Elusive 1930-S Saint-Gaudens Twenty, MS65
1930-S $20 MS65 PCGS. CAC. The 1930-S Saint-Gaudens double
eagle is, historically, the most underappreciated coin in this
popular series. Previously, the true rarity of the later dates in
the series was overshadowed by the more celebrated Ultra High
Reliefs, the ultra-rare 1927-D issue, and the controversial 1933
date. While collectors have long recognized that all the dates from
1929-1932 are elusive, the coins have never received the attention
garnered by the "Big Three." Today, recently published research
from numismatists such as Q. David Bowers, David Akers, Jeff
Garrett, and Ron Guth, and data from the major grading services,
have established the importance of this group of dates. The coins
are now coming into their own, perceived by collectors as
desirable, historic rarities. The 1930-S is emerging as the
undisputed star of this elite group of double eagles.
Underrated, Low Mintage Issue
Key to the Late Date Series
Even among specialists, the relative rarity of the later dates in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series has only recently become clear. When David Akers published his study of double eagles in 1982, he believed coins such as the 1931-D were scarcer than the 1930-S. After reviewing more recent data, Akers reevaluated this position. In his recently published Handbook of 20th Century United States Gold Coins, Akers states: "The 1930-S is by far the rarest of the 1929-1932 issues in this series and, discounting the essentially uncollectable 1933, only the 1927-D is rarer when we consider the entire Saint-Gaudens series."
Q. David Bowers concurs with Akers' assessment, asserting "The 1930-S stands as a highly important rarity, second (and at a distance) only to the 1927-D among rarities in the Type 6 double eagle series, up to 1932." Heritage was privileged to offer another specimen of the 1930-S double eagle in the recent Long Beach Signature Auction (Heritage, 9/2009), lot 1984. In the lot description for that coin, we published the following study:
"Essentially 'rarer than all but the 1927-D' is quite a breathtaking statement for connoisseurs of the series. We could not resist making a comparison:
"--For the 1920-S, 1927-D, 1927-S, 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, and 1932, PCGS has certified, in all grades, respectively: 86, 7, 135, 164, 40, 79, 97, and 69 pieces (less duplicates). (9/09).
"--For the 1920-S, 1927-D, 1927-S, 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, and 1932, NGC has certified, in all grades, respectively: 82, 5, 124, 129, 19, 40, 48, and 69 pieces (less duplicates). (9/09).
"If we assume that the certified population reflects the total population, and that all of the issues above have the same percentages of duplicates (both reasonable but not necessarily true assumptions, nor yet provably false), then the data certainly appear to support Akers' astonishing assertion. Even if some issues have a higher percentage of duplicates, the differences are compelling."
The 1930-S boasts an original mintage of just 74,000 pieces, the third lowest of the series. The coins were not widely circulated at their date of issue, and all but a tiny portion of the mintage was melted in the Gold Recall of the mid-1930s. In the catalog of the Norweb Collection (Stack's, 11/2006), a remarkable piece of correspondence between Dr. Charles Green and Louis Eliasberg is reproduced. In this document, Green tells of a consultation he had with the assistant director of the Mint in which many Mint records were made available for him to study. Green was able to determine the exact number of double eagles released by the various Mint facilities for many important dates in the 1920s and 1930s. Regarding the 1930-S double eagle, Green states only 3,250 examples of this issue were officially released from the San Francisco Mint before the Gold Recall. Experts estimate a surviving population of just 40-60 specimens today.
The first appearance of a 1930-S double eagle at public auction was in the J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 991. The coin was described as "Brilliant Uncirculated" and realized $475, a strong price at the time (the 1927-D in that sale only realized $25 more). The same coin was offered in the Dr. Charles Green Collection (Mehl, 4/1949), lot 883. Green was an important numismatic scholar of this period, and he was an early student of the Saint-Gaudens series, as shown by the research alluded to above. The Green catalog is one of the few important sales of U.S. gold coins from this era that was not included in Akers' survey when he published his seminal work. The catalog provides much interesting information for the modern researcher.
In his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, Walter Breen reported most surviving 1930-S double eagles had been repatriated "from European banks about 1960." Numismatic evidence, particularly the condition of the coins themselves, has cast some doubt on this statement in recent years. Nearly all examples seen are Uncirculated, with most coins grading MS64 and above. A typical example is lustrous, with strong eye appeal and a sharp strike. The coins just seem too nice to be hoard specimens. Garrett and Guth opine, "Those that did survive were likely held by American coin collectors or dealers, and it is almost certain that none were shipped overseas from this Western mint." However, there is strong anecdotal evidence that Breen was correct about at least some of the coins emerging from European holdings. In the catalog of the Lake Michigan and Springdale Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 6/2006), lot 2787, the following conversation between John Ford (speaking) and Q. David Bowers is recalled:
"I remember that Paul Wittlin, who used to buy gold coins for Jim Kelly in Paris and other places in Europe, got into a major argument with Kelly in 1960, and for a time they stopped doing business together (they later reconciled). Wittlin approached me with four gem 1930-S twenties he had just purchased, and I bought the lot for about $750 apiece. I took them with me to the ANA Convention in Atlanta in 1961, and put one of them in a case. Harvey Stack spotted it, and we made a deal for $1,000, and then I told him I had three more--and he bought them all. Later I met the man in Paris from whom Wittlin had bought them--he was a coin dealer in that city--and I learned that he had charged Wittlin $400 each. So, that is how four of these found their way to America."
It is clear from Ford's reminiscence that at least a few of the 1930-S double eagles were saved from the melting pot by foreign bankers.
The present coin is a magnificent specimen of this sought-after date. The surfaces are radiantly lustrous, with an attractive layer of crimson patina. Handling marks are consistent with the grade. We note a light mark in the left (facing) obverse field at about 9 o'clock, extending from a star to the rays. The strike is impressive, as usually seen on this issue. Exquisite detail shows on all design elements, especially on the eagle's feathers and the pillars of the Capitol. Fabulous eye appeal complements the high technical grade to make this offering a coin to remember.
From The Ralph P. Muller Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GM, PCGS# 9191)
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 Ralph P. Muller 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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