US Coins

Gold Double Eagles highlight Legend Regency sale

A 1909-D Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle that might be the finest known carries the top estimate at Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ Regency 30 Auction in Los Angeles on Jan. 27. 

Graded Mint State 67 by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, it is estimated to sell for $275,000 to $325,000. 

Legend commented on the particularly mark-free surfaces, writing: “Even common dates can not be found this mega monster clean. We used a strong glass and looked really hard and found only one microscopic tick,” before observing the “remarkably satiny smooth texture” and “full booming all-over luster.” 

Proof 1963 Roosevelt dimeInside Coin World: Readers report doubled die, repunched Mint mark finds: We preview content exclusive to the Jan. 21 print and digital editions of Coin World, including reader discoveries (like a Proof 1963 Roosevelt dime with a doubled die reverse) in the monthly column “Varieties Notebook.”

The description continued: “Mother Nature teamed up with the U.S. Mint to create a colorful masterpiece here. Both sides are totally original gold/orange, gold/yellow gold color. There is not a single speck, spot, or discoloration.” 

Just 52,500 double eagles were minted at the Denver Mint in 1909, and the issue has a reputation as a key in the series, especially in grades finer than MS-64.

The offered piece was previously part of the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection, which was sold in Bowers and Ruddy’s 1982 auction of what was anonymously called “The United States Gold Collection.” It spent time in the famed Philip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage, which was auctioned by Heritage in November 2005 where it realized $161,000. It was offered at Heritage’s January 2008 Florida United Numismatists sale where it sold for $218,500. Its PCGS CoinFacts provenance lists additional stints in the Bella Collection and the A&A Saints Collection. 

The catalogers in the 2005 Morse Collection sale looked at it very carefully, suggesting that it may represent the Large D over Small D Mint mark variety discovered by Q. David Bowers and published in the Norweb III sale by Bowers and Merena in 1988. 

The offered coin displays the characteristics outlined by Bowers: “Under magnification, to the right of the mintmark is seen a veritable ‘bird’s nest’ of curly lines, raised lines in the coin, indicating that these lines were in the die — a quite fascinating situation. Under stereo magnification, there appears a tiny ‘D’ mintmark under the regular-sized letter. We suspect that this tiny D was punched by error, this mistake was noted, and an effort was made to grind away the surface so as to efface the error. Some of these grinding marks are what remain today as curlicues. Then the regular-sized D mintmark was overpunched.” 

Heritage added in 2005, “Of course, in the final analysis many collectors will not care so much about the new and novel overmintmark variety this coin represents as the fact that it is an overwhelmingly rare and gorgeous example of the lowest-mintage D-mint Saint-Gaudens,” and more than a decade later this remains true. 

When offered in 2005 and 2008 it was one of only two like-graded coins at PCGS and that population has not changed since. Legend cites the current Collectors Universe value of $425,000 before warning bidders, “If you buy better Saints or are building a world class set, there is no way you won’t make this a ‘must buy’ after you see it.”

A stunning Proof 1910 double eagle

One of the most beautiful coins in the sale is a Philadelphia Mint “Roman Finish” Proof 1910 Saint-Gaudens double eagle graded Proof 66+ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. 

Legend explained, “When we first saw this coin our jaws dropped and locked. We still can’t close them! This coin is not only SUPER HIGH END but is out of this world! WOW!” further suggesting that with its precise strike and uniform surfaces it looks more like a modern-era Proof than one produced more than a century ago. 

The U.S. Mint recorded 167 Proof double eagles in 1910, but some dealers believe that the actual distribution was less based on the surviving population. The Proof Indian Head gold $10 eagles and Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagles issued in 1910 are generally called Matte or Sandblast Proofs, but are further separated into “Roman Finish” and “Satin Finish” types, with the former being a bit flashier. The Mint experimented with its Proof finishes on gold coins after the Proof 1908 gold coins were considered dull by collectors and saw relatively weak sales. 

A typical Roman Finish Proof gold coin displays fine granularity and the fields have a semi-reflective quality, in contrast with the more uniform olive-green Matte Finish seen on the 1908 gold Proofs. A frustrating absence of documentation of the Mint’s processes at the time have led to some debate as to how the “Roman Finish” was achieved in 1909 and 1910. Researcher John Dannreuther believes that one die finish was employed by the Philadelphia Mint on Proof gold coins of each year, with the finish wearing off with each successive coin struck, thus explaining the different looks of the 1909 and 1910 Roman Proofs compared to Satin Proofs. Under this theory the offered coin is likely an early strike.

Legend estimates the rare Proof coin at $165,000 to $175,000, warning bidders, “We very much consider a grand piece like this a once in a life time buy (okay, safe to say generation).” 

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