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    1931 Saint-Gaudens Twenty Dollar, MS64
    Second-Scarcest of the Late-Date Rarities

    1931 $20 MS64 NGC. The 1931 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is a formidable rarity in the series, prized by numismatists for the beauty of its design and its mysterious, elusive nature. David Akers considered it the sixth-rarest date of the 53-coin series, and the second most elusive of the famous "late date" Saints; second only to the famous 1930-S.

    Among 20th century U.S. gold coins, no group is more celebrated than the later collectible dates in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series, from 1929-1932. These coins have mystified collectors since the late 1930s, when they were first seriously collected. Mint records indicate the issues were produced in ample numbers, but any supply in numismatic hands has always been minuscule. Of course, the explanation of this paradox is the great majority of these coins were never released from storage in Treasury vaults and Federal Reserve Banks. They were produced and held as backing for currency at a time when the United States was still on the gold standard. When Franklin Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard and called in domestic holdings of gold via executive order in 1933, almost the entire production of these dates was quickly removed from the storage facilities. The coins were later melted into gold ingots and stored in the Fort Knox Bullion Repository.

    In the case of the 1931 double eagle, a reported mintage of 2.9 million pieces was achieved at the Philadelphia Mint, but very few examples were released before the Gold Recall took effect. Mint records studied by Dr. Charles W. Green in the 1940s reveal only 45 coins were actually released through official channels. Roger Burdette's research enumerates 22 pieces distributed to known recipients, plus up to 50 more distributed anonymously from the Treasury Cash Room in Washington, D.C. Others were paid out for gold deposits at the Mint. Possibly, more pieces were saved from melting by Treasury officials and Mint personnel who exchanged older, more common double eagles for the rare 1931 coins, and sold them at a profit to Philadelphia and New York area coin dealers.

    David Akers estimated the surviving population of Mint State 1931s at 65-85 pieces. More recent research by Roger Burdette pegs the survival number at 110 pieces. The 1931 is almost always seen in Mint State. Historically -- and now -- the issue is always a featured attraction in its infrequent auction appearances, and record prices often attend these offerings. When a magnificent Superb Gem specimen was offered as lot 6710 of the Phillip H. Morse Collection (Heritage, 11/2005), it realized $254,500, a record price at the time. The same coin was offered as lot 3650 of the ANA Signature Auction (Heritage, 8/2010), where it eclipsed the old record, setting a new one at $322,000. Coins such as the present Choice Uncirculated example regularly realize prices approaching six figures.

    This bright, satiny near-Gem displays even yellow-gold color over each side. The strike is strong throughout with a few tiny marks visible with a magnifier. Census: 16 in 64 (1 in 64+), 12 finer (12/17).
    Ex: The Christopher Bently Nob Hill Collection/ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2014), lot 5767.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 332W, PCGS# 9192)

    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
    February, 2018
    22nd-27th Thursday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 27
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,863

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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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