Gem 1922-S Double Eagle
1922-S $20 MS65 PCGS Secure. CAC. Ex: Akers/Duckor. Six
decades ago the 1922-S was one of the prime rarities of the
Saint-Gaudens double eagle series, but the issue has surfaced in
several hoards over the years, increasing the availability
considerably for present-day collectors. Still, the 1922-S is a
scarce issue in absolute terms, and specimens in Gem condition
remain formidable rarities. The coin offered here is one of the
finest examples, tied for the third spot in the PCGS Coin Facts
Prized Condition Rarity
The auction history of the 1922-S is a long one, as an example was featured at least as early as the New York Collection Part II (Morgenthau, 5/1939), where lot 549 was described as, "1922 S Uncirculated and very scarce." The lot realized $69, about on par with the 1927-S at $67, the 1931 at $61, and the 1932 at $76. The status of the 1922-S as a series-rarity increased throughout the following decade, but a subtle change could be observed by 1949. B. Max Mehl , who always had a finger on the pulse of the numismatic market, reported the following in lot 878 of the catalog of the Dr. Charles W. Green Collection in April 1949:
"1922 S. Uncirculated with frosty mint surface. The coin, however, does show just the slightest touch of cabinet friction. I consider this coin as extremely rare. Probably not more than a dozen specimens known to exist. This specimen also comes from the Bell Sale in 1944 at $340.00. At that time this coin cataloged for only $100.00. Another specimen offered in the 'World's Greatest Collection' in 1946 brought $420.00. Since then a specimen sold for less, but I still think this coin is one of the rarest of all Branch Mint Double Eagles."
Despite Mehl's estimate of only 12 specimens known, his note about the falling price of a recent offering proved prophetic, as the lot only realized $275. The 1922-S began to appear in quantity in European banks in the following decades, and the date was well represented in a famous Central American hoard that surfaced in 1983. Today, the 1922-S can be found in lower Mint State grades with little difficulty; high-grade examples remain quite rare.
Consulting the current PCGS Population Report, we find that only 11 examples of the 1922-S have been certified in MS65, with just two MS66 pieces finer. The totals may contain a few resubmissions and crossovers. Probably no more than 18 to 25 coins survive in MS65 or finer grades.
The present coin is a delightful Gem with remarkable visual appeal. The reverse exhibits the curious inner rim caused by die buckling often seen on specimens of this date. There are a few obverse copper spots that are almost expected with this issue. The design elements are well-detailed, displaying just a touch of softness on the Capitol dome. The incredible color overshadows all other aesthetic considerations. Lemon-yellow, copper-gold, and greenish-gold combine to amazing effect on this example; a couple of small areas verge on purple. Rich, rolling cartwheel luster adds to the amazing eye appeal. A few scattered abrasions are more minor and widespread than the grade might imply. A comparable specimen of this historic issue may not be offered for some time, and the discerning collector should bid accordingly.
Ex: David Akers
David Akers Comments:
In the 1940s and early 1950s, the 1922-S was considered to be one of the most important and rarest issues in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. In his Dr. Charles W. Green and Jerome Kern sales of 1949 and 1950, B. Max Mehl estimated that only a dozen or so examples were known. Of course, Mehl was the consummate numismatic salesman and "hypester" of coins in his mail-bid only catalogs, very prone to overstating rarity, but his comments on the rarity of the 1922-S were in keeping with the prevailing sentiment among numismatists of the era. At that time, it was more revered as a rarity than the 1920-S for instance, as evidenced by the estimated value of an uncirculated example in the so-called "World's Greatest Collection" sale of 1946 being double the estimate for a comparable 1920-S. The estimate was based on what the exact two coins had actually realized in the 1944 J.F. Bell sale. In the early 1950's, however, several substantial quantities of the 1922-S were found in Paris and Swiss banks with many more to follow in the next two decades. Few, if any, of these coins were particularly high quality, however, mostly unattractive, heavily bagmarked uncirculated pieces. So prior to the 1980's, even choice uncirculated specimens were seldom seen and gem quality examples were basically unknown and unobtainable, and so, at least as a condition rarity, the rarity status of the 1922-S remained intact. The greatest collection of Saints formed prior to 1983 (cf. Eliasberg and Norweb among others) always failed to have a gem 1922-S or even one that might grade MS64 by today's standards. Then, with the discovery of the Central American hoard in 1983, for the first time ever, a substantial number of beautiful, original, choice, very choice, and even gem uncirculated examples became available to collectors. The hoard, sold by MTB of New York, contained hundreds of uncirculated examples of this issue. They were notable not only for their quality, but also for their generally excellent color, luster and copper toning. Gerald Bauman, the Chief Numismatist of MTB at the time, gave me the opportunity to buy as many of them as I wanted for a single fixed price per coin as long as we could agree on a premium price and a minimum quantity. After seeing the coins it did not take long to negotiate a deal satisfactory to both of us and we also arrived at a similar arrangement for the best specimens in the hoard of the 1908-D No Motto, 1908-D Motto, and 1909-D. I handled dozens and dozens of very choice and gem uncirculated examples of all four of these issues from the hoard not to mention many hundreds of similar quality examples of the 1909-S, 1910-S, 1911-S, 1914-S, 1915-S and 1916-S. I don't think it would be hyperbole to state that just about every one of the gem or superb 1922-S double eagles that appear in the population reports and today's finest sets are from this incredible hoard. The MS66 Simpson coin and this specimen are both from the Central American hoard and so was the Dr. Thaine Price coin which sold with his collection in 1998.
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: N7079) (NGC ID# 26G4, PCGS# 9174)
View all of [The Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection ]
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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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