Our January 8-13 FUN US Coins Signature Auction features, among many other highlights, the finest PCGS-graded example of the 1926-S double eagle, a piece rich in history as well as technical and aesthetic merit.
The 1926-S was once considered the third-rarest date of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series. When legendary Fort Worth coin dealer B. Max Mehl cataloged this specimen as lot 881 of the Dr. Charles W. Green Collection in April 1949, he recapped the then-current knowledge about the coin’s rarity and revealed interesting information about the history of this coin:
“1926 $20.00, San Francisco Mint. Uncirculated. Full mint luster. Excessively rare. This identical specimen is from the ‘World’s Greatest Collection,’ Lot No. 1029, sold in January 1946. The catalogers at that time had this to say about this coin: ‘One of the rarest of United States coins. This Double Eagle should take off on a record-breaking spree. It is our opinion that the selling price will exceed $1,000.00.’ (At that time the coin cataloged for $150.00.) The coin brought $1,100. To the best of my knowledge, only three specimens are known to exist. The Berenstein Collection did not have it. As stated above, it is undoubtedly one of the very rarest of American gold coins.”
The coin realized $1,525, a staggering sum for that time.
The World’s Greatest Collection was the magnificent U.S. coin collection assembled by F.C.C. Boyd and cataloged by Abe Kosoff in 1945-1946. Boyd was the vice president of the Union News Company, served on the board of the National Recovery Administration during the Great Depression, and was a board member of the Office of Price Administration during World War II. His pattern collection was sold to King Farouk and much of his Colonial material was acquired by John J. Ford, Jr.
The likely buyer of the coin at Mehl’s sale was Amon Carter, Sr., another prominent citizen of Fort Worth. Carter and his son, Amon Carter, Jr., put together a world-class collection, including an 1804 dollar, one of the three known specimens of the 1822 half eagle, and many rare dates from the Saint-Gaudens series. The main body of the collection, including this coin, was sold by Stack’s in 1984, but the 1822 half eagle was sold earlier to Josiah K. Lilly and now resides in the Smithsonian Institution. Noted gold specialist David Akers acquired this coin for Dr. Steven Duckor at the Carter sale, providing an unbroken pedigree that leads back more than 65 years and reads like a “Who’s Who” of 20th-century numismatists.
Like many dates from the 1920s, the 1926-S began to turn up in European holdings in the 1950s, and its rarity as a date has declined over the years. Today, the 1926-S ranks as the 18th-rarest issue of the 53-coin series, but it remains quite rare at the MS66 level. PCGS has certified only three examples in MS66, with this coin listed as their single finest specimen at MS67. The present coin occupies the number one spot in the PCGS Coin Facts Condition Census (in its previous grade of MS66+) and is pictured prominently on the website.
When Akers cataloged the spectacular 1926-S double eagle in lot 113 of the Thaine B. Price Collection (5/1998), he compared it to the coin offered here: “A splendid, magnificent coin that is tied for finest known with the Amon Carter specimen, lot 1073, now in the Dr. Steven Duckor Collection and also graded MS-66 by PCGS.” We believe the Price coin is the single MS67 NGC example listed in the Census today, while the Carter-Duckor-Fox specimen has been upgraded to MS67 PCGS, and is the superlative coin offered in this lot. Like Akers in 1998, we believe the two coins are virtually equal in their extraordinary quality and eye appeal and remain the finest examples of this sought-after issue known to the numismatic community.
The Stack’s cataloguers in the Carter sale mentioned a bag mark on the eagle’s belly, just in front of the leg. The noted bag mark on the eagle is prominent, but it is among the few mentionable abrasions on either side of this marvelous coin. This mark, and a small dark color spot near A in DOLLARS, are the key pedigree markers that enabled us to trace this coin to the Green Collection.
The center obverse is vivid copper-gold, yielding to sea-green tinges at the rims. The reverse offers yellow-gold, orange-gold, and greenish-gold hues all competing for space in a marvelous display. The strike is bold on each side, if not absolute, but the aesthetics are marvelous. This coin possesses unmatched historical interest, combined with the highest available technical quality and superb visual appeal.