By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
Lot 217. Extremely Rare 1920 Wilson Dollar in Gold
For fans of the So-Called dollar series, it’s always a treat to see an auction appearance of one of the series’ true stoppers, the extremely rare 1920 “Wilson dollar” in gold.
The Wilson dollar was struck on July 16,1920 to commemorate the opening of the Manila Mint, then a branch mint of the United States. According to so-called dollar expert Bill Hyder, the issue is one of the only so-called dollars to have been knowingly struck outside of the continental United States.
The medal was struck under the supervision of Clifford Hewitt, a Mint engineer, who for nearly a century has been wrongly credited with having a hand in the design. In reality, the dies were designed and engraved by Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, George T. Morgan.
Morgan’s design features a left-facing portrait of then sitting president Woodrow Wilson on the obverse along with the inscription: PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
On the reverse, Morgan adapted a design featuring the goddess Juno Moneta that he first used on the U.S. Annual Assay Commission Medal of 1882. Here, however, the design is horizontally-flipped, with minor adjustments to Juno’s body shape and limb placement. In addition, Morgan added a coin press to the design. Wrapping around the perimeter, the inscription: TO COMMEMORATE THE OPENING OF THE MINT; and in the exergue: MANILLA P.I. and the date 1920.
A Desirable Medal with Crossover Appeal
Philippine coins and medals struck during the period of U.S. Administration (1898-1946) have broad collector appeal with U.S. collectors.
The Wilson medal was struck in limited quantities in silver (HK-449, 2,200 struck) and bronze (HK-450, 3,700 struck), while just five pieces were reportedly struck in gold – a number that is open to some debate given the total number of pieces known or believed existent.
Contemporary reports of the gold medal’s issue state that one of the “five” medals was given to President Woodrow Wilson, a second to Secretary of War David Franklin Houston, and the remaining going to high-ranking Philippine officials.
Tracking the provenance of the “original” five may prove impossible, but we do know that one example is currently impounded at the Philippine Central Bank Museum, while a quick search through Heritage’s and Stack’s online auction archives verifies the existence of the five examples pictured.
The images reveal that the NGC and PCGS examples graded MS-62, MS-61, and AU-55 are clearly different specimens. The impaired medals are also different. The example in the PCGS is holder marks the only reported grading event of the Wilson issue by PCGS. While NGC reports three events where a grade was rendered, one in MS-62 (pictured), one in MS-61 (pictured), and one in AU-58.
It’s certainly possible that the NGC AU-58 example and the pictured PCGS AU-55 specimen are the same medal. I have no personal first-hand knowledge of either piece.
Despite the clear possibility (I hesitate even now to say “fact”) that the long-reported number of Wilson gold medals may be wrong, this is an extremely rare and interesting numismatic treasure- one with great crossover appeal for collectors of U.S.-produced Philippine coins.
Stack’s current example on offer was graded UNC DETAILS / NET MS-60 (CLEANED) by ANACS (old holder).
Stack’s describes the piece as having a full strike with surfaces “free of significant contact marks” with “hardly noticeable” cleaning. The reserve price for the piece is set at $38,500.
Auctions results of the four illustrated pieces previously offered:
- NGC-graded MS-62 example realized $74,750.00 at Heritage Auction’s July-August, 2008 U.S. Signature Auction, Baltimore, Maryland #1114 (Lot 2151).
- NGC-graded MS-61 medal brought $50,525 at Stack’s Bowers’ August 2013 Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction (Lot 12444).
- PCGS-graded AU-55 specimen realized $44,062.50 at Heritage Auction’s January 6-7, 2013 Ancient & World Coin Signature Auction, New York #3021 (Lot 22446).
- NCS-graded UNC DETAILS – MOUNT REMOVED example brought $31,625.00 at Stack’s Bowers’ August 2011 Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction (Lot 21344)
Update: The reserve price for the Wilson Medal was not met at the Stack’s Bowers Americana Auction held earlier today. Therefore, the piece did not sell.