US Coins

Saint-Gaudens double eagles help anchor Heritage sale

A group of exceptional Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagles from the Noel Thomas Patton Collection will help lead Heritage’s May 3 Platinum Night session held after the Central States Numismatic Society’s annual convention.

The consignment is strong in late-date Saint-Gaudens double eagles, where mintages have little relationship to rarity, as many went directly to the melting pot. An example of a “melt rarity” is a 1930-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle graded Mint State 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service, which came from a low mintage of just 74,000 pieces, none of which were sent to Federal Reserve Banks for circulation. Today around 75 exist in all grades, most in Mint State.

While other dates from the final decade of the issue have become more common as European banks have released their holdings — the 1926-D and 1926-S double eagles as examples — the 1930-S $20 coin remains a key date in the series.

The offered example has typical thickly frosty surfaces, with green-gold accents. It sold in Heritage’s March 2014 sale of the Donald E. Bently Collection where it brought $176,382. More recently a different, comparably graded example realized $288,000 at Heritage in May 2022.

Denver Mint ‘melt rarity’

A 1931-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle, also graded MS-65 by PCGS, is another key in the series, despite a mintage of 106,500 at the San Francisco Mint. Again, most were used for currency reserves with none sent to Federal Reserve Banks for wider distribution.

Roger Burdette’s archival research found that 135 coins were held by the Denver Mint cashier, 250 were sent to the treasurer’s office, and 99 were sent to the Philadelphia Mint cashier, making a total of 491 coins, less 50 of which were later returned by the treasurer and destroyed. This left just 441 coins that could be held by collectors.

It has long been known as a rarity in the series, though Heritage’s co-founder Jim Halperin has said that in 1984 a small hoard of 15 to 20 1930-D double eagles appeared in the market, which eased pressure on the issue.

Heritage praises the subject offering’s razor-sharp definition, noting, “impeccably preserved orange-gold surfaces radiate vibrant mint luster on both sides and the overall eye appeal is terrific.”

A comparably graded one sold for $228,000 at a May 8, 2022, Heritage sale.

Final collectible date

Since the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is essentially uncollectible, with just a single example that can be privately owned, the 1932 coin is the last obtainable date in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. Heritage will offer one graded MS-66 by Numismatic Guaranty Co. that represents the highest numerical grade at either PCGS or NGC. Fewer than 100 exist in all grades of the just over 1.1 million struck at the Philadelphia Mint. When this coin last sold on March 20, 2014, at Heritage’s offering of the Bently Collection, it brought $108,687.50.

Here, the cataloger observes heavy frosting, ample luster and a pleasing blend of yellow and greenish-gold, adding, “Three distinguishing marks for pedigree purposes are: a contact mark on the eagle’s right wing, one on the left wing, and one on the breast.”

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