Exceptional MS66 1920-S Ten Dollar, Tied for Second Finest Known

    1920-S $10 MS66 PCGS. This year marked the first production of gold coinage since 1916. From the time 126,500 eagles were struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1920, they were considered one of the rarest of all 20th century ten dollar gold coins. Evidently, nearly all were exported in commercial trade, or held in Treasury vaults and eventually melted in the 1930s. No hoards have ever turned up and the coin remains very rare to this day.
    T. Louis Comparette, curator of the Philadelphia Mint coin collection, was an important conduit of new coins for the Connecticut State Library's Mitchelson Collection and a few other institutions. Although specimens struck in Philadelphia were usually available with little difficulty, pieces from the other mints were available only from the pyx coins reserved for use of the Annual Assay Commission. (Collectors could usually purchase issued coins directly from each mint, but the quality of specimens was often well below the pyx coins.) On March 1, 1921, Comparette sent George Godard, the Connecticut State Librarian, two of the San Francisco eagles.

    "Here are two eagles struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1920. With some difficulty I was able to secure four specimens from the pyx, of which I send you these, one for your collections, the other for Sen. Hall, whose interests I am still willing to assist, though he will not answer my letters."

    One of these was acquired by Godard from the estate of Connecticut State Senator William Henry Hall, whose personal collection included the duplicates sent by Comparette. It was sold by Stack's with Godard's personal collection in 1982. The other remains in the Mitchelson Collection. The Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection includes an example that was likely a third coin saved from the pyx.
    The fact that individual specimens of this issue are so easily traced underscores the absolute rarity of the 1920-S. This particular coin last appeared in the extraordinary collection of ten dollar Indians that was assembled by William Thomas Michaels. That set was sold in January 2004. The cataloger for Stack's wrote an insightful commentary on the 1920-S:

    "Although 126,500 coins of this date are reported to have been struck, it is quite evident that nearly all were melted before ever leaving the Mint. Unlike other key dates in this series such as the 1930 'S' and 1933 that, when available, are almost always encountered in Mint State, this date is found in all grades. The fact that most known survivors range in condition from Very Fine to Choice Brilliant Uncirculated only intensifies the desirability of the small number of Gem quality specimens extant."

    This wide range of grades of availability (or unavailability as the case is more apt to be) points to a curious duality that is alluded to in the Stack's description. That is, an effort was made to release the 1920-S into circulation, as indicated by the 49 coins certified by PCGS and NGC in VF30 to AU58 grades. Apparently, what need there was for ten dollar coins that had not been produced since 1916, was soon met and the remainder were eventually melted. Breen speculates that the varying amount of bagmarks found on most 1920-S tens attests to "their long residence in bank cash reserves." Thus, the 1920-S is both an absolute and condition rarity.
    Most of the known 1920-S tens show weakness of strike on the RTY of LIBERTY, but this is more of a tendency than an absolute diagnostic. This piece shows a full R but TY is not visible. What is an absolute, however, is weakness on the trailing leg of the eagle. Otherwise, the surfaces show the usual frosty mint luster that is always seen on mint examples of this rarity. The surfaces are remarkably clean, as one would expect for an MS66, with a tiny planchet flake on the cheek of Liberty and another at the top of the eagle's trailing leg--the most notable pedigree identifiers on this piece. The color on this coin is nothing short of extraordinary. Each side shows an intermixture of deep rose-gold and lilac patina that adds significantly to the overall eye appeal of this exceptionally well preserved coin. Only one other piece has been certified as MS66, an NGC coin, and only one 1920-S is finer, a PCGS MS67, presently in the collection of Dr. Steven Duckor.
    This piece represents an opportunity for the advanced collector to add this key issue to a collection of ten dollar Indians. Rarely are such coins available in any condition, and at the MS66 level this piece is tied for second finest known.
    Ex: William Thomas Michaels Collection (Stack's, 1/04), lot 3028, where it brought $241,500.
    From The Kutasi Collection.(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 28H8, PCGS# 8881)

    Weight: 16.72 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View all of [The Kutasi Collection ]

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2007
    3rd-6th Wednesday-Saturday
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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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