Rarely Seen 1931 Saint-Gaudens Twenty, MS661931 $20 MS66 PCGS. The 1931 Philadelphia Mint double eagle is very rare today, and is one of the key issues in the series. Walter Breen, in his Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, suggests that: "Possibly 18-20 survive, all Unc." PCGS and NGC, however, have seen approximately 120 examples, all but two of which are in Mint State grades. In his write-up of the Gem Uncirculated 1931 specimen in the Dr. Thaine B. Price sale (May 1998), David Akers says: "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. This always struck me as odd because in-depth research clearly showed the 1931 to be at least as rare as the 1932 in terms of the total number of specimens known, and perhaps even a little bit more rare. 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. In Gem condition, however, the 1931 is the most common of the issues from 1929-1932 (just slightly less rare than the 1932, but considerably less rare than the 1930-S and 1931-D as well as the 1929), although most standard pricing guides do not properly reflect that fact."
The modal Uncirculated grade in the certified population for the 1931 twenty is MS64, with nearly 50 specimens having been seen. Thirty-four Gems have been graded, and 14 MS66 examples. A solitary finer coin has been certified (a PCGS-graded MS67). It is instructive to note that, according to our records, 22 MS65 1931 examples have appeared in major auctions over the last 15 years, but only three MS66s and one MS67.
The 1931, according to Akers (A Handbook of 20th-Century United States Gold Coins), is usually well struck, although some examples are rather flat on the stars below the Capitol building. The surfaces display excellent mint frost, and the color is usually light to medium orange or coppery-gold. Copper alloy spots are commonly seen, and some specimens display a long, vertical, slightly curved die break through the eagle's beak.
The Premium Gem in the present lot exhibits somewhat better-than-average strike, as the detail in the Capitol building and the eagle's plumage is sharp, and most of the stars along the lower obverse border are well brought up. Rich orange-gold patina intermingles with yellow-gold and tinges of mint-green, and pleasing luster emanates from satin-like surfaces that are devoid of significant abrasions. A few minute marks beneath the ends of Liberty's flowing hair and a couple more located below the olive branch may aid in this coin's pedigree. This example does not show any copper spots, or the die crack through the eagle's beak. Population: 9 in 66, 1 finer (7/07).
(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 332W, PCGS# 9192)
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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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