By 1925, gold coins had mostly fallen from circulation within the United States. Instead, the Government intended these coins to fulfill two main roles: to be exported as payment for trade deals and to back US gold certificates. Specifically, the coins’ role of backing gold certificates was of high importance because by law the certificates were redeemable in gold coinage at two-thirds of their face value. As for the export of the coins, they served as an economic reserve and helped the US maintain its balance of trade.
While the Philadelphia Mint produced the 11th-largest issuance of the entire series in 1925, it was still slightly smaller than that of either the Denver or the San Francisco Mint. It was for this reason–combined with the fact that a majority of the 1925 issuance ended up overseas and thereby evaded the widespread melting of US gold coins in the 1930s–that the 1925 Philadelphia double eagle is now known as one of the more common and easily acquired dates. Of an estimated survival rate of just under 250,000 pieces, NGC and PCGS report a combined total of 114,116 grading events.
Despite the large mintage, these coins were well-struck and there are very few known errors – as is the case with most US gold coinage. There is, however, one well-known error type: a Doubled Die Reverse referred to as FS-801. The 50 known examples of this type all show some extent of doubling on the eagles’ legs and wing feathers. It is probable that there are more than a few re-submissions and that the true population of this variety is much smaller.
The 1925 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle in Today’s Market
In the highest grades, MS 67 and 66, the 1925 Philadelphia double eagle is particularly difficult to acquire–especially since these two grades account for only 2,123 examples (1.86% of the total population). Of the five examples sold in the past two years, most MS 67 examples have went for roughly $20,000 USD. Interestingly, one example sold by Heritage Auctions on May 5, 2022, hammered for a $132,000 – the auction record for this type. Ten to 15 years ago, examples graded MS 67 would have sold for an average price of $17,000.
When graded MS 66+, these coins can fetch as much as $15,000 or as little as $4,500–at an average price of $9,000. For a straight MS 66, collectors should be ready to pay roughly $4,000. An MS 65 currently commands a premium of roughly $1,000 over melt and sells for an average of $2,700. In 2019, this grade was selling for $1,600 to $1,800, at a premium of $300 to $500.
Currently, examples in MS 62, 63, and 64–which collectively account for 82.9% of the combined populations of NGC and PCGS–sell for between $2,100 to 2,300. When certified as MS 61, examples sell for an average of $2,000, with specific pieces priced as high as $2,200 and as low as $1,700. With only 638 certified MS 60 specimens, pieces of this grade rarely come to market, and, over the past 10 years, there have been only 14 sales. The last auction record for an MS 60 dates back to the end of 2021 and sold for $2,280. However, since the price of gold has dropped since then, the grade currently sells for roughly the same as an MS 61.
In all grades below Mint State, the 1925 Philadelphia Saint-Gaudens Double eagle sells either for melt (currently $1,631.46) or for a 3-5% premium.
The obverse features a full-length image of Liberty, facing forward with an olive branch in her extended left hand and a raised torch in her extended right. Draped in a long, flowing classical gown, her hair is swept to the left. Some describe her as striding forward, but she appears instead to be in a pose; the foot of her left leg resting on a large rock (in front of which are oak leaves). To Liberty’s right, at the bottom of the coin, the sun is visible behind a depiction of the U.S. Capitol building. Rays from the sun extend upward from behind the Capitol and Liberty to about the level of Liberty’s waist. At the top of the coin is the word LIBERTY, the torch separating I and B. Forty-eight tiny six-pointed stars are arrayed just inside the flat rim, forming a circle broken only at the bottom.
The date (1925) is near the bottom on the right; a monogram of the designer’s initials ASG is below the date.
The crest of the sun appears again on the reverse, at the bottom with rays extending upward nearly to the top of the coin behind a majestic left-facing eagle, wings uplifted in flight. In an arc above the sun is IN GOD WE TRUST, the words separated by centered triangular dots. At the top is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in a concentric arc next to the flat rim, with TWENTY DOLLARS just below in another arc. The words of both phrases are separated by centered triangular dots, and the text is also in front of the sun’s rays.
The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, in raised letters that alternate with 13 raised stars, is on the edge of the coin.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) was a European-educated American sculptor, notable for numerous public monuments and other works in the Beaux Arts style. Working with President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, he is responsible for some of the most beautiful numismatic designs in American history, such as the gold $10 eagle and the gold $20 double eagle.
|Year Of Issue:||1925|
|Denomination:||20 Dollars (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|OBV Designer||Augustus Saint-Gaudens|
|REV Designer||Augustus Saint-Gaudens|
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So… a $20 Gold Certificate was only worth thirteen dollars plus change? I’ve seen other articles that allude to gold coin, silver coin and paper money did _not_ trade at parity. I’m trying to understand how this worked for ordinary people back then. I would think that an employer would want to pay in paper money while a merchant would want to be paid in coin. And what about banks? Did they keep track of what form you deposited in, or did people simply hoard gold and silver?
Gold certificates were redeemable for their full value in gold coin as directly stated on the notes. Before FDR devalued the dollar from $ 20.67 to (eventually) $35 per Troy ounce of gold, all gold certificates and coins were recalled from American citizens in 1933. There was never a time when gold certificates were redeemable for less than their stated value.