US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Dec. 20, 2021: A year of changes

As the year 2021 draws to an end, we briefly look back at the year's highlights, which included a new record price for a coin at auction, registered by a 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle.

Original images courtesy of Sotheby's.

Welcome to the first monthly issue of Coin World for the new year. As impossible as it may seem, 2022 is less than a month away (as I write this on Dec. 15).

In the year just closing, the hobby reached multiple important milestones.

A big one, discussed in my Editorial in the final weekly issue of Coin World dated 2021, was the retirement of Q. David Bowers as a regular columnist. David, age 83, has decided to pull back a bit from some services to the numismatic community. He not only ended his “The Joys of Collecting” column for Coin World but also stepped down from his monthly “Coins & Collectors” column in The Numismatist, the journal of the American Numismatic Association. David’s withdrawal from meeting weekly and monthly deadlines is understandable. He has been writing a regular column for us for a bit more than 60 years. If anyone deserves “retirement,” it is David.

His column is being replaced by a new one, written by Vicken Yegparian and titled “The Auctioneer’s Dispatch,” debuting in this issue and appearing in our weekly and monthly issues. We introduce Vicken to readers in a news article on Page 10 of this issue. His first column is found on Page 158.

The year 2021 also witnessed strong interest in rare U.S. coins, especially those above the million-dollar level. As Steve Roach writes in this issue’s cover feature, “Million Dollar Babies,” “exploring the sale of some of the individual coins that broke the $1 million barrier at auction in 2021 helps us understand the relative values within the ‘best of the best.’ ”

The sale of the only 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle authorized for private ownership established a new price record for any coin. “That famed 1933 double eagle was offered again this summer, now graded Mint State 65 by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker, selling for a final price of $18,872,250 against an estimate of $10 million to $15 million, and setting a record as the most expensive coin ever sold at auction,” Steve writes. The result more than doubled what the coin realized in its first appearance at auction, in 2002, when the double eagle brought $7,590,020.

The market was strong for many coins during 2021, despite the continuing pandemic, which continued to force cancellation of many coin shows and led auction houses to hold their auctions online from their offices, with little to no in-person presence of bidders. Relaxation of pandemic restrictions allowed conventions to go forward as planned later in the year; attendees at these various live shows eagerly returned to the bourse floor.

The United States Mint received a lot of news coverage in 2021, as expected. Design changes to the gold and silver American Eagle coins introduced in mid-year resulted in two distinct design types for the year. The Mint offered a number of special coins in both the old and new designs. Also attracting attention was the Mint’s program offering five 2021 Morgan dollars and a single 2021 Peace dollar to mark the centennial of the transition from the Morgan design to the Peace design in 1921.

Both programs resulted in rapid “sellouts,” jammed phone lines, website problems and angry collectors — a lot of angry collectors who, all too often, were unsuccessful in purchasing the coins they desired. As Paul Gilkes reports on Page 22 this week, the Morgan and Peace dollar program continues, with unsold quantities placed on sale again in mid-December, catching a lot of hobbyists unaware.

We cannot know what 2022 will bring. The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of ending, and the appearance of a new variant poses the risk of future restrictions on public gatherings. However, we are confident that collectors will continue to enjoy their hobby in the months ahead. 
Connect with Coin World:  
Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Access our Dealer Directory  
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

Community Comments