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    Rare PR67 1912 Matte Proof Saint
    High in the Condition Census for the Issue

    1912 $20 PR67 NGC. The U.S. Mint first made matte proof gold coins in 1908. Despite earlier criticisms from the collecting fraternity and collector publications such as The Numismatist of the matte proofs, after a temporary switch to the Roman Finish or Satin Finish gold treatments in 1909 and 1910, the Mint reverted in 1911 and subsequent years to the much-maligned matte or sandblast finish. The recent The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse Collection, published in 2006 by Ivy Press, notes of the 1912 issue that "sandblast proofs are rare, regardless of date, and these pieces were generally unappreciated at the time of issue. The process of sandblasting these coins after striking removed the 'bright' finish in the fields as seen on the surfaces of the 1909 and 1910 issues. Instead, thousands of tiny sparkling facets were present on the surfaces of the coin, but the subtleties of this new, European-inspired process were largely unappreciated in this country. The unpopularity of the matte proofing process is largely responsible for the smaller percentage of survivors of proof double eagles of this design when contrasted to those of the previous Liberty design."
    The current NGC population data show a total of 53 proof 1912s graded, although there certainly appear to be some statistical impossibilities occurring in those data. Of the mintages recorded for the matte proof twenties, 1908's is largest at 101 pieces, with the 1911 at 100, the 1912 at 74, the 1914 at 70, the 1913 at 58, and the 1915 at 50. Yet the current combined NGC-PCGS certified populations show 111 proofs of the 1908 in all grades, or 110% of the original mintage! The 1912 similarly shows a certified population of 75 pieces at both services, one coin more than the total mintage nearly 100 years ago! The 1913 total is even more ludicrous, with a combined total that is 117% of the original proof mintage of 70 pieces.
    Clearly, there exist numerous crossovers from one service to another in the cited data, and it is undoubtedly complicated by those who "crack out" and resubmit the same coin numerous times in the hope of obtaining a higher grade. In the already-pricey world of proof gold, the large cluster of 29 PR66-graded pieces at NGC--or perhaps submission occurrences is a better term--could just possibly consist of 29 separate coins, although that strains the credibility, as it would mean that 40% of the original mintage survives in that grade at just one of the two major services. The figure could just as easily consist of seven separate coins--five pieces submitted once each, and two coins each submitted a dozen times. A glance at the PCGS online Price Guide quickly confirms that a one-point jump in grade easily equates to many tens of thousands of dollars.
    In the Superb Gem grade of PR67, there are 12 pieces (or submission events) recorded at NGC, exceeded by only a single PR68 piece (6/07). Again, a reasonable estimate is that probably about 50% of those represent duplications. At PCGS there are six coins certified PR66, with none finer.
    This piece, then, is high within the Condition Census for the issue, and probably one of the half-dozen or so finest specimens known. This piece is tied in numeric grade as well as aesthetic appeal with the exceptional PR67 that was in the Morse Collection. The fields on each side are smooth and untroubled, with a consistent mustard-yellow coloration. Close inspection fails to reveal any post-striking impairments that would help identify this piece in future auction appearances. An exceptional piece of matte proof gold.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GZ, PCGS# 9209)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2007
    8th-10th Wednesday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
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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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