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Subtly Toned, Elusive MS65 1931-D Twenty

1931-D $20 MS65 PCGS. Wholesale meltings of this date, which was issued during the Depression only to be melted a few years later after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's gold recall, succeeded in further decimating an already-skimpy mintage, numbered at 106,500 pieces. Gems are rare, and pieces grading finer than MS65 are seldom obtainable--even though Heritage is fortunate enough to also be offering an MS66 specimen in the current sale.
NGC and PCGS combined, as of this writing (11/06), have certified only 23 specimens in Gem condition, with five MS66 pieces finer. The Garrett-Guth Gold Encyclopedia comments concerning the rarity and desirability of this issue: "The 1931-D has survived in similar numbers to the 1931 Philadelphia issue; however, the Denver issue is more elusive in Gem MS-65 grades. The finest known examples are a pair that PCGS graded MS-66, and one of each [is] in the collections of the American Numismatic Society and the Smithsonian. Obviously the entire mintage was virtually wiped out, but a handful survived here and there. These range from frosty to satiny, and are typically well struck. Author Jeff Garrett handled a group of eight examples in late 1908 [sic-1998]. Most of these would grade MS-63 by today's standards." At one time the 1931-D was considered to be among the rarest Saint-Gaudens issues save but a handful, but subsequent repatriations of small groupings of coins have made this still-elusive issue considerably more available in recent years than in the 1940s and 1950s. A search of our internal auction archives reveals that only six times previously in our 13-year history of maintaining auction records have we offered this issue in Gem condition.
Regarding specifics of the 1931-D double eagle, Bowers' Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins notes that "Today not many over 100 or so exist, but most of those are lustrous, beautiful, and range from choice to gem preservation." The present Gem specimen certainly fits that characterization. The surfaces are pinkish-gold with lilac accents around the margins. Brilliant and beautiful cartwheel luster emanates from each side. Extensive scrutiny fails to reveal any singularly mentionable distractions or impairments of any kind, although a few minuscule ticks, completely consistent with a Gem grade, are noted on Liberty's face and torso. A bold strike has articulated the pillars in the Capitol building, the heart-shaped sandal ornament and Liberty's toes, the foliage on the rock nearby, and the small details on the eagle's wing feathers. A single small tick is noted on the upper edge of the eagle's left wing. Lastly, for that most elusive and essential of coin-grading criteria, eye appeal, this charming, awe-inspiring key-date Saint-Gaudens gold piece has it in spades. Specialists in this largest and most impressive U.S. coin series will not hesitate. Acquisition of a Gem 1931-D Saint-Gaudens is not an opportunity that comes by frequently, and only the boldest, most forthright bidder will capture this prize. Population: 17 in 66, 2 finer (11/06).(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GP, PCGS# 9193)

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Auction Dates
January, 2007
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 3
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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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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