1927-S Twenty Dollar, MS67
1927-S $20 MS67 PCGS Secure. CAC. Ex: Morse/Duckor. Like
many other issues in the Saint-Gaudens series from the 1920s and
1930s, the 1927-S had a substantial mintage. In this case, 3.1
million pieces were produced in the San Francisco Mint in this
year. However, almost the entire mintage was melted in the 1930s.
In the 1940s, the 1927-S was considered the fourth-scarcest issue
in the series, thought to be even more elusive than the 1927-D.
From the original mintage, only 3,750 1927-S twenties were released
through official channels, according to Dr. Charles W. Green.
Dealers in the 1930s and 1940s appear to have had a good grasp of
the numbers available of Saint-Gaudens twenties on the market at
that time. What they could not know, however, were the numbers of
coins that had been exported to Europe and South America.
Purchased Directly From the Mint
Ex: Museum of Connecticut History
During the 10-year period we surveyed between 1935 and 1944, the 1927-S twenty only appeared in two of the 152 auctions examined. This extreme rarity in public auctions at the time underscores B. Max Mehl's (curiously worded) assertion in 1949: "I believe there are no fewer than three or four specimens known." Like the 1931 and 1932 twenties, the lowest price for the 1927-S during those early years was in Morgenthau's New York Collection in May 1939, where an example went begging at $67. By 1944 the coin in the Bell sale brought $500 with a $125 catalog value. By the time of the Bell sale, all of the great rarities in the Saint-Gaudens series had turned up in public auction at least once. Two years later, the World's Greatest Collection 1927-S realized $925 with a catalog value of $175. Then, after World War II, coins began to surface in the bullion and numismatic holdings of European banks. When most issues began to turn up, some in large numbers, former extreme rarities were downgraded to merely scarce in a few short years. In the 1950s one or two pieces at a time of the 1927-S began to show up in European gold holdings. But, unlike the 1922-S and 1926-S, it never appeared in quantity, and its rarity status has remained constant through the years.
Of the 172 pieces seen by both major services, 75 coins are in circulated grades from XF40 to AU58 (most in the latter grade), proving the 1927-S was publicly released, at least in small numbers, at the time of issue. However, the 1927-S is best known as an absolute rarity with perhaps only 120-140 individual coins surviving in mint condition. Of the Uncirculated coins known most are lower-end examples, seldom seen above MS62. At the upper end of Uncirculated, there is a small but important group of outstanding coins, perhaps as many as 14 to 16 pieces that grade MS65 to MS67. At the MS67 level there are three pieces, but the Duckor specimen is the only PCGS-certified coin (10/11). Garrett and Guth state that the Smithsonian example would grade MS67, but of course that Superb Gem is unavailable to collectors.
As with almost all 1927-S twenties, the visual focus of the present Duckor example is its bright, thick mint frost. Some are known with a satiny texture, but those are in the minority. The luster is even, light reddish-gold with the most notable variation being a single alloy spot in the right obverse field, a common trait on 1927-S twenties. The upper reverse also displays a subtle accent of lilac patina intermixed with the otherwise even reddish-gold. The strike details are strong to full on each side, and there is little evidence of the often-seen beveling on the rims, although slight irregularity is noted on the reverse. Abrasions are almost nonexistent, but for the sake of pedigree identifiers we will repeat those that have been named in previous auction appearances. A tiny mark occurs on the eighth ray on the obverse (counting from left to right), and a slightly curved scrape (most likely of Mint origin) is noted on the sun on the lower reverse that runs parallel to the edge. The extraordinary condition of this 1927-S is undoubtedly due to its unbroken pedigree since 1927. Since it was sold from the holdings of the Museum of Connecticut History in 1995, there have only been two owners: Phillip Morse and Dr. Steven Duckor. A 1927-S twenty is always a focal point of any offering of Saint-Gaudens twenties. This is the finest coin known, one that has resided in two of the finest sets of this series ever assembled.
Ex: Treasurer of the U.S.; George Godard; Museum of Connecticut History (Heritage, 6/1995), lot 6027; Phillip H. Morse Collection (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6698.
David Akers Comments:
The 1927-S has been considered one of the major rarities of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series since the late 1930's. Throughout the 1940's, a decade of many great "name" sales and the appearance of the first high quality complete or nearly complete sets of Saints at auction, the appearance of a 1927-S in a sale was an important event; it was always one of the highlights of any sale in which it was offered. During this decade, which essentially heralded the emergence of the Saint-Gaudens series as one of the most interesting and important series of U.S. gold coins, the 1927-S was in the second tier of major rarities along with the 1921 and 1931-D, all three just behind the series' most famous and revered issues, the 1924-S, 1926-D, and 1926-S. For all three of these second level rarities, the typical estimate of the number of known specimens was in the 10-12 range. At that time the 1927-S was always considered to be more rare than the 1927-D, which is now regarded, of course, as the premier regular issue rarity in the series. As was the case with virtually all of the double eagles struck after World War I, the 1927-S was minted in very high numbers, more than three million pieces, but these were never readily available to the general public and were only held as part of the national gold reserves. However, the existence of a number of minimally circulated pieces would seem to indicate that some 1927-S double eagles spent time in circulation. Others were returned from Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, no large quantities mind you, just occasional single specimens or very small groups of several pieces. Almost all of them were at the lower end of the mint state scale from MS60-MS62 along with some lightly circulated examples. There were enough returned from Europe, however, to greatly alter the overall population rarity of the 1927-S. Now, instead of only 10-12 known, there are more like 150-200, meaning the 1927-S is considered moderately rare today rather than the great rarity it once was thought to be. However, gems are still correctly considered to be very rare with perhaps 10-12 MS65 specimens known along with two or three superb pieces. The Duckor coin offered here is a spectacular coin in every respect. It has exceptional color and luster and pristine surfaces, and could easily have been granted a (+) designation. Along with the 1908-S this is one of my two favorite coins in Dr. Duckor's set. In my opinion, both combine rarity and quality to an even higher degree than any other coin in the collection. There is only one other 1927-S that I know of that is comparable to Dr. Duckor's 1927-S, the example in the Dr. Thaine Price Collection. It is a coin I personally owned for nearly a decade before I decided that Dr. Price should have it in his set and offered it to him; it was the final coin he bought for his collection. It was in a PCGS MS66 holder when I owned it and at the time of his sale in 1998. I compared the two in 1995 when the Duckor specimen first appeared on the market from the Museum of Connecticut History. I thought the two were "essentially equal in quality" as I stated in my Price catalog and I also noted that the Price coin was "from the standpoint of both technical quality and overall appearance, perhaps the finest Saint-Gaudens double eagle in the Dr. Thaine B. Price Collection." Other Saints from the Price Collection eventually graded MS67 or MS68 and so it is no surprise at all that the Price 1927-S has since been upgraded to MS67 status by NGC.
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# 26GJ, PCGS# 9188)
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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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