A Legendary Rarity in the Saint-Gaudens Series--1921 Double Eagle, MS63 PCGS

    1921 $20 MS63 PCGS. In U.S. numismatics there are certain issues whose rarity can, at least in part, be explained by the focus of the mint on another denomination--a coin that is usually common. There are many examples of this: The 1878-CC Trade dollar that was passed over in favor of the Morgan dollar. The 1904 double eagle had a massive mintage compared to the quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagles of that year. In 1890, more than 39 million Morgan dollars were struck between the Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Carson City mints, while production of gold coins languished at a mere 8,700 quarter eagles, 4,240 half eagles, 57,930 eagles, and 75,940 double eagles. Production of 1921 double eagles was a respectable 528,500 pieces, but this output is dwarfed by the 44.6 million silver dollars struck the same year. Additionally, Philadelphia was the only mint to strike twenties this year. But what really made the 1921 double eagle a major rarity was not its mintage but the extremely high attrition rate. Apparently more than 99% of the mintage was melted in the mid-1930s. Examples are extremely rare today in any grade.
    Survivors of the 1921 seem to be divided into two main groups: Those that were released, and in some cases actually circulated in 1921, and those that George Godard and Louis Comparette had some connection with. Both men had a numismatic connection, Godard as librarian of the Connecticut State Library that was home to the J.C. Mitchelson coin collection, and Comparette as curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Philadelphia Mint. Only 50-70 examples are believed known today of the 1921 in AU condition, and another 40-60 pieces may be extant in mint condition. Today the population data from PCGS and NGC reflects three high grade 1921s, two MS65 and one MS66. These pieces were likely coins selected by Comparette. The rarity and value of this issue in high grade is best demonstrated by the MS66 coin in the Morse Collection, sold by Heritage in November 2005. That coin realized $1,092,500.
    At the MS63 level, only nine pieces have been certified by each of the major services (minus an uncertain number of resubmissions). This grade level represents perhaps one of the better values for this date. It balances well-preserved surfaces and price. The 1921 was conspicuously missing from the Thaine Price Collection, and the Browning Collection had an AU.
    The surfaces of this piece have lovely, satin-like mint luster and the coin has a fine-grain, matte-like finish similar to most twenties from the 1910-1916 period. The striking details are strong throughout, and the only (barely) noticeable abrasions are a cluster below Liberty's extended right (facing) arm on the obverse, and a single mark in the field below the O in DOLLARS on the reverse.
    The 1921 is a classic rarity in the Saint-Gaudens series of double eagles. This upper-end MS63 coin represents an important opportunity for the specialist to acquire this significant coin, the first example of this popular grade that we have handled in seven years.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26G2, PCGS# 9172)

    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 Dates
    October, 2006
    24th-26th Tuesday-Thursday
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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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