Coin collectors never seem to get bored with the work of American
sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Heritage Auctions’ Aug. 2 to 5 sale
held prior to Philadelphia’s big American Numismatic Association
World’s Fair of Money realized a robust $27,535,036. Leading the way
was a 1907 Saint-Gaudens, Roman Numerals, Sans Serif Edge, Ultra High
Relief gold $20 double eagle, graded Proof 58, that sold for $1,057,500.
The lot description indicates that it is one of the first three
Ultra High Relief patterns struck and was “Undoubtedly carried as a
pocket piece by some early recipient.” Another Ultra High Relief coin
graded Proof 69 sold at a June 29 sale for $2.76 million.
Those who love Saint-Gaudens double eagles also love historic
memorabilia related to his coinage. Evidence of this appreciation is
the $94,000 realized by the original 1904 Theodore Roosevelt letter to
the Treasury secretary that had the famous statement, “Our coinage is
artistically of atrocious hideousness.” Comparable sales for such
important numismatic documents are few and far between. In 2005,
Heritage offered a 1907 Theodore Roosevelt letter where he addressed
the omission of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST from Saint-Gaudens’ new $10
and $20 coins. That letter realized $43,125.
The market for the top end of the $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagles
market continues to be highly tricky and coins don’t always bring more
when resold. For example, Heritage offered a 1921 double eagle, graded
Mint State 65 and carrying a Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, that
has a long ownership history tracing back to the Belden Roach
Collection (sold by B. Max Mehl in 1944). The issue has been called
the “rarest collectible Saint in high grade.” It sold for $1,012,000
at a 2007 auction and realized “just” $587,500 when offered on Aug. 3.
For comparison, a different MS-65 example, offered as part of the
Phillip H. Morse Collection realized $805,000 in 2005.
Another repeat performer was a 1927-S double eagle graded MS-67 with
a CAC sticker that realized $282,000. Its last trip to the
auctioneer’s podium was even more recent: It sold for $276,000 when
offered as part of the Duckor Collection in January. The coin sold for
the same bid eight months apart. The difference in the prices realized
is a result of Heritage raising its buyer’s fee, from 15 percent, to
17.5 percent. ■