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Extremely Rare 1931-D Twenty Dollar, MS66
Ex: Price/Morse

1931-D $20 MS66 PCGS. Ex: Price. With a minimal knowledge of American history, one could easily predict that there would be little demand for twenty dollar gold pieces in 1931. That year was two years into the Great Depression, and as it turned out 1931 was also the nadir of that massive economic downturn. In fact, there was minimal demand for all coins that year. Cents and dimes were struck in all three mints, nickels were only produced in San Francisco, and twenties were struck in the Philadelphia and Denver mints.
With 106,500 pieces struck of the 1931-D twenty, one would assume that these coins were produced for export. But it appears that few were actually shipped overseas as no substantial hoards have been found in Europe. The best guess is that almost the entire mintage was held in Treasury vaults, melted in 1937, and converted into gold ingots. It is generally thought that today only 100-150 examples survive of the 1931-D. That low survival rate places it at the top of both absolute and condition rarities in the Saint-Gaudens series. The only hoard of note was a group of 15 to 20 pieces that turned up in the Midwest in 1984. There is also the tantalizing story of four other pieces that is mentioned in Dave Bowers' American Coin Treasures and Hoards:

"In 1960 a Sidney, New York, businessman took from his bank safety deposit box four 'ordinary' $20 pieces and brought them to a coin dealer [Bowers], for he had heard there was a premium above face value for all gold coins.
"The dealer glanced at them, found they were all of the extremely rare 1931-D variety and in blazing gem Mint State, showed him the listing in The Guide Book, and expected that the finder would be delighted. Just the opposite occurred. Uncertainty set in--what were they really worth? Could they be sold for more elsewhere? Maybe they shouldn't be sold after all.
"Back into the safe deposit box the rare 1931-D $20 pieces went. Had they been common dates they would have been sold for the current market value at the time, which would have been between $40 and $50."

What happened to those four coins?

The present coin is tied as finest known. The population data from the two services states that PCGS has graded three pieces MS66, and NGC has certified two as such. As always, resubmissions figure prominently in high grade rarities, and in this case the Garrett-Guth reference states that "The finest known examples are a pair that PCGS graded MS-66, and one of each in the collections of the American Numismatic Society and Smithsonian." This is the Price/Morse coin and this magnificent piece realized $184,000 in November 2005. It had formerly sold for $79,750 when Dr. Thaine Price's collection sold in May 1998. The other MS66 referred to by Garrett-Guth was sold in Heritage's 2007 FUN Auction and brought $230,000.
The 1931-D is one of the finer produced issues in the Saint-Gaudens series. The lovely surfaces on this coin are bright and the mint luster shows a mixture of light rose and lilac on each side. Fully struck throughout. The only mark of note is shallow and located between the TY of LIBERTY and the arm of Liberty.

(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 26GP, PCGS# 9193)

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Auction Info

Auction Dates
August, 2007
8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 1,486

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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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