"My Quest to Select One Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Type Coin"
Jeff Burke submitted this article on his quest to choose and locate a great Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece for his collection. Thanks. -Editor
by Jeff Burke
Learning more about Saint-Gaudens double eagles has sparked the bibliophile in me! My ongoing fascination with Saint-Gaudens double eagles (SGDE) started with
reading books about the 1933 double eagle. I had the privilege of seeing the 1933 Farouk double eagle specimen at the New-York Historical Society in August
2013 (see my "Star of the Show: A 1933 Double Eagle," in The Nebraska Numismatic Association Journal, vol. 57, issue 4 (October/November/December 2013),
pp. 16-19, for more details).
Curious to learn more about these fabled coins, I read Selling America's Rarest Coin: The 1933 Double Eagle, David Alexander, 2002; Illegal
Tender: Gold, Greed and the Mystery of the Lost 1933 Double Eagle, David Tripp, 2004; Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World's Most Valuable
Coin, Alison Frankel, 2006; and Striking Change: The Great Artistic Collaboration of Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Michael F.
Moran, 2007. I also devoured A Handbook of 20th-Century United States Gold Coins: 1907-1933, David W. Akers, 2008; A Guidebook of Double Eagle Gold
Coins, Q. David Bowers, 2004; Renaissance of American Coinage: 1905-1908, Roger Burdette, 2006; and Collecting and Investing Strategies for
United States Gold Coins, Jeff Ambio, 2008.
Possessing a large disk of Saint-Gaudens gold has always been visually appealing to me. I previously had a 1922-S PCGS MS 63 double eagle and a 1910-D NGC
MS 64 double eagle in my collection. I traded these double eagles for other coins and hadn't owned a Saint-Gaudens $20 since 2015. To my surprise, I really
missed owning one! Perhaps owning a gold coin makes me feel special. I also love the design.
After contemplating the possibilities, I decided to pursue a better date SGDE in a higher grade. My focus narrowed to an examination of 1923-D double eagles:
"A choice or gem specimen is usually a treat to behold, the very definition of eye appeal!" (David Bowers, in reference to the 1923-D double eagle, A
Guidebook of Double Eagle Gold Coins, p. 266). I discovered that 1923- D double eagles are plentiful, but have a much smaller population compared to common
date SGDE. Here is another reason why I chose this particular coin: "...As most examples (1923-D) are boldly struck and show radiant luster, this date (and
mintmark) is often chosen to represent the type if just a single coin is desired." (Jeff Garrett, Description & Analysis for the 1923-D Saint-Gaudens
double eagle, NGC Coin Explorer).
The next step was to order and read Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles: As Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse and Steven Duckor Collections, by Roger
Burdette, ed. by James L. Halperin and Mark Van Winkle, published by Heritage Auctions in 2018. Despite not having a table of contents or index for quick
reference, it was a joy to read! My favorite portions were "Background" about United States International Gold Shipment and the engaging Chapter Six - "Lost
and Found - Survival of U.S. Gold Coins." It took Burdette five years to research this masterpiece and another year to write it. (See Wayne Homren's review of
this volume in The E-Sylum, vol. 21, Number 28, July 15, 2018, for more information). This tome is well worth the money!
I learned "...it is estimated that out of 70,290,930 Saint-Gaudens double eagles manufactured between 1907 and 1933, only 2,966,565 coins, or four percent,
survive in all states of preservation." (Burdette, Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, p. 612). The 1923-D is the last mint marked coin in the Saint-Gaudens
$20 series readily available to collectors before surviving populations dwindle and prices escalate. (Burdette, p. 397). The 1923-D saw extensive shipment
overseas. "Most pieces seemed to have been preserved in foreign holdings, most likely in Argentina or Brazil (accepted as legal tender), where it was common
practice to leave U.S. gold untouched in its original bags." (Burdette, p. 397).
Making the Purchase
I worked through my old 2007 list of 31 favorite coin dealer websites and other numismatic websites to examine 45 to 50 specimens of 1923-D double
eagles. After perusing numerous dealer websites on the Certified Coin Exchange, e-bay and other sites, I kept returning to a 1923-D NGC MS 65* Star Designation
double eagle that I saw on the Northeast Numismatics online inventory. Unfamiliar with the NGC Star notation, I conducted some research. According to the NGC
Census as of March 21, a total of 1,389 SGDE are listed with the Star Designation, which is 0.14% of SGDE graded by NGC.
Tom Caldwell founded Northeast Numismatics in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1964. "Tom is a firm believer that an educated collector is necessary to a strong
and sustainable coin market, and has taken great efforts to teach youngsters (and elders) the essentials of coin collecting." (Northeastcoin.com). Providing
numismatic education can help collectors learn more about their collecting interests and encourage others to explore the wonders of our hobby.
I am thrilled to own this beautiful coin! Did it spend decades in Brazil or Argentina? I wanted to keep this 1923-D double eagle next to me forever so I
could admire it at my leisure. Reluctantly, I put it in a bank safe deposit box for safekeeping.
Note: Chris Clements of Northeast Numismatics kindly provided obverse and reverse images of my double eagle to accompany this article. Thanks also to
Paul Sandler for fielding my questions about Saint-Gaudens double eagle NGC Star Designation coins.
Talk about buying (and reading) the book before the coin! Congratulations on your well-thought-out purchase. Great coin! -Editor
Tom Caldwell writes:
The 1923-D has always been our favorite date as far as possessing an amazing look. The impurities in the metal that were used for the pieces that year in
Denver have a look unlike all the other years of the series. Great choice by Jeff.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: SAINT-GAUDENS DOUBLE EAGLES
Wayne Homren, Editor
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