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    Description

    1925-S Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, MS65
    Akers' 'Significant Example'
    Conditionally Rare in Gem

    1925-S $20 MS65 PCGS. CAC. Ex: Fox-Brahin. Called a "sleeper" by Q. David Bowers, the 1925-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle is definitely an underrated coin today. The large mintage of nearly 3.8 million pieces influences the thinking of potential buyers, but in reality, the production total is meaningless when evaluating the coin's availability. Roger W. Burdette estimates a surviving population of approximately 1,500 pieces, with more than half of those coins in circulated grades. Most circulated examples seen are in the AU55 to AU58 range, and the issue is extremely rare at the Gem level. In A Handbook of 20th Century United States Gold Coins 1907-1933, David Akers comments:

    "Scarce-to-rare in all grades, the 1925-S is one of the leading condition rarities in the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle series. Even MS-64s are elusive, and the combined population of Gems and Superb Gems is fewer than 10 coins. The 1925-S is the only mintmarked Double Eagle from the 1920s that is easier to locate in circulated condition than Mint State."


    Population data from the leading grading services supports Akers' evaluation of the 1925-S as a prime condition rarity. Currently, NGC has certified only two examples in MS65, with two higher; while PCGS has graded two specimens at the Gem level, one of them in 65+, with three specimens higher (8/19).

    As Akers mentioned, the 1925-S is the only branch-mint issue of the era that is frequently encountered in circulated grades. A significant effort must have been made to circulate the coins at their time of issue, in contrast to the other dates of the period, which were stored in Treasury vaults as backing for U.S. currency. In 1947, Dr. Charles Green conducted research in mint records which indicated that 454,700 double eagles were officially released by the San Francisco Mint in 1925. Recently, Roger Burdette found documentary evidence that the release might have only totaled 360,500 pieces. Whichever figure is correct, the unusually high number of circulated 1925-S double eagles is convincing evidence that part of the mintage circulated freely for a short time. A small number of coins was used in international trade, and preserved in European banks. These European holdings surfaced in later years to provide the bulk of the 1925-S population in lower Uncirculated grades we know about today. The few Gem or finer specimens were doubtlessly purchased by collectors directly from the San Francisco Mint or the Philadelphia Mint Cashier (for returned assay coins) and carefully preserved over the following decades. The great majority of the mintage, the third largest of the series, was destroyed after the Gold Recall of 1933.

    A diligent search of auction records over the last 15 years reveals only 10 occasions when a 1925-S was offered in MS65 or better condition by the major auction firms. An outstanding examples is the PCGS MS67 Morse specimen (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6681, which realized $287,500. The finest known Norweb/Price example probably traces its origins back to King Farouk's collection. Included in lot 185 of The Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954) were 17 Saint-Gaudens double eagles, probably the most valuable group of twenties ever offered in a single lot. The dates included the 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, 1932, and 1933, as well as the 1925-S, and other dates from the 1920s. Of course, the 1933 was withdrawn before the sale, surfacing again in 2003 when it sold for the all-time record price of $7.5 million. The lot in the Farouk sale was knocked down to David Spink, who was acting as an agent of Mrs. Norweb at the sale.

    This highly lustrous representative is a magnificent example of this elusive issue. The present coin stands out among the extremely small number of Gem Mint State survivors, being especially well-struck and without most of the often-seen peripheral die cracks. One curving die break is noted from the eagle's wing down through its head, and another travels through the letters UN in UNITED into the field below. Lovely, subtle colors accent the well-preserved surfaces. Pale reddish-gold centers are highlighted with a touch of lilac at the margins. Surface marks are minimal, and the overall eye appeal is simply outstanding. The coin offered here is listed as the number five specimen in David Akers' census of Significant Examples. Population: 2 in 65 (1 in 65+), 3 finer. CAC: 2 in 65, 1 finer (8/19).
    Ex: The Phillip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6682; Jay Brahin; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2010), lot 2325, realized $218,500; Rollo Fox Collection.

    David Akers (2012) Comments:

    The 1925-S had an extremely high mintage, close to four million pieces, but virtually all of them were simply kept in bags, stored by the Treasury and later melted after 1933. Some coins clearly were placed into the channels of commerce through local banks though as evidenced by the existence of many circulated examples. Some were also sent to Europe between 1926 and 1933 most likely in mixed date bags of circulated and uncirculated double eagles rather than single date bags of uncirculated 1925-S coins. Beginning in the 1950s, most of these coins were repatriated to the U.S. and now, as a population rarity, the 1925-S is really more accurately described as scarce rather than rare. It is similar overall to the 1925-D although in the choice uncirculated 63 and very choice uncirculated 64 grades the 1925-S is substantially more rare than the 1925-D. Even in the 1940s, the 1925-S, although recognized as very scarce, was never thought to be one of the major rarities of the series due, no doubt, to the availability of quite a few circulated pieces. In fact, those that did appear at auction were typically circulated (cf. WGC 1946) or in the lower mint state grades. Although condition rarity was not a big factor at that time, really nice examples of very scarce or rare dates (say, MS63 or better by today's standards) were generally so noted in catalog descriptions but no 1925-S during that era was described as a gem in a major sale. Since virtually all of the specimens later found in Europe were typically in the grades from AU50 to MS62, the 1925-S is still rare today in MS63 and very rare in MS64. At the gem MS65 grade level and above the 1925-S is one of the major rarities of the entire series.
    From The Rollo Fox Collection of $20 Saint-Gaudens Gold. (Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26GC, PCGS# 9182)

    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 Rollo Fox Collection of $20 Saint-Gaudens Gold ]

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2020
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,089

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    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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