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    1908 No Motto Double Eagle, MS69
    A Wells Fargo Hoard Legend
    Among the Finest Saint-Gaudens Twenties Known

    1908 $20 No Motto, Wells Fargo Nevada, MS69 PCGS. Short Rays Obverse. In 1996, Ron Gillio and an associate met with a group of individuals concerning a massive, newly revealed hoard of Saint-Gaudens double eagles. At an undisclosed location, the owners of the hoard opened decades-sealed canvas bags, revealing some 19,900 1908 No Motto Saints. Gillio later said in an interview with Q. David Bowers, "Of all the different hoards I have bought in Europe, Asia, America, and elsewhere, this group of 1908s is the most interesting and highest quality group I have ever purchased."

    The story of the Wells Fargo Hoard is well-known among numismatists. Although many details of its history are masked by a necessity for confidentiality, the provenance of the coins is documented. The coins were originally part of an international payment of some sort in 1917, when they left government vaults and went into private hands. They remained in deep storage, unmoved until the 1960s. By that time, the original Mint bags had deteriorated, and the owners rebagged them in new, larger canvas bags of 500 coins each. The bags were sealed, dated, and put back into storage, where they remained, untouched, for another three decades.

    Gillio said of the coins' owners during their 1996 meeting, "They had a special book in which we had to register before they opened the first bag. The book contained the seal number and the date of the seal. We had to sign this book for every bag they opened. The person opening the bags was the person who sealed them originally." After documenting and purchasing the entire hoard, Gillio and his associate wrapped the coins in paper rolls, resealed them in the canvas bags, and then moved and stored them for a time at a Wells Fargo bank in Nevada. In late 1997, the coins were brought to market and certified, carrying the Wells Fargo pedigree in lieu of a family name or individual collector being tied to them.

    The quality of the coins was amazingly superb. The vast majority graded MS65 or finer, with thousands qualifying for MS66 and MS67 designations, and a couple of hundred pieces reaching the lofty MS68 level. The most famous coins from the Wells Fargo Hoard are the 10 pieces graded MS69 -- a level of preservation not previously achieved by any Saint-Gaudens double eagle.

    The 1908 No Motto double eagle was not scarce prior to the discovery of the Wells Fargo coins. David Akers, in 1982, considered the 1908 No Motto to be one of the most plentiful Saint-Gaudens twenties, trailing only the 1924 and 1927 at that time in availability. He wrote, "The 1908 No Motto actually had more auction appearances in my survey than any other Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle." Thousands of Uncirculated pieces were known, including some high-end examples. One of those high-grade coins appeared in the Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1303:

    "1908 Type as last, but without motto. Uncirculated, frosty mint surface. Not struck in proof, although Mr. Atwater has this listed as a proof. (Mr. Atwater's private catalog was prepared by a prominent dealer of long experience and standing.)"



    The coin realized $70, a strong price for what was in effect a common-date coin even back then. The Atwater specimen, as well as many of the other Mint State 1908 No Motto Saints that appeared at auction during the 1940s and as far back as the John Story Jenks Collection in 1921, may have been purchased directly from the Mint Cashier or the Annual Assay Commission pyx coins, as was the practice at the time for high-profile collectors and dealers. For all of those coins to have been "one-upped" by the pieces in the Wells Fargo Hoard, the quality of the Wells Fargo coins must have been truly spectacular. Gillio recalled of the Wells Fargo coins, "I have never seen a hoard of $20's of this quality, all one date, before this group or after."

    Six of the 10 Wells Fargo No Mottos in MS69 have never been offered at public auction. The other four have made isolated appearances. The Philip H. Morse specimen (Heritage, 11/2005), holds the auction record for the date of $94,875. The Jackson Hole/Fenn Family Collection coin appeared in our July 2006 Dallas Signature and again in our January 2017 FUN Signature sales. A third specimen appeared in Goldberg's Pre-Long Beach auction of February 2011, and the fourth piece to change hands at public auction was the Bently Shores Collection coin, in Stack's Bowers' August 2013 ANA sale.

    The Fox coin is fresh to the market. This piece carries with it tremendous weight for Registry Set collectors. Of the top five current PCGS Registry Sets, only the Fox and Simpson collections contain a 1908 No Motto in MS69. These coins are highly coveted. The Fox specimen showcases original prairie-gold coloration, transitioning through shades of greenish-gold, peach, and rose as one's eye travels across each side. Luster is naturally satiny, and as the grade suggests, virtually flawless. Boldly rendered motifs are yet another hallmark of the eye appeal.

    The Fox Wells Fargo No Motto Saint has the capacity to set a new auction record for this issue. The Rollo Fox Collection contains many magnificent Saint-Gaudens double eagles, including celebrated rarities. It is fitting that for the 1908 No Motto -- long one of the most plentiful dates in the series -- the coin represented is one of "the 10," one of the Wells Fargo elites -- one of the finest Saint-Gaudens double eagles known.

    David Akers (2008) Comments:
    The 1808 No Motto is one of the most common issues in the entire Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle series. Although thousands of Mint State coins already existed prior to that time, the "Wells Fargo Hoard" that dealer Ron Gillio purchased in the 1990s made the 1908 No Motto even more obtainable. The hoard contained 19,900 examples that had been kept in sealed bags since 1917. These bags had been temporarily stored in the vault of a Wells Fargo Bank, to which the hoard owes its name. The 1908 No Motto Double Eagles from the "Wells Fargo Hoard" are of nearly uniform high quality, most grading out in the MS65 to MS67 range when they were submitted to the major certification services. Even more significantly, the hoard contained 10 MS69s.
    From The Rollo Fox Collection of $20 Saint-Gaudens Gold. (Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 26F6, Variety PCGS# 99142, Base PCGS# 9142)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


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

    View all of [The Rollo Fox Collection of $20 Saint-Gaudens Gold ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2020
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 25
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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    Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse and Steven Duckor Collections
    Revised Edition by Roger Burdette, and edited by James L. Halperin and Mark Van Winkle

    Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles is an issue-by-issue examination of this 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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