US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for June 14, 2021: Boost to the hobby

The only 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle authorized for private ownership realized $18,872,250 in a three-lot auction conducted by Sotheby's in New York on June 8.

Original images courtesy of Sotheby's.

The sale of the sole 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle authorized for private ownership for a price topping $18.8 million is evidence that the top of the coin market remains strong.

The price of $18,872,250 for the coin shattered the previous record of $10,016,875, paid for a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar in a 2013 auction. The 1933 double eagle also sold for more than two-and-a-half times what it brought when it first sold at auction in July 2002 — $7,370,000.

The June 8 sale by Sotheby’s offered just three lots, all consigned by the same owner, fashion shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, who was the anonymous buyer of the double eagle at the 2002 auction. The other two lots were rare postage stamps — what our colleagues at Linn’s describe as an Inverted Jenny plate block, “a unique positional multiple of the famously misprinted 1918 airmail stamp,” which brought $4.87 million, and the unique 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta, selling for $8.3 million.

The double eagle in the auction soared past its estimates of $10 million to $15 million, surprising many observers; but unfortunately for the philatelic community, both stamps realized less than their low estimates. The consignor’s Inverted Jenny plate block realized approximately what Weitzman reputedly paid for it in a private transaction, while the 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta sold for less than Weitzman paid for it seven years ago, according to Linn’s.

The record price for the double eagle is good news for the numismatic community. It shows that rarity and a great story can translate into a fantastic result at auction. Such a result should also attract attention from the general media, which has already shown a fascination with the spurt of collector interest in sports card, a collectible category that had been languishing until the pandemic led some collectors to revisit their old hobbies (the attention is so great that my local Walmart store is restricting sales to customers of one pack per day, and is keeping them behind a register counter for safety).

Conventions and shows are reopening, United States Mint products are selling out and now, a record price is set. Things are looking good for the coin collecting community.

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