1931-D Double Eagle, MS66+
1931-D $20 MS66+ PCGS Secure. CAC. Ex: Duckor/Carter. The
1931-D twenty has a remarkably low mintage for a later-date double
eagle with only 106,500 pieces struck. Undoubtedly the Great
Depression influenced the output of coinage that year in Denver.
The double eagle was the only large-denomination coin minted. The
only other coins produced that year were the cent, nickel, and
dime, all denominations needed for small commercial transactions.
The Philadelphia Mint struck 2.9 million double eagles in 1931,
apparently in anticipation of overseas demand that never
materialized. Undoubtedly the cost of transporting these
large-denomination coins from Denver to the East Coast was a
limiting factor, making the Philadelphia coins sufficient for this
possible demand. Both the Philadelphia and Denver twenties of 1931
suffered the same near-extinction. In spite of the disparity in
their mintages, only 95-110 examples of the 1931-D are estimated to
have survived the meltings of the mid-1930s, compared to the 65-85
coins believed known of the 1931 Philadelphia issue.
The Finest Example Certified
Ex: Amon Carter
Until recently the 1931-D was considered rarer than the 1931 and 1932. Then a small hoard appeared in Zurich, making it more available than previously thought. The story (as far as it is known) was told in last year's FUN Signature, which we repeat here:
"In 1982, Akers reported the 1931-D was the fourth-rarest date in the series, with perhaps 35-40 examples known, considerably more elusive than its Philadelphia counterparts from 1931 and 1932. This situation changed in 1984, when a small hoard of 15-20 1931-Ds surfaced in the numismatic market. The discovery of those new coins brought the population of the 1931-D into close alignment with the 1931 and 1932.
"Heritage Co-Chairman Jim Halperin states, 'When the hoard appeared I quickly adjusted my thinking regarding their market value as a result of the sudden spurt in availability ... I think they were mostly 63-64 quality with maybe a few Gems.' The hoard was reported as a Midwestern find by Walter Breen, but Marc Emory, the Director of European Operations for Heritage, remembers handling a few of the last, not from the Midwest. Breen may have confused the 1931-D group with a hoard of 1928 double eagles (25 pieces in an original bank bag) that surfaced in 1985 in Elyria, Ohio."
In our recent survey of 152 auctions from 1937 to 1944, there were only three appearances of the 1931-D. The first was in Morgenthau's New York Collection, Part II in 1939, where that coin brought $130. This is the same sale where the 1927-S only realized $67, the 1931 brought $61, and the 1932 was hammered down at $76. The second 1931-D sold during those early years was in Ira Reed's Public Auction Sale 34 in 1944. That coin was purchased by the astute collector and researcher Dr. Charles W. Green for $920. The third appearance was in the famous J.F. Bell Collection in 1944. That piece brought an amazing $1,100. The catalog description in the Bell sale reveals much about then-current thinking about the 1931-D: "We doubt if more than 6 pieces are known. We class this as rare as the 1921. ... Excessively Rare."
As mentioned in the descriptions of other twenties, Dr. Charles W. Green wrote a now-famous letter to Louis Eliasberg in February 1947 that enumerated the number of coins released by the mints of various rare issues. In the case of the 1931-D his comments tell much about recordkeeping in the Denver Mint:
"As to the Denver mint, the records apparently were in bad shape as far as answering my query was concerned. It was stated that it would take a year to provide the information whereupon Mrs. Ross, the Director, because of the rush of work there, told the Denver Mint to forego the matter."
Absent official numbers directly from the Denver Mint, it seems reasonable to assume that no more than 125-150 coins were actually released to the public, and the remainder melted.
The 1931-D was a well-produced issue. Strike is never really a problem, and this example shows strong definition throughout, even on the pillars of the Capitol building. The mint luster is exceptional with a bright, satiny finish. Evidence of the coin's originality can be seen in the light, variegated pale reddish-gold and lilac patina interspersed over each side. The only marks we see that can be used as pedigree identifiers are two vertical obverse abrasions, one over ray 5 and the other between rays 8 and 9, and on the lower reverse two shallow marks can be seen on the sun at 6 and 7 o'clock. Otherwise, the surfaces are pristine. This is the finest of the five MS66 1931-D twenties certified, of which four are PCGS coins (10/11).
Ex: Amon Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 1081.
David Akers Comments:
Among the five famous late date Saint-Gaudens issues, the 1931-D is the fourth rarest overall, more rare than only the 1929 in terms of the total number of pieces known. This is due to the discovery of a number of MS62 to MS64 examples that were found in small hoards over the past 30 years. Gerald Bauman, former Chief Numismatist of MTB, also once assured me that he knew of the existence of a hoard consisting of approximately 40-50 examples of the 1931-D of similar quality to the earlier hoards but I do not know whether or not that group has been sold since that time. Although only fourth in terms of population rarity among the late dates, the 1931-D is exceeded in rarity only by the 1930-S in gem MS65 condition while in superb MS66 condition the 1931-D is perhaps the rarest. The Dr. Thaine Price example, which I purchased in 1989 from Ed Milas of Rarcoa, and this Duckor specimen from the Amon Carter Collection are the two finest I have ever seen. Both can be traced back to the 1940s so they were not part of any of the small hoards discovered after the early 1950s. Two other notable examples are the coin in Stack's March 1991 sale and the Museum of Connecticut History specimen and the latter is possibly one of the three superb gems graded MS66 by PCGS. These two examples are also not hoard coins and were among the known specimens in the 1940s. The Price coin is also graded MS66 and this Duckor-Carter coin is the only superb gem uncirculated example graded with the (+) designation, that is, MS66+, making it the single highest graded specimen.
I purchased this coin for Dr. Duckor at the Amon Carter Jr. Collection sale in January 1984 along with the 1924-D and 1926-S which are also offered here in this sale. My notes in the catalog described the coin as follows: "65+, extraordinary color, the prettiest I have ever seen by far," together with the additional notation "B," meaning I intended to buy it no matter what it went for. To be honest, most of the Saints, even the rare and gem dates, were not all that hotly contested in the sale and the final price, including the buyer's fee, was only $28,600. The Carter sale, like the Eliasberg sale two years before it and the Norweb sale four years later, was one of the greatest sales during my time as a numismatic professional. The sale contained many fabulous rarities that hadn't been seen for many years but it was also memorable for the terrible weather in New York City at the time. There was a major snowstorm that week and the weather was absolutely miserable. Transportation to and from New York was nearly impossible and even getting around the city was very difficult. Snowdrifts everywhere, slick streets and sidewalks, and no cabs to be found when you most needed one. But despite all that, every major bidder one could think of was present at the sale or at least represented by someone, as Dr. Duckor was by me. I wouldn't have missed that sale for anything and was fortunate to be able to buy some great coins for Dr. Duckor and many other customers of mine as well.
From The Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection.
Seller is donating a portion of their proceeds, and Heritage is donating the same portion of the Buyer's Premium, from the sale of this lot to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. See page 3 for details.(Registry values: N1) (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.
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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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