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1931-D Twenty, MS65
A Generally Unavailable Late-Date
Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Issue

1931-D $20 MS65 PCGS. The 1931-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle is a prized date in the Saint-Gaudens series, with a low mintage of 106,500 pieces. Of course, like the other late-date Saints, the secret to the present-day rarity of the 1931-D lies in its distribution pattern, not in the mintage figures. The great majority of the double eagles coined in 1931 were stored in domestic bank and Treasury vaults as backing for currency and potential payments in foreign trade. When the Gold Recall of 1933 took effect, those holdings were easily gathered, melted into gold ingots, and stored in the Fort Knox Bullion Repository.
While the double eagles coined at the Philadelphia Mint in 1931 and 1932 were saved from destruction on a small scale by Treasury officials and Mint personnel who exchanged common-date coins for the prized later dates and sold them to prominent Eastern coin dealers, no such escape route seems to have been available for their Denver Mint counterparts. Thankfully, it appears some examples did fulfill their intended role in foreign trade, and a small number of 1931-Ds found a safe haven in European banks, out of reach of the government recall, until they could be reclaimed by U.S. collectors in recent times.
When noted gold specialist David Akers first studied the American gold series in the 1970s and 1980s, he found the 1931-D was even rarer than the issue is today. In 1982, Akers reported the 1931-D was the fourth-rarest date in the series, with perhaps 35-40 examples known, considerably more elusive than its Philadelphia counterparts from 1931 and 1932. This situation changed in 1984, when a small hoard of 15-20 1931-Ds surfaced in the numismatic market. The discovery of those new coins brought the population of the 1931-D into close alignment with the 1931 and 1932.
Heritage Co-Chairman Jim Halperin states, "When the hoard appeared I quickly adjusted my thinking regarding their market value as a result of the sudden spurt in availability ... I think they were mostly 63-64 quality with maybe a few Gems." The hoard was reported as a Midwestern find by Walter Breen, but Marc Emory, the Director of European Operations for Heritage, remembers handling a few of the last specimens from the group in Europe. The hoard was apparently of Swiss origin, not from the Midwest. Breen may have confused the 1931-D group with a hoard of 1928 double eagles (25 pieces in an original bank bag) that surfaced in 1985 in Elyria, Ohio. In any case, the find was quickly absorbed by the numismatic marketplace, and the 1931-D remains a rare and valuable date today.
The surfaces on this Gem are satiny, as expected, with an even layer of reddish patina over each side. The strike is strong throughout, with the only exception Liberty's nose, which shows some flatness. Close examination with a loupe will reveal a few small abrasions, but none are individually distracting or worthy of mention.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GP, PCGS# 9193)

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Auction Dates
January, 2011
5th-9th Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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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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