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    Marvelous 1931 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, MS65
    Bowers: 'One of the Key Issues in the Series'

    1931 $20 MS65 PCGS. The Philadelphia Mint achieved a large mintage of more than 2.9 million double eagles in 1931. If original mintage were the only factor in a coins rarity, the 1931 Saint-Gaudens double eagle would be a common coin indeed. However, as numismatists have long known, mintage statistics are meaningless when discussing the rarity of the later issues of this series. Distribution is the true key to their rarity; the great majority of the 1931 production was melted and transformed into ingots in 1937, after the Gold Recall of 1933. Historically, not everyone in the numismatic community understood the relative rarity of the 1931. In the catalog of the Thaine B. Price Collection (Akers, 5/1998), lot 120, David Akers mused:

    "For many years, the 1931 was considered to be the second most common of the rare late date issues of the Saint-Gaudens series, i.e. those issues from 1929-1932. It was considered to be more rare than the 1929, but less rare than the other three, in particular, the 1932.-- That misconception has been corrected now, and today the 1931 is appropriately regarded as the second rarest of the late date issues with respect to population rarity after only the 1930-S."

    The actual number of 1931 Philadelphia Mint double eagles available today is a source of some disagreement. Q. David Bowers calls the 1931 "one of the key issues in the series" and estimates a surviving population of 80-120 Mint State specimens, with half a dozen or so examples in circulated grades still extant. Those figures coincide well with current population data from the leading grading services, where NGC and PCGS combined have certified a total of 119 specimens in all grades (10/09). Elsewhere in the present catalog we have mentioned Dr. Charles Green's research on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. This research has come to light through the efforts of Q. David Bowers, Dr. George Fuld, and Richard Eliasberg. According to Green's study, a shockingly low 45 coins of this denomination were distributed through official channels in 1931. On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth estimate a surviving population of 1931s from 200 to 300 pieces, an estimate that seems overlarge.
    The first auction appearance of a 1931 double eagle probably occurred in the Needham, Herrick and Other Collections (Thomas Elder, 9/1937), lot 1393. Elder's description stated, "1931. $20. Of the U.S. St. Gaudens type. A very rare year. First ever offered at auction sale! Value $350. Brilliant Uncirculated. Of greatest rarity." We have been unable to discover the price realized, but Elder's estimate is an indication of how great the demand was for this date in 1937. While Elder's estimate certainly seems high, it is small compared to the $1,250 Col. James Flanagan paid for the 1933 double eagle he purchased from B. Max Mehl just two months later. Clearly, the late date double eagles were exciting coins in the late 1930s.
    The rare Gem offered here displays richly frosted surfaces and exhibits a delightful cartwheel effect when rotated slowly under a light. The strike is sharp, with crisp detail present on all design elements. The surfaces are an attractive, bright greenish-yellow, with a faint undertone of red. Both sides show a scattering of insignificant handling marks and luster grazes, entirely consistent with the grade. Overpowering luster is the standout feature of this specimen. The combination of high technical grade and intense visual appeal makes this offering a rare opportunity for the discerning collector.
    From The Ralph P. Muller Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 332W, PCGS# 9192)

    View all of [The Ralph P. Muller Collection ]

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2010
    6th-10th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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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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