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    Description

    The Norweb 1908-S Double Eagle, MS67
    Tied for the Finest Certified

    1908-S $20 MS67 PCGS Secure. CAC. Ex: Duckor/Norweb. Double eagles without the motto IN GOD WE TRUST were only coined in Philadelphia and Denver, while San Francisco coined its first examples of the Saint-Gaudens design after the motto was restored. In Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908, Roger Burdette points to difficulties with the edge lettering mechanism as the cause of the delay:

    "The mint struggled to re-invent a production quality, three-segment edge collar for the eagle and double eagle. ... It was not until September 1907 that the new mechanism was completely successful on the $10 gold coins, and it was December before the double eagle version was operating reliably at Philadelphia. Denver and San Francisco mints had additional problems with the mechanism and it was August 1908 before the San Francisco Mint could strike the new coins without damaging the presses."


    Even after the problems were solved in San Francisco, it may have been some time before the mechanism was operating smoothly, judging from the limited coinage of only 22,000 double eagles during the last six months of the year, an average of only 150 coins per day based on a six-day work week. The mintage is the lowest of any Saint-Gaudens issue other than the High Relief coins. It is also known for its conditional rarity.
    Unlike many later dates that were exported or remained dormant in Treasury vaults, the 1908-S apparently saw use in Western commerce. Well into the 20th century, few collectors were active in the San Francisco vicinity, and only a few others ordered new issues from that mint. The survival of high-grade 1908-S double eagles was a matter of chance.
    PCGS has certified 28 coins in MS65 or better grades, including just five in MS67 and none finer (10/11), the figures including resubmissions. The MS67 PCGS population remains unchanged since we published The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens late in 2006. For comparison, Consider also that PCGS has certified 442 submissions of 1908-S double eagles in all grades from Fine 12 to MS67, with an average grade of only AU55. NGC has never graded an MS67, their Census Report listing just seven in MS65 and six in MS66.
    Since we began our Permanent Auction Archives in 1993, we have only presented three previous auction appearances of a Superb Gem example of this issue, and those three appearances represent just two different coins. The Duckor specimen becomes the third example, and in our opinion, easily the finest of the three coins we have handled, edging out the Phillip Morse specimen. The third piece, which we offered late in 2006 and again early in 2007, was previously certified MS66 PCGS, upgrading to MS67 prior to our November 2006 offering.
    In his 1988 Handbook of 20th-Century United States Gold Coins, 1907-1933, David Akers described several exceptional pieces including Dr. Duckor's first specimen, an example in Auction '80, the present Norweb specimen, and coins in the collections of Louis Eliasberg, Harry Bass, Thaine Price, William Crawford, and a prominent Eastern collection, as well as the Browning specimen and two coins that Akers personally owned at the time. Only the Auction '80 specimen and the Norweb coin have reached the MS67 grading pinnacle.
    The Norweb-Duckor specimen is arguably the most distinctive coin in the entire collection. It displays frosty orange-gold cartwheel luster rolling across both sides, with mottled carmine and violet-blue toning, especially along the obverse border, and a few sprinkles of similar color in the fields. The strike is bold, showing indistinct detail only at the Capitol building on the obverse. All fingers of both hands are separated, and the hair and facial details are fully evident. All of the eagle's feathers are full and sharp, including the tail feathers. Individual bagmarks and other blemishes can almost literally be counted on one hand.
    Ex: Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 4090; David W. Akers; Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor.

    David Akers Comments:
    This issue has the second lowest mintage figure of any regular issue Saint-Gaudens double eagle after the 1907 MCMVII High Relief. This low mintage figure, only 22,000 pieces, undoubtedly contributed to the esteem in which the 1908-S was held throughout the 1940s, 1950s and forward to the present day. At one time it was considered to be at the low end of the fourth tier of Saint-Gaudens double eagle rarity which also consisted of the 1920-S, 1922-S, 1924-D, 1925-S and the late date P-Mints 1929, 1931, and 1932. When offered for sale at auction, all of these issues typically realized only in the $200-$400 price range. Unlike almost all of the double eagle issues minted after World War I, the 1908-S issue was intended and used for general circulation. That is why a much larger percentage of known specimens of the 1908-S are in circulated grades than is the case with other prized dates of the series. Although less rare than the low mintage might imply, choice uncirculated and very choice ones are at least very scarce and gem quality MS65 examples are rare with only about 25-30 known. More superb MS66 and MS67 examples exist of this issue than of most of the other rare dates in the series, but they are still very rare with perhaps 15-18 known.
    The specimen offered here is, in my opinion, the finest known 1908-S double eagle. I first saw it at the Norweb sale in the fall of 1988 and absolutely fell in love with it. I decided to buy it for myself even though I already owned three other beautiful original gems of the date at the time, including the Eliasberg specimen, also graded MS67 by PCGS. The price for this coin at the Norweb sale was $39,600, the same amount that I paid for the 1926-D, which I later sold to Dr. Thaine Price. The Saints in the Norweb sale were very conservatively and consistently undergraded. For example, the 1925-S and aforementioned 1926-D were graded only MS64 and MS63 respectively. I purchased both of them and subsequently sold them to Dr. Price. After they were sold with his collection in 1998, they were submitted for grading to PCGS and received grades of MS68 and MS66 respectively, the first and second finest of their issues graded. But of all the Saints in the Norweb sale, quality-wise, this 1908-S, graded only MS65 in the sale, was by far the finest. It is a one-of-a-kind Saint-Gaudens double eagle with luster and color that is simply extraordinary and fields and devices close to perfection. Personally, I think this is distinctly under graded in a 67 holder and once I bought it I told everyone that it was the one Saint I owned that I planned to keep "forever." However, in 1990 at the Seattle ANA convention, I made the mistake of showing it for the first time to Dr. Duckor. I had already sold him one of my other gems of the date, but this is the one he knew he just had to have. Over the next 15 years he did his best to convince me that I should sell it to him, that it really belonged in a complete collection of Saints of the quality he was putting together. I finally relented and agreed to sell it to him in 2005 and so "forever" in this case lasted for only 17 years. He was right, though; it did belong in his collection, and I am as proud of it being there as he is. I have to admit, though, despite my saying many times over the years that I never have "seller's remorse" after I decide to sell one of my own personal coins, that this coin is definitely the one exception to that rule.
    From The Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection.
    Seller is donating a portion of their proceeds, and Heritage is donating the same portion of the Buyer's Premium, from the sale of this lot to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. See page 3 for details.(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 26FA, PCGS# 9149)

    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 Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    4th-8th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,225

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    15% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    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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