1929 Double Eagle, MS66, Among the Finest Known
1929 $20 MS66 PCGS Secure. The 1929 is notable as an
absolute and conditional rarity. However, its absolute scarcity is
more one of association, as it is the first of the late-date
Saint-Gaudens twenties, a short series that contains several
monumental rarities. The 1929 can be encountered at least twice as
often as any of the other four issues from 1930 through 1932. That
is not to say it is common; its current relative availability is
from a small number of pieces that have dribbled out of Europe over
the past 40+ years. As with many Saint-Gaudens issues, the 1929 was
once regarded as an important rarity. In the 152 auctions we
surveyed between 1937 and 1944, the 1929 twenty only made two
appearances. The second offering of this date was in the J.F. Bell
auction in 1944, where the coin was described as, "One of the most
difficult dates to obtain, very rarely offered either at Private or
Public Sale. Very rare." The Bell coin realized $290, more than the
1931 at $220 and only ten dollars less than the 1932.
First of the Late-Date Rarities
The key-date status of the 1929 remained through the 1950s and 1960s. The price at auction for the few 1929s sold in the 1960s remained relatively stable while the other four late-date issues -- 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, and 1932 -- rose dramatically. This would indicate that a few 1929 twenties began to be repatriated in the mid- or late 1960s, Since that time a few have been found in Europe, but no substantial hoards have been uncovered. Clarification of a false rumor of a hoard was first published in Stack's Eldorado Sale (5/2009). That correction bears repeating, as the story has made its way into the numismatic media on several occasions as truth.
"One false rumor was seized upon by the numismatic press through the prolific writings of Walter Breen. Back in 1984 noted English dealer Steve Fenton sold a 1929 double eagle to Ron Gillio. Steve then played a little joke on Ron by telling him he had found a small hoard of 40 1929 double eagles and was unloading them as quickly as possible. Ron told this to Walter Breen and the English Hoard of 40 pieces was born."
The mintage of the 1929 twenty was a generous 1.7 million pieces. However, almost the entire mintage was converted to gold bars and stored in Fort Knox in the mid-1930s. Only 300-400 coins are believed known today, almost all Uncirculated. The vast majority are in the MS62-64 range, although as many as 20 Gems are believed to survive. It is in MS66 that the 1929 becomes a significant condition rarity. Only six certification events have been recorded at that level, and none are finer (10/11).
The usually encountered 1929 is sharply struck and displays attractive color and bright mint luster. This is such a coin. There is no noticeable striking softness on either side. The mint luster rolls across the surfaces, and both sides are minimally marked for this often-heavily abraded date. The only mark of note is a shallow horizontal scratch from the tip of the eagle's fourth feather to the rim (magnification will be necessary). Both sides display light reddish-gold color with a faint outline of lime-green at the margins. The eye appeal of this coin is undeniable. It is easy to see why this is one of the finest examples known of this important late-date absolute and condition rarity.
Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30584.
David Akers Comments:
After World War I, double eagles no longer circulated to any extent. For most years from 1920-1933, substantial quantities were minted of every issue but largely remained in government possession as gold reserves for our national currency. They were never really intended for circulation and were subsequently melted in the mid- to late 1930s. That is why so many of the high mintage issues of the 1920s and early 1930s are rare today and typically exist with a very high ratio of uncirculated examples to circulated ones. The 1929 is the first of the justifiably respected five late date rarities of the series although it is multiples more common than the other four when the total population of known specimens is all that is considered. This is no doubt due to the significant number of specimens returned from Europe over the years; many more examples of the 1929 were found there than of the other four later dates. However, back in the 1940s, when dealers were really just starting to get a handle on the relative rarity of the various Saint-Gaudens issues (they knew mintage figures were of no use in that regard), the 1929 was thought to be much less rare than the 1931-D and 1930-S but otherwise comparable to both the 1931 and 1932. Today, estimates vary wildly as to how many 1929 double eagles exist. PCGS estimates the population at over 900 pieces and Dave Bowers states in his double eagle book that 1,250 to 1,750 exist. Those numbers seem awfully high to me and I would place the number more in the 300-400 range. One thing about which there is little difference of opinion, however, is that the 1929 remains rare in gem uncirculated 65 condition and extremely rare above that level. In particular, the 1929 is definitely much more rare in superb MS66 condition than either the 1931 or 1932 although in gem all three are rather similar. The finest example graded so far is the Simpson-Price-Norweb example now graded MS66+ by PCGS but graded MS65 by NGC at the time of the Price sale. The specimen in Stack's March 1991 sale was also exceptional and the Duckor MS66 coin offered here is in the condition census for the date as well.
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# 26GL, PCGS# 9190)
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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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