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    1920-S Double Eagle, Majestic MS65
    Ex: Dallas Bank Collection
    The Akers and Bowers Plate Coin
    High Condition Census

    1920-S $20 MS65 PCGS. CAC. The 1920-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle is among the greatest rarities in the series, particularly in high grade. In the absolute sense, the '20-S is a trifle more plentiful than the 1927-D, the 1930-1932 melt rarities, and by an even smaller margin, the 1921. However, in Gem condition, the 1920-S excels -- at this level, only the 1921 and 1927-D are considered rarer or more significant acquisitions. This, of course, excludes the uncollectible 1933 and the 1907 Ultra High Relief pattern.

    No meaningful quantities of the 1920-S double eagle ever turned up in European hoards, and it is likely that none were ever officially used in the foreign trade. The bulk of the 558,000-coin mintage, after assay, was presumably kept in storage until the gold melting of the 1930s consumed the vast coin reserves in federal vaults. New research by Roger Burdette into the origin of surviving coins suggests that the less than 200 pieces believed known today likely came from two sources: a production residual of 144 coins that the San Francisco Mint Cashier paid out shortly after production, and from a group of 543 pieces that was shipped to Philadelphia for the Annual Assay Commission and was later, at least in part, paid out by the Philadelphia Mint Cashier. There is little evidence to suggest that any significant quantities of the 1920-S double eagle were ever distributed through other channels.

    The rarity of the 1920-S Saint first came to light publicly through auction appearances in the 1940s, such as the Belden E. Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), the J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), and the Dr. Charles W. Green Collection (B. Max Mehl, 4/1949). The latter two sales featured the exact same coin. The small number of 1920-S double eagles appearing at auction led to ever-increasing auction realizations. In recent decades, low-end examples of the date are actively traded, but the top-grade Gems remain incredibly rare.

    The present coin is truly special. The plate coin for David Akers' United States Gold Coins (1982) and Dave Bowers' A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, it traces to the legendary Dallas Bank Collection, auctioned by Sotheby's and Stack's in 2001, where it was heralded as "The Finest Known, without question. A truly majestic example." By certified grade today, it ranks third in Roger Burdette's Condition Census, although one glance at this piece in person will make the knowledgeable collector question that third-tier placement. The Dallas Bank coin is noticeably finer in terms of preservation than both of the other MS65s that we have handled, and we would suggest that its visual appeal rivals that of the two MS66 Duckor coins (one also Ex: Eliasberg), which are ranked first and second in the current Condition Census. The published images of this piece in the 2001 Sotheby's/Stack's catalog and the aforementioned references do not do justice to the glowing luster and impeccable preservation.

    David Akers wrote of this piece in 1982:

    "Of the relatively few uncs that I have seen, only two were gems, the Eliasberg specimen and the Unc-67 coin pictured above that is in a prominent Dallas bank collection."

    In his gold coins Handbook (1988), Akers reaffirmed:

    "The finest specimen I know of is in the Browning Collection held in trust by a Texas bank; it is virtually perfect in all respects with great color and lustre and bagmark-free, satiny surfaces. I graded it MS-67 when I saw it."

    At the very least, the CAC endorsement of this piece in MS65 PCGS is duly deserved. The Sotheby's/Stack's catalog beautifully described this coin as "Satiny with an explosive, lustrous sheen, and fully revolving cartwheel lustre." We would add that a loupe fails to reveal even a single mentionable abrasion in the fields of either side, and Liberty's gown and the eagle's wing are virtually devoid of the faint slide marks and minor ticks that often appear on the high points of Gem-graded Saints. Lovely rose, peach, mint-green, and silvery hues swirl in the central regions, ceding to frosty yellow-gold peripheries. Liberty's torch hand fingers are delineated, and the Capitol building is sharp. This is a 1920-S whose aesthetic characteristics seem to have been stolen from a high-grade 1923-D double eagle. It would be difficult to regret acquiring this piece ... at any price.
    Ex: H. Jeff Browning; Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's/Stack's, 10/2001), lot 185; Pittsburgh ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2004), lot 7782; "Dr. EJC" PCGS Registry Set Collection.
    From The Cherny Collection.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 26FZ, PCGS# 9171)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

    View all of [The Cherny Collection ]

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Oct-Nov, 2016
    31st-2nd Monday-Wednesday
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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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