US Coins

Two surviving rare late-date Saints offered at Heritage

A 1931-D Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle graded MS-64 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker (right) and an MS-65 1932 Saint-Gaudens double eagle will be offered at Heritage’s Oct. 6 to 10 Long Beach Expo auctions in Dallas.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

A duo of rare late-date Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles are among top lots at Heritage’s Oct. 6 to 10 Long Beach auctions, held in Dallas.

Heritage explains that in the early 1930s, “There was little commercial demand for the coins in the shrinking Depression Era economy, so the great majority of the mintage was held in Mint and Treasury vaults until the Gold Recall of 1933 took effect.”

While some lucky survivors made their way to European banks and have trickled back to American collectors, the double eagles that remained in government storage were ultimately melted and stored as gold bars at the Fort Knox Bullion Repository.

The year 1931 marked the last production of double eagles at the Denver Mint, and Mint records show that the entire mintage of 106,500 was delivered in four batches between March 17 and April 29. Roger Burdette’s research indicates that no more than 441 examples were made available through cashiers at the Denver and Philadelphia Mints and the treasurer’s office, and perhaps 100 to 150 known examples are left today for collectors.

The 1931-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle was a legendary rarity in the series in the 1940s, but more examples eventually surfaced, including a hoard of 15 to 20 in 1984. Heritage shares, “The hoard was reported as a Midwestern find by Walter Breen, but Marc Emory, the Director of European Operations for Heritage, remembers handling a few of the coins and seeing four examples at a coin show in Zurich.”

Top-quality 1931-D double eagles remain very rare, including the offered Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 64 example with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker.

Heritage observes, “The well-preserved orange-gold surfaces radiate vibrant mint luster from both sides,” and recent comparable sales suggest that it may approach a six-figure price.

Last collectible ‘Saint’

The 1932 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is the last collectible issue in the series, since the 1933 is essentially noncollectible, with a single example that can be legally owned privately. Today fewer than 100 1932 double eagles have survived from a mintage of more than a million and it is comparable in rarity to the 1931 coin, leading some to speculate that a dealer may have been marketing pairs of Philadelphia Mint 1931 and 1932 double eagles to collectors at the time.

Heritage writes, “Another possible explanation for the 1931 and 1932 double eagle groupings in early catalogs is that collectors began to be aware of the rarity of new-coinage Saints outside of the Mint’s control in 1931, and acquired examples of that date privately, then in 1932 ordered examples of that issue directly from the Mint, thereby ending up with 1931 and 1932 double eagles in their possession but none of the earlier dates or branch mint issues.”

The offered example is graded MS-65 by PCGS, and while the description observes “trivial contact marks on the sun rays and the high points of the central devices,” it has solid eye appeal and “frosty orange-gold mint luster.”

When offered at Heritage’s June 1999 Long Beach auction, it sold for $25,300 and then had a recorded population of a dozen in MS-65 with only three finer at PCGS. The number of submissions has gone up since that sale 22 years ago, and now PCGS records 24 in MS-65, with 15 submissions finer.

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