examples
1. MS67 PCGS. Charlotte Collection (Stack's, 3/1991), lot 1217, $522,500; Jay Parrino; Phillip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6697, $1,897,500; Todd Imhof (then at Pinnacle Rarities) on behalf of a private client. A small diagonal mark appears at the center of Liberty's waist.
2. MS66 PCGS. Primary Bartle Collection (Stack's, 10/1985), lot 868, $275,000; Superior (8/1992), lot 686, unsold; Delbert McDougal Set of $20 Saint-Gaudens Coins (Heritage, 1/2006), lot 3624, $1,322,500; Heritage (1/2007), lot 3303, unsold. A mark at the midpoint of the fourth ray right of Liberty identifies this example.
3. MS66 PCGS. Lester Merkin via private treaty (per Julian Leidman); Herb Tobias; Mike Brownlee and Julian Leidman; H. Jeff Browning (9/24/1974), $175,000; Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's-Stack's, 10/2001), lot 206, $402,500; ANA Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/2003), lot 4417, unsold; later, Rare Coin Wholesalers (6/2005, $1,650,000); Legend Numismatics; BRS Legacy Collection (6/2005). Small marks appear on the rays above the 19 in the date.
4. MS66 PCGS. Possibly Edward B. Morgan, directly from the Denver Mint in 1927; F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 1045, $650; Stack's (privately); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; U.S. Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 1067, $176,000; later, Dr. William Crawford. A July 2005 NGC press release stated that the coin was submitted by an anonymous Western dealer at the 2005 New York Invitational Coin Show, and that it was previously from an old private collection; later, North American Certified Trading (1/2006); East Coast dealer; Legend Numismatics (12/2009), to collector via private treaty. The coin was graded MS65 in the Eliasberg catalog. The obverse has a tiny spot in the field just above the right (facing) shoulder. There appears to be an alloy spot on the fourth feather down from the top of the eagle's wing, below the S in DOLLARS.
5. MS66 PCGS. Denver Mint (1927); Museum of Connecticut History-Connecticut State Library (Heritage, 6/1995), lot 6026, $390,500 (as MS66 NGC); Jay Parrino; numerous intermediaries; Heritage FUN Signature (1/2010), lot 2331, $1,495,000; Legend Numismatics, to collector via private treaty (1/2010).
6. MS66 NGC. James Kelly (late 1940s); "Mr. Lima" (private Lima, Ohio collector), $2,000; Auction '84 (Paramount, 7/1984), lot 999, $198,000; Dr. Steven Duckor (1984); Dr. Thaine B. Price Collection [consigned by Dr. Duckor] (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 115 (as MS65 PCGS), $577,500; Superior (3/2001), lot 989, unsold; unknown intermediaries; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5597, $1,997,500. Several tiny marks or spots are visible on or between the rays left of Liberty.
7. MS63 PCGS. Stack's (12/1981), lot 1252, $220,000; Julian Leidman; Vermont collector; Bowers and Merena (10/1987), lot 2201, $242,000; Charles Kramer Collection (Stack's and Superior, 11/1988), lot 913, $187,000; Superior (2/1992), lot 3339, unsold; Superior (1/1993), lot 1595, $137,500; Richmond Collection, Part I (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 2431, $575,000; Park Avenue Registry Set. A diagonal field mark is visible between the end of Liberty's flowing hair and the rays below. A linear field mark runs southwest from near the bottom of the olive stem. The present example. See Physical Description.
These are coins that have gone unseen, to our knowledge, for decades -- one since 1957, one since 1973. They could possibly represent duplications of other coins on this list, or else they seem to have disappeared. We can assume that they are off the market unless they resurface.
8. MS64. Lester Merkin (10/1969), lot 526, $32,000; anonymous collector (perhaps Edwards Metcalf), after 10/1969, $32,000+; Gilhousen Collection (Superior, 2/1973), lot 1041, $60,000. A small spot is evident below the second L in DOLLARS. A small field mark is visible below the forearm.
9. MS64. An Eastern university; Schmandt Collection/Eastern university sale (Stack's, 2/1957), lot 1072; present location unknown. A small spot is visible in the field below the tip of the fourth feather down from the top of the eagle.
These pieces are housed in museum or institutional collections and presumably off the market forever. The Museum of Connecticut History deaccessioned its duplicate example in 1995 and auctioned it through Heritage.
10. MS66. Smithsonian Institution 1984.1046.0812. Likely obtained directly from the Denver Mint in the late 1920s-early 1930s. Depicted in Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth's Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933 and illustrated on the Smithsonian website. A tiny tick appears on Liberty's exposed right (facing) knee, and a small mark shows on the ray just left of the D mintmark and one slightly further down the ray above the 9. The strike is incredibly sharp. On the reverse, a wispy die crack runs through the crossbar of (AMERIC)A, through two adjacent feathers and into the field below, a diagnostic shared with the Smithsonian coin 11, just below. The reverse shows a small scrape through three rays above (TRU)ST on the right side. On the lower left rays, tiny ticks occur on rays 5, 7, and 9 counting from the left inward.
11. MS65. Smithsonian Institution NU283645. J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 1004, $500. Dr. Charles Green (B. Max Mehl, 4/1949), lot 917, $630. The Green coin is unplated in the catalog, but Mehl specifically attributes the coin as the J.F. Bell specimen in his lot description. Robert Schermerhorn; Stack's (privately, 1953); Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution (1968). The 1944 Bell sale was the first public offering of a 1927-D double eagle. In 2009, Heritage catalogers obtained previously unpublished images of this coin from the late Dick Doty, former National Numismatic Collection curator, and plate-matched it to the photo in the Bell catalog. On the obverse, a near-vertical nick appears near the bottom end of the olive stem, clearly visible on both the Bell and SI images. There is a tiny dark spot below the L of LIBERTY, and a spot on Liberty's right (facing) knee. Luster grazes in the left field have a triangular-shaped top, with the bottom ending precisely at the tip of the third long ray from the left (visible on both). There is a near-vertical die crack through the forward portion of the eagle's beak.
12. MS66. Smithsonian Institution 1985.0441.1523. Likely obtained directly from the Denver Mint in the late 1920s-early 1930s. In 2009 Heritage catalogers obtained previously unpublished images of this coin from the late Dick Doty, former National Numismatic Collection curator; those photos revealed that this coin has a couple of amazing similarities and several distinct differences from the Bell-Lilly-Smithsonian coin #11. A nick appears at the bottom of the olive branch, but on this coin the nick is more diagonal than near-vertical, about paralleling the bottom stem edge. A tiny dark spot appears just to the right of the nick, in the field. There is also a near-identical (to the Bell coin) mark on Liberty's belly, but here it is just about horizontal. The luster grazes in the left obverse field are more minor on this piece, without a triangular top and not quite meeting the tip of the third long ray counting from the left.
13. MS66. Denver Mint (1927); Museum of Connecticut History -- Connecticut State Library C08433. In 2009 Heritage catalogers obtained previously unpublished images of this well-struck coin, one of two 1927-Ds obtained directly from the Denver Mint in the year of issue by then-Connecticut State Librarian George S. Godard; its sibling, #5 above, was offered by Heritage in 2010. This specimen has two near-parallel reverse toning streaks that provide a clear identification, running through the eagle's rear tail feathers to the rim beneath CA. A small die crack runs through the crossbar of the last A in AMERICA, through the eagle's longest tail feather and out in the field. A smaller crack connects the tops of CA, and there appear to be traces of the usually seen straight-line vertical crack through the eagle's beak. On the obverse a tiny tick appears near the top of the fourth ray counting from the right, along with the usually seen straight die crack through LI and the torch. Some light field marks appear between the olive branch, Liberty's right (facing) arm, and TY.
From the Collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation.(Registry values: N19439) (NGC ID# 26GH, PCGS# 9187)
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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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