Best Buy: The Saints Be Praised… Again…
The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle has long been a favorite of ours—and apparently our clients feel the same way. Last month we offered a group of rarer date 1922 and 1923 ‘Saints,’ all of which sold out within 48 hours! We tried to find more to satisfy client demand, but had no luck. Fortunately, we did stumble upon a group of even rarer branch mint dates: the 1911-D, 1914-D, 1914-S, 1915-S and 1923-D. These tough San Francisco and Denver issues are dramatically scarcer than the common 1924, yet trade for extremely modern premiums. Like last month, we expect this month’s offering to be spoken for very quickly as well. Call 800-831-0007 to get yours today.
History and Rarity
Although the United States has been producing gold coins since 1795, the $20 Double Eagle was not issued until much later. Gold coins were a sort of white elephant in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s; the denominations were simply too large for day-to-day commerce. In fact, the U.S. suspended production of all coins larger than a half-dollar from 1805 through the 1830’s. Carrying large-denomination coins then would be like carrying $500 or $1,000 bills today.
The situation changed dramatically in 1849 with the discovery of gold in California. Miners, merchants and assayers were dealing in bars, ingots and coins worth well more than $10 per piece. The United States took notice and authorized a new denomination: the $20 Double Eagle. Just one piece was struck in 1849, (it currently resides in the Smithsonian Institution) but production began in earnest starting in 1850.
Not only did the Gold Rush result in a new denomination, it also spawned a new branch mint. Most of America’s branch mints were established due to precious metal discoveries. Until 1838 all U.S. coins were struck at the ‘Mother Mint’ in Philadelphia. However, in 1838, three branch mints, Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans began operations.
Gold was being discovered in the hills of Georgia and North Carolina and hauling the metal back to Philadelphia was impractical. Thus, local branch mints were opened to convert the raw metal into U.S. legal tender. When gold was found in California, congress responded similarly and authorized a new mint in San Francisco.
While mintage figures varied year-to-year, as a general rule, Philadelphia often produced the most coins of all the mints. In fact, some of the most spectacular rarities in U.S. coins were struck at branch mints. San Francisco, for example, produced the 1854-S $5 (three known), 1870-S Half Dime (unique) and 1870-S $3 (unique). The Philadelphia mint was expected to produce enough coins for most of the country, whereas the branch mints largely served their local economies or just responded to how much metal was deposited. If demand or metal deposits dropped, mintages tanked as well.
This trend continued into the 20th century when the Philadelphia mint struck the lion’s share of the $20 Double Eagles, while the branch mints saw much lower production levels. In fact, in some years, the branch mints didn’t make double eagles altogether. In 1912, for instance, only the Philadelphia Mint released $20’s while neither San Francisco nor Denver made a single coin. Denver resumed production in 1913 and 1914, but didn’t strike another $20 until 1924. In 1923, Philadelphia and Denver made double eagles, but not a single gold coin was made in San Francisco.
While mintage figures tell half the story, NGC/PCGS population reports provide an excellent indication as to how many coins truly survived. Due to Franklin Roosevelt’s gold confiscation act of 1933, tremendous quantities of U.S. gold coins were seized and destroyed. The result is a tremendous disconnect between original mintages and the number of surviving specimens. In 1920, for example, the San Francisco Mint produced 558,000 double eagles but only 100-150 pieces are believed to remain today. Indeed, for many branch mint issues, it appears just a minute fraction of the coins escaped the melting pot.
Looking at the past ten years, the MS64 $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle has traded for considerable premiums compared to its gold content. Historical price records demonstrate that the coin wholesaled for double melt value in 2004, then continued at a steady 60-80% premium over its bullion content from 2005 through late 2010. Premiums narrowed to some degree in 2011, but NGC’s historical price data indicates they returned to their usual 60-80% range for most of 2012 and 2013. More recently, premiums have come down to very attractive levels; now a generic MS64 $20 Saint is trading for just 30-40% over melt.
While we see tremendous value in the entire $20 Saint-Gaudens series, certain dates and grades make the most sense. Our analysis shows that Branch Mint $20 Saints in MS64 are currently undervalued by the market. Below you will see the data for both dates offered last month and the branch mint dates offered this month.
February Spotlight Dates
March Spotlight Dates
The 1911-D, 1914-D, 1914-S, 1915-S and 1923-D issues are all 16 to 44 times rarer than the ‘generic’ 1924 dates, yet can be had for just a small premium. Such a drastic difference in rarity should translate to a tremendous difference in value.
There are numerous reasons to like these Branch Mint $20 Saint Gaudens double eagles. All $20 ‘Saints’ possess nearly a full ounce of gold, display a beautiful design and have a fascinating backstory. At today’s heavily discounted premiums, they represent superb value relative to their underlying melt value.
The low mintages and survival rates make these Branch Mint issues an outstanding play. Once collectors recognize how much rarer these dates are, the numismatic premiums could advance tremendously. Simply put, it’s unusual that we find an item with so many reasons to appreciate. We wouldn’t be surprised if these Branch Mint $20s disappear as quickly as last month’s offering.
As always with the monthly spotlight coin, we have obtained a few coins we can offer you at a price we feel will put your portfolio in the position to succeed in the future.
MS64: Please call for pricing and avaliability.
And yes, this price is $85 more than the February Spotlight coins that sold out, but take this into consideration: just the gold value in the coin went up almost that much. So, in relation to gold, you are paying a smaller premium this month.
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to purchase your coins and take advantage of the lowest prices in years.
*Prices subject to change due to availability and market fluctuation.