20th century Coins
Chronology : 1933
1907 Saint-Gaudens versus Barber
2021 SOLD for $ 3.6M including premium
Experienced in the design of medals, Saint-Gaudens knows nothing about industrial production. The conduct of the project will be marked by his bad relationship with Chief Engraver Charles Barber.
The double eagle in Ultra High Relief prepared by Saint-Gaudens is featuring on the obverse a standing figure inspired by the Victory of Samothrace and on the reverse the Gobrecht flying eagle.
The first trial, in February 1907, fails : one of the dies breaks, preventing the fourth and last unit from being completed, its edge being left plain. After repair of the tooling plus some minor modifications, a second campaign is carried out in the spring, in two variants : several parts have an inverted position of the edge inscription.
Saint-Gaudens dies in August 1907. Barber knew from the start that this Ultra High Relief which Roosevelt liked so much was impossible to industrialize. 361,667 double eagles are finally minted in December, reusing the Saint-Gaudens design with a flattened relief.
On December 31, an additional production of three UHR pieces is carried out at the request of the Mint Director, bringing the quantity struck after the modification to a total of about 16 pieces. The four examples below belong to this undifferentiated population.
The highest ranked is a PR69 by PCGS. It was sold for $ 3M including premium by Heritage in November 2005 and for $ 2.76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012.
Several pieces were graded PR68. A coin graded by PCGS was sold for $ 1.84M including premium by Heritage in January 2007. A coin stamped with the initials ASG of Saint-Gaudens, graded by PCGS, was sold for $ 2.1M including premium by Heritage on January 7, 2015.
A coin graded PR68 by NGC has been sold twice by Goldberg, for $ 1.2M in May 1999 and for $ 1.15M in February 2003. It will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on February 24, lot 3802.
On the heels of the successful FUN auctions, Heritage Auctions is proud to present a diversified selection of more than 24 American gold and silver coins, all from The Paramount Collection.https://t.co/4dnHSsego6#USCoins #CoinCollectors #Numismatics pic.twitter.com/1ogUX1JSMk— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) February 9, 2021
This 1907 Ultra High Relief $20 gold piece is a numismatic rarity of the highest order. This seven-figure piece designed by famed sculptor Augustus St. Gaudenshttps://t.co/5TRUm7Zw9C— Heritage Auctions - Coins (@heritagecoins) February 1, 2021
Lot No. 3802 I February 18 - 21 US Coins Signature Sale No. 1327#USCoins #CoinCollectors pic.twitter.com/XIvTqYytzk
1907 Ultra High Relief for the Double Eagles
2005 SOLD for $ 3M including premium by Heritage
2012 SOLD 2.76 M$ including premium
A wonderful piece of gold may sustain the claim of being the finest coin of the 20th century, sharing this achievement with another specimen from the same variant and condition.
This Ultra High Relief $ 20 coin graded PR69 by PCGS was sold for $ 3M including premium by Heritage in November 2005, lot 6522 and for $ 2.76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012. It comes back for sale by Stack's Bowers on May 20 at Sotheby's New York. It is now estimated $ 2.75M, lot 93.
Please find below my discussion of 2012 along with the video which had been shared by Stack's Bowers before that sale.
President Theodore Roosevelt never did anything like everyone else. For his second inauguration in 1905, he required Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design a medal in parallel of the version traditionally handled by the official mint departments.
The result pleased that rebellious President. The following year, he asked Saint-Gaudens to redesign the whole American coinage.
Already hit by his terminal cancer, Saint-Gaudens stubbornly began this task, starting with the top gold coins : the eagle ($ 10) and the double eagle ($ 20).
Saint-Gaudens was primarily a sculptor. He imagined for the double eagle a motif in very high relief, which was tested in February and March 1907. Two dozen of proof coins were produced.
The result was superb but disappointing. It had taken nine strikes of a high pressure medal hydraulic press, normally used for very small quantities. It was impossible to consider such a technique for producing the big quantities needed for currency. The design of Saint Gaudens will however be later used, but with a flattened motif.
1911 Long Whisker Dragon Pattern Dollar
2022 SOLD for $ 3M by Stack's Bowers
The Tianjin mint survives the changes of regime : the fall of the Qing is followed by the republic, established on January 1, 1912, interrupted in 1915 by the self-proclamation of its president Yuan Shikai as emperor and restored after his death in 1916.
From 1910 to 1920 the head designer and chief engraver of the Tianjin mint was Luigi Giorgi on whom biographical details are scarce. He produced several designs of silver coins, some of which were signed with his name. His coins are drawn and engraved with great sharpness. His One Dollar with the Dragon in the Clouds, dated to the 3rd year of the child emperor Xuantung which is 1911 CE, is the last imperial coinage of the Qing.
Designed in the same year by Giorgi, the silver dollar with the Long Whiskers Dragon was not released for circulation. Its pattern coins are beautifully struck on specially prepared surface.
The best surviving specimen is graded SP-65 by NGC. It was sold for $ 430K by Bowers and Merena on December 4, 2010 and for $ 460K by Stack's Bowers on October 6, 2020, lot 41244.
A long whisker dragon pattern silver dollar graded SP63+ by PCGS was sold in Hong Kong for US $ 3M from a lower estimate of $ 750K on May 4, 2022 by Stack's Bowers, lot 51134. Please watch the Coin in motion shared by the auction house. The experimental strike included some variations. This pattern coin has stylistic differences in the Manchu script and the leaves on the reverse.
The fall of the Qing makes the dragon obsolete. This imperial symbol is soon replaced by the portrait of Yuan Shikai. The silver dollars with this effigy dated to the year 3 of the Republic, 1914 CE, were also prepared in Tianjin by Giorgi.
1913 The Eliasberg Nickel
2018 SOLD for $ 4.6M including premium
This variant, not documented by the plant, is the consequence of the introduction for 1913 of the Buffalo Head figure replacing the Liberty Head for the 5-cent coin. It appears that when this decision was made in February 1913, a 1913 Liberty Head die was already available for the production line.
The population of the 1913 Liberty nickel is limited to a single group of five pieces exhibited together in 1920 by a former factory employee who had known about it and managed to get it in his hands. The five pieces had been struck with new tools, perhaps simply for a first test that would become obsolete with the change of design.
Eliasberg considered this group to be the total population. Indeed no other example has ever surfaced. His copy is the best, graded PR66 by PCGS, and the only one from these five with a glittering mirror surface.
When Eliasberg died in 1976, his collection was shared between his two children. It was then the subject of several auctions. The 1913 Eliasberg Liberty nickel becomes the first coin to cross the million-dollar threshold at auction, on May 21, 1996 by Bowers and Merena. Q. David Bowers' hammer falls at $ 1.35M, $ 1.485M including premium.
Its price has considerably risen in the next decade. It was sold for $ 1.84M including premium by Superior Galleries in March 2001. Two private transactions were revealed, at $ 4.15M in May 2005 and $ 5M in April 2007. It also passed at auction at Stack's in January 2007 .
The Eliasberg specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Philadelphia on August 15, lot 1096. The image shared by Wikimedia had been prepared for the 2001 auction.
1913 The Latest Liberty Nickels
2010 SOLD 3.7 M$ including premium
2014 SOLD 3.3 M$ including premium
A star of coin auctions is listed again: the Olsen specimen, which had been sold for $ 3.7 million including premium by Heritage on 7 January 2010. I paste below my text of that time, modified to include the information of the next sale:
In 1920, five coins are displayed by a man named Samuel Brown at the annual meeting of the American Numismatic Association. Marked 1913, they are not very old at that time. The surprising fact is that no similar sample has appeared afterwards. Thus began the mystery of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel.
At the end of 1912, officials of the US Mint had decided to abandon the Liberty design for the 5 cents coin, and to replace it with another one which is now known as Buffalo nickel. The five Brown copies are the only 1913 5 cents specimens on the Liberty model.
Nobody knows why these coins were manufactured or how Brown acquired them. There are two undisputed facts: In 1913, Brown was employed at the Philadelphia Mint. The five samples are from a new die, so that an expert was able to define in what order of precedence they were struck.
The 1913 Liberty Nickel, of which three units are still in private hands, is now considered as one of the rarest US coins. The Olsen specimen, so designated from one of its former owners, has even been featured in a television series in 1973, in which thieves were trying to appropriate it. To avoid damaging the precious object, it was replaced by a model in the turbulent scenes of the film, same as a featured character being doubled by a stuntman.
The Olsen specimen, which has always been handled with great care, is ranked second in the order of perfection of the five coins. It is for sale by Heritage in Orlando on January 9. In recent years, all commercial transactions concerning 1913 Liberty nickels were in the millions of dollars.
POST SALE COMMENT
The new price obtained by the Olsen specimen is $ 3.3 million including premium, a decrease compared to 2010. The balance is restored with respect to the Walton specimen, sold for $ 3.2 million including premium by Heritage in April 2013.
Its picture is shared by Heritage on Wikimedia : By Photo taken by Heritage Auctions (Provided by Heritage Auctions with permission) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Please watch the video shared by Stack's Bowers after an exhibition beside the highlights of their November sale.
1913 The Walton Specimen
2013 SOLD 3.2 M$ including premium
However, in 1920, five 5 cents 1913 Liberty Head nickels are presented during a numismatic congress by a former employee of the Philadelphia mint. They are in wonderful condition, having been struck with a brand new tooling and having benefited from the special polishing of proof coins.
These coins were never recorded in official documents. No other example of this variant will appear. They were nicknamed the Kings of twentieth century US coins.
The set was broken in 1936. Two of the five units are currently kept in public collections. One of them is less good because one of its owners loved holding it in his pocket for showing it to his friends.
The best of the five is the Eliasberg specimen, graded PR66 by PCGS. Graded PR64 by NGC, the Olsen specimen, which had also belonged to King Farouk, was sold for $ 3.7 million including premium by Heritage on 7 January 2010.
The Walton specimen had a turbulent history. It was in the car of its owner at the time of his fatal crash in 1962. It was then out of view during 40 years, simply because the auctioneer responsible for the estate sale did not believe in its authenticity. Waiting for better days, the family had kept it.
Graded PR63 by PCGS, the Walton specimen is the star lot of the sale to be held by Heritage in Chicago from April 24 to 28. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, $ 3.2 million including premium, is in line with the expectation and remains consistently below the Olsen specimen.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by CoinWeek :
1927 Denver Double Eagle
2022 SOLD for $ 4.4M by Heritage
From one year to another, the produced quantity could vary considerably, depending on available reserves. The top rarities are 1927-D and 1921.
During the 1920s, the US government met increasing difficulties to maintain the fixed exchange rate between dollar and gold. Americans lost confidence in paper money and filled the vaults of their banks with gold for hoarding, making a huge financial mass unavailable for economic activities.
The government had no incentive to increase the circulation of gold, for the above reason and also because the USA, being a leading gold producing country, managed at that time a policy of export supply.
The Denver plant continued to produce double eagles but stopped to release them after 1923. The 180,000 pieces with the 1927 year mark remained in storage. A small quantity was sold at face value to collectors. A similar policy was applied in San Francisco, leaving Philadelphia as the only center of double eagles for immediate circulation.
In 1933, President Roosevelt took strong monetary measures to tackle the crisis. It was now illegal for individuals to own gold and the government melted the reserves. In 1934 the Gold Reserve Act overvalued gold by 40% for increasing the earnings at export.
Production of Denver in 1927, or 1927-D, has almost completely disappeared. It would be only 13 surviving plus 2 non located coins of this type. No circulation was released but it was not banned in period.
A 1927-D double eagle graded MS66 by PCGS in a sharp strike and beautiful yellow gold was sold for $ 4.4M by Heritage on August 22, 2022, lot 3417. It is third in the condition roster. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The top graded example, certified MS67 by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.9M by Heritage on November 3, 2005. A 1927-D graded MS66 by NGC and later MS65+ by PCGS was sold for $ 2.16M by Heritage on January 9, 2020, lot 4046. The + recognizes its magnificent strike and color.
Two examples of the 1921 double eagle are known in the MS66 grade. They were respectively sold by Heritage for $ 1.1M in November 2005 and for $ 750K on January 5, 2012. A 1933 $ 10 eagle from 30 surviving was sold for $ 820K by Heritage on April 23, 2015, lot 5419.
'Legendary Rarity' 1927-D #DoubleEagle Leads Latest Bob R. Simpson Collection Offerings at Heritage's U.S. #Coins Auction.— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 9, 2022
August 22-28 event also features collections of James R. McGuigan, Christopher J. Salmon and Tom Bender.
□ https://t.co/pEql8LFVjJ#numismatics pic.twitter.com/vGgOcDCj0u
#HERITAGELIVE For all intents and purposes, the 1927-D is "truly the king of all 20th century #GoldCoins." We are proud to announce that this spectacular Premium Gem example of this celebrated gold rarity just joined a new collection for $4,440,000.— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 23, 2022
□ https://t.co/blBlsUZq79 pic.twitter.com/yahswvAVtW
1928 Posthumous Chang Tso-lin Pattern Silver Dollar
2021 SOLD for $ 2.3M by Stack's Bowers
Zhang Zuolin (Chang Tso-lin) was one of these power-hungry generals. Having become the master of Manchuria after supporting the Japanese, he managed to win several provinces and to control Beijing in 1927. He then took the extravagant title of Grand Marshal of the military government of the Republic of China.
A gold coin of 50 yuan is then prepared in Tientsin, with his image in military uniform. The other side is dated to the sixteenth year of the Republic, assessing that Zhang had not, or not yet, the imperial ambitions of Yuan Shikai. Only a few prototypes of this coin was made. It is nevertheless important in the history of Chinese numismatics, because it is the largest gold coin of the Republic.
It is known in two copies only. One of them, which was presented to Zhang, was kept by his family. Remained in uncirculated condition, this piece of outstanding quality was sold for HK $ 4.4M by Bonhams on November 24, 2012, lot 500.
The new leader of the Kuomintang (Guomindang), Chiang Kai Shek (Jiang Jieshi), set out to reunify China. Chang Tso-lin lost Beijing on June 3, 1928. The next day, he died in the explosion of his private train, perpetrated by a rival faction. His son Chang Hsueh-liang (Zhang Xueliang), nicknamed the Young Marshal, succeeds him.
Currency is essential to ensure the loyalty of soldiers, especially in a civil war. Since 1912, the official currency of the Republic of China has been the dollar.
A silver dollar was prepared with the effigy of Chang Tso-lin in civilian dress on the year of Republic 17, 1928 CE. Its text announces it as memorial, which suggests that it is posthumous. Its terminus ante quem is December 29, 1928, when the Young Marshal rallies to the government of the Kuomintang. Having become politically incorrect, this coin will not be issued.
A specimen graded SP-64 by PCGS of Chang Tso-lin's dollar was sold for 2.3M on April 6, 2021 in Hong Kong by Stack's Bowers, lot 50016.
1933 Double Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 19M by Sotheby's
The crisis had lasted since 1924 and the production of eagles and double eagles was considerably slowed down. The production of the 312,500 eagles of 1933 was finished before April 5 and this denomination was legal at that time. The production of the double eagles, which was in progress, was not interrupted : this batch was the last US gold coin struck for circulation.
On September 13, 1934, all gold coins in federal stocks were declared obsolete (uncurrent). In the following month two 1933 double eagles were sent to the Smithsonian for the National Collection as non-monetized samples. 445,469 pieces were in the vaults. This stock was melted in 1937.
Ten pieces escaped that melting, certainly stolen by the cashier of the Mint who will be jailed in 1940 for another scam. All of them were recovered and destroyed by the government except one that King Farouk had managed to acquire in 1944. The King had obtained for this piece an export license issued by the Secretary of the Treasury, either simply by mistake or to please that powerful sovereign. This license being federal, the Farouk specimen became the only 1933 double eagle with some legal US status. Any other example is illegal to own.
Removed at the request of the US government from the auction of the Farouk collections in 1954, the double eagle resurfaced in 1996, brought to New York by an English dealer. He was caught in the act by the FBI during his negotiations with his American customer.
The coin of the English dealer was with no doubt the ex Farouk specimen. A judicial compromise was found in 2001. The double eagle was listed for auction on July 20, 2002 by Sotheby's and Stack's. In order to declare for the first time the official release of this specific coin, the buyer was required to pay to the federal government its face value of $ 20 in addition to the auction final price : it was sold for $ 7,590,020. Here is the link to the catalog in the website of Stack's Bowers, successor to Stack's.
This coin was sold for $ 19M from a lower estimate of $ 10M by Sotheby's on June 8, 2021, lot 1. Its highly essential 2002 Certificate of Monetization is joined to the lot. It had been re-inspected in March 2021 by PCGS and graded Gem brilliant uncirculated MS 65.
Take a closer look at three pocket sized treasures from the collection of famed shoe designer & fashion entrepreneur Stuart Weitzman. On offer in a live sale on 8 June, the historic auction features the world's most rare & valuable coin & stamp specimens. https://t.co/M9FTbFdy2X pic.twitter.com/3kMSIUUYdE— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 27, 2021
1936 The Transient Perfection of Edward VIII
2021 SOLD for $ 2.3M including premium
A few proof sets of £ 5, £ 2 and £ 1 gold coins which had been prepared for the ceremony are not destroyed. Their quantity is estimated at 6. Most have been separated. There are two complete sets left, one in the Royal Mint and one in private hands in the Tyrant collection.
The quintuple sovereign of Edward VIII is thus the most desirable coin in British numismatics. On March 26 in Dallas, Heritage sells the finest, lot 30339 estimated $ 1M.
This coin is close to perfection. It is graded PR 67 Ultra Cameo by NGC. It has never been taken in hand, leaving its surface absolutely intact. The videos shared by Heritage are a superb demonstration of the night and day effect on both sides. No other Edward VIII quintuple has been certified by NGC or PCGS.
The highest auction price for an Edward VIII gold coin was for a Proof Cameo sovereign, sold for £ 520K including premium by Baldwin's on May 8, 2014. It was then sold in a private transaction for £ 1M in January 2020.