Spectacular 1932 Saint-Gaudens Twenty, MS66
1932 $20 MS66 PCGS. For the present time, the 1932
Saint-Gaudens double eagle is the last collectible date in this
popular series. If the current struggle over the legal status of
the 1933 issue is resolved in favor of the Langbords, 1932 will
become the penultimate date for the series, and numismatists will
have at least 11 legal-to-own 1933 double eagles to pursue for
their collections. Statistically, the task of securing one of those
examples will not be that much more difficult than finding a
specimen of the 1932 date in Premium Gem condition now. In A
Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, Q. David Bowers
estimates a total of 11 surviving specimens of the issue at the
MS66 level today, exactly the same as the available number of 1933
double eagles if the Langbords win their case. Population data from
the leading grading services indicates a slightly higher total of
MS66 specimens, but those figures are probably inflated by
resubmissions and crossovers. Neither NGC nor PCGS has certified a
specimen at the Superb Gem level, but in the Encyclopedia of
U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth report the
specimen in the Smithsonian would probably grade MS67.
Last Collectible Date of the Series
Among the Finest Certified
A large mintage of more than 1.1 million double eagles was accomplished at the Philadelphia Mint in 1932, but only a small portion of that mintage escaped the melting pot after the Gold Recall of 1933. In the catalog of the Norweb Collection (Stack's, 11/2006), lot 1487, the cataloger explained:
"It is likely that no double eagles of this date were ever released either into circulation or for export. So far as we have been able to determine, all known today trace their pedigree to examples provided to collectors for face value in 1932, a courtesy that had been extended for several years (and which also included other denominations), or pieces that Treasury employees saved from the unfortunate melt of 1937 by selling them to Philadelphia and New York City dealers for modest premiums."
Examples seen today are almost always in Uncirculated grades, sharply struck, with lustrous surfaces. Research that Dr. Charles Green conducted in the 1940s indicates only 110 double eagles were officially released by the Philadelphia Mint in 1932. Bowers estimates a total surviving population of 60-80 specimens in Mint State grades, with only one or two circulated examples surviving. David Akers ranks the 1932 as the eighth rarest date in the 54-coin series.
Numismatists appreciated the rarity of the 1932 from the start, and its status as the last date readily available to the public added special interest to any appearance. The first public auction offering was probably in the Needham, Herrick and Others Collections (Thomas Elder, 9/1937), lot 1394. The lot directly followed a 1931 double eagle, and Elder commented, "1932 $20. Same type. Brilliant Uncirculated. Of greatest rarity. None struck for circulation. Value $350." Elder's estimate is quite impressive for a coin that could be purchased at the Mint for face value only five years before. Perhaps he was aware of the market for 1933 double eagles, which were selling for much higher premiums in that era.
The 1932 double eagle was featured in lot 1680 of the Flanagan Collection (Stack's, 3/1944). The lot directly preceded the first offering of a 1933 double eagle at public auction, but that coin was seized by the Secret Service and later destroyed. The 1932 double eagle realized $240, on a $200 estimate, to J.F. Bell. Bell (whose real name was Jacob Shapiro), resold the coin in December of the same year in lot 892 of Stack's famous sale of his collection. The 1932 double eagle realized $300, a substantial $60 profit in those days on a coin he held less than seven months.
In recent times the 1932 appears at auction perhaps three or four times per year, on average. At the Premium Gem level, offerings are much less frequent. A search of auction records reveals 16 appearances of the date in MS66 grade since 1990. Some notable specimens include the Norweb coin in 1988, the Thaine Price specimen in 1998, the example in the Browning Collection in 2001, and the Phillip H. Morse coin in 2005.
Regarding the high quality of the 1932 double eagle, the authors of The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse Collection concur that:
"As a rule, a high-grade 1932 is a great-looking coin with outstanding luster and color. According to Akers, it is superior in this regard to the other late-date issues, except possibly the 1930-S. The color is typically medium to rich yellow or greenish yellow-gold, but some examples exhibit light to medium orange and greenish-gold patina. Most 1932s are very frosty, but some have a satiny texture. Most specimens are sharply struck, though some of the satiny coins reveal softness on Liberty's figure. All in all, the eye appeal for this issue is well above average for the series."
That could well describe this example. The surfaces have a decided frosted texture and the striking definition is strong throughout. The reddish-gold patina shows just the slightest hint of lilac around the margin on the obverse. There are no mentionable abrasions on either side. This is a spectacular example of this famous rarity.
From The Ralph P. Muller Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26GR, PCGS# 9194)
View all of [The Ralph P. Muller Collection ]
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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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