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    1931-D Double Eagle, MS65
    Only Five Finer Examples

    1931-D $20 MS65 PCGS. In 1931, amid the Great Depression, the Philadelphia Mint struck a substantial number of double eagles, primarily intended for export. The Denver Mint produced only 106,500 pieces. But most of the year's double eagles never left Treasury or bank vaults and were ultimately melted. Both the 1931 double eagle and the 1931-D -- the Denver Mint's last -- were victims of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential Executive Order 6102, The Gold Confiscation Act of April 5, 1933, calling for holders of significant quantities of gold to sell their coins at the prevailing price of $20.67 per ounce. Evidence that most 1931-D twenties were melted is verifiable by the lack of coins certified by third-party grading services. Of the few certified coins, most are in some degree of Mint State.
    In American Coin Treasures and Hoards, Q. David Bowers tells of his experience with four 1931-D double eagles that survived the confiscation:

    "In 1960 a Sidney, New York, businessman took from his bank safety deposit box four 'ordinary' $20 pieces and brought them to a coin dealer [Bowers], for he had heard there was a premium above face value for all gold coins.
    The dealer glanced at them, found they were all of the extremely rare 1931-D variety and in blazing gem Mint State, showed him the listing in The Guide Book, and expected that the finder would be delighted. Just the opposite occurred. Uncertainty set in--what were they really worth? Could they be sold for more elsewhere? Maybe they shouldn't be sold after all.
    Back into the safe deposit box the rare 1931-D $20 pieces went. Had they been common dates they would have been sold for the current market value at the time, which would have been between $40 and $50."

    Bowers never found out what happened to those coins. Most other specimens were less fortunate, and ended up in the melting furnace.
    Initially, David Akers considered the 1931-D the fourth rarest issue in the series. Over time, he reevaluated the rarity based on newly found coins. Several mini-hoards of the 1931-D were discovered, but "relatively few of these pieces graded better than Choice Uncirculated and the majority were heavily marked and lackluster." He further modified his opinion in the late 1980s, after a "mini-hoard" of 15 or 20 pieces surfaced. He then opined that the 1931-D's true population rarity was more in line with the slightly less rare 1931 and 1932 double eagles.
    The 1931-D is still conditionally rare, as most of that hoard graded between MS60 and MS63. In A Handbook of 20th-Century United States Gold Coins, Akers writes, "In MS64 or better condition, the 1931-D is an extreme rarity, and there may well be only 12 to 15 examples at that level still in existence. I have seen only a handful of true gems." Jeff Garrett handled a group of eight examples in late 1998, most of which would grade MS63 by today's standards. PCGS and NGC combined have graded only 21 Gem coins (several likely resubmissions), with five higher, all MS66 (11/11).
    This exceptionally attractive example is, in fact, an upper-end Gem. A light red-orange patina that turns hazel-gray around the margins covers the softly frosted surfaces. Each side is smooth and virtually unabraded. The lack of marks and original color suggest careful preservation since 1931. This specimen is indeed an uncommon find, a fact that will not be lost on the perceptive specialist.
    Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3831; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 5-6/2007), lot 2820.(Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26GP, PCGS# 9193)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May-Jun, 2012
    31st-3rd Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 21
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,101

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    15% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse and Steven Duckor Collections
    Revised Edition by Roger Burdette, and edited by James L. Halperin and Mark Van Winkle

    Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles is an issue-by-issue examination of this 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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