The auctions associated with the Florida United Numismatists
convention, set for Orlando Jan. 5 to 8, are major market events that
help set the tone for the coin market. The 2011 FUN auctions realized
$46 million while the 2010 sales saw $37 million.
The 2012 Heritage auction is anchored by several significant
consignments including Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor’s collection of
exceptional Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles. A collection like
this provides a solid introduction to the nuances of the Saint-Gaudens
series that make it so popular with novice and advanced collectors
alike. Reading the lot descriptions can help contextualize the prices realized.
Regarding a 1913 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle graded Mint State 65
— a rare exception in this generally poorly produced issue — the
cataloger wrote, “If a grading service could travel back in time to
1913 and set up a grading room in the Mint, there would likely still
be only a small number of MS65 or finer coins certified.” The comment
reveals a truism: that all coins are not created equal, and each issue
in the Saint-Gaudens series has a story.
Some issues were well-produced at the time of issue, such as the
1908 Saint-Gaudens, No Motto double eagle. More than 19,000 examples
were discovered in the 1990s with the Wells Fargo Hoard, which
transformed the population of this issue with nearly 1,000 coins
graded MS-67, 101 graded MS-68 and 10 graded MS-69. Clearly, this was
an issue that was well-produced.
Hoards have transformed today’s concepts of rarity within the
series. Yet, some issues in the series have been rarely encountered in
hoards, such as the 1920-S double eagle, so while they were not
considered especially rare in the 1940s and 1950s, today they are
relatively rarer as other examples have become more common. In
contrast, the 1924-S double eagle was once considered the key to the
series — even rarer than the 1927-D coin — until the 1950s when
hundreds of examples emerged from European bank vaults. Today, while
still extremely rare in high grades, the 1924-S double eagle is no
longer a legendary rarity.
Then there are issues with low mintages but extremely high survival rates.
Although just 12,367 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief double eagles
were struck, most were saved. Some of today’s most available
Saint-Gaudens double eagles — like the 1924 — were mainly produced for
international consumption, after domestic demand for new gold coins
evaporated. Today’s population of these issues comes largely from
European bank holdings. In contrast, although 1.7 million 1929 double
eagles were struck, almost the entire mintage was melted, and today
just 300 to 400 exist.
A highlight of the FUN auctions that might break the million-dollar
mark is an MS-66 1921 double eagle. The other known MS-66 example sold
at the 2005 Heritage auction of the Philip H. Morse Collection for