Beautiful MS64 1921 Twenty, An Absolute and Condition Rarity in the Saint-Gaudens Series

    1921 $20 MS64 PCGS. The 1921 is a classic rarity in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. It is comparable in overall rarity to the 1920-S, but is considerably more challenging as a condition rarity, especially in the better grades of Uncirculated. A few more coins in the XF-AU grade range are known of the 1921 (about 70 1921 specimens have been certified XF-AU by PCGS and NGC, as contrasted to approximately 50 XF-AU examples of the 1920-S), but there are only a handful of 1921 coins extant above MS63 (specifically, the services have graded five near-Gem and finer 1921 specimens, and 27 1920-S MS64 and better coins).
    The reported mintage of the 1921 was 528,000 pieces, which is lower-than-average for the 1920s era, when totals of one million or more coins were common. Nevertheless, the figure was not so low to suggest that it would be a difficult date. In this regard, Paul Green, in an August 15, 2006 Numismatic News article entitled "1921 Double Eagle Survives in Low Numbers," writes: "The 1921 was more than a decade before the Gold Recall Order and the melting that followed. It's easy to understand why a date in the 1930s might have been heavily melted, but it's less easy to figure out why the 1921 would have been melted in large numbers. After all, a number of dates produced after 1921 show little evidence of being heavily destroyed in the recall. The 1923, for example, had a nearly identical mintage (566,000 pieces), but there is no evidence of unusual melting...yet the 1923 is $850 in VF20, but the 1921 is priced at $12,000."
    Approximately half of the extant 1921 double eagle population is located at the circulated grade levels, prompting Green to say: "The circulated numbers seen at both grading services suggest that the 1921 had a rather routine period, with some coins being released, although probably not all. There is reason to believe that a small number went overseas." If some of this issue did in fact go overseas, it must have been very small, as no appreciable hoards of the 1921 double eagle are known. Indeed, Walter Breen, in his 1988 Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, refers to "...about 5 from European sources since 1981." Along a similar vein, David Bowers, in his discussion of the 1921 in his 2004 treatise A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, states: "While some have sneaked into the market in recent years, and offerings of the past decade are more numerous than in earlier times, no quantities of hundreds or more Mint State pieces have turned up, unlike the case for certain former rarities later in the decade."
    The 1921 twenty was notably absent from the Dr. Thaine Price Collection, and that in the Browning Collection was a Choice AU. The Harry Bass and Henry Norweb collections each contained an MS63 example, and the Phillip Morse Collection included an MS64, an MS65, and an MS66. And according to Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth in their 2006 Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, 1795-1933, "...both the American Numismatic Society and the Smithsonian collection contain a superb Gem example of the date. Both were obtained from the Mint at the time of issue."
    This near-Gem survivor displays a satiny overall sheen and strong cartwheel luster effects. An impressive strike is noted on the design elements, manifesting itself in strong definition on the Capitol building, on Liberty's face and on the fingers of the left hand and the associated olive branch, and on most of the eagle's plumage. Rich green-gold and orange-gold colors blend together over the surfaces. Several scattered abrasions are not unusual for the assigned grade; a minute diagonal mark in the left obverse field and a couple more on the reverse sun are mentioned solely to help aid for future pedigree purposes. This is an important bidding opportunity for either the double eagle or 20th century gold specialist. Housed in an earlier PCGS holder with a green insert. Population: 3 in 64, 4 finer (4/07).
    Ex: Morse Collection (Heritage, 11/05), lot 6646.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 26G2, PCGS# 9172)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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    Auction Dates
    May-Jun, 2007
    30th-2nd 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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