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US Gold Coins Shine in Top 5 Auction Lots from The Heritage Signature Sale at Summer FUN

The Heritage Auction wrapped up in Orlando and it looks like dated gold once again has taken the spotlight. 4 of the top 5 coins were all classic dated US gold coins. The demand or this material remains significant .

Having any coin show, in the summer and a month before the Largest Coin Show in the country, the Summer ANA World’s Fair of Money is a tough road to hoe. You will never be seeing the best material in a sale like this and most people will choose to “keep their powder dry” unless some really fresh material is offered, or they just happen to have that coin you have been looking for. However the Summer FUN was a strong show, well attended from reports we have heard, and always very well run by Cindy Wibker and the FUN Board.

Below are descriptions from the Heritage Catalog, a photo of the obverse of the coin and the Price realized (including Buyers Premiun)

1860-O Twenty Dollar Liberty, MS61
Supremely Challenging O-Mint Issue
Finest-Certified Example

US Gold Coins1860-O $20 MS61 NGC. After the San Francisco Mint opened in 1854, most of the bullion from the California gold fields went to that facility for coinage and bullion deposits dropped precipitously at the New Orleans Mint. Accordingly, only small mintages of US Gold Coins double eagles were turned out at the New Orleans Mint after that time. Only 6,600 O-mint Liberty double eagles were coined in 1860, the third-smallest production total of the New Orleans series. The coins were all released into circulation at the time of issue and circulated widely in domestic and overseas trade. It is doubtful that any coins were saved by contemporary collectors, as there was little numismatic interest in high-denomination US Gold Coins in general, and branch mint issues in particular. As might be expected, the 1860-O is extremely rare in high grade today. Only two specimens have been certified in Mint State grades, both at NGC. One is the MS60 Prooflike example that was recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Republic. The other is the present coin, graded MS61 by NGC.



1924-S Twenty Dollar, MS65
A Major Condition Rarity
Only One Coin Finer at PCGS

1924-S $20 MS65 PCGS Secure. The 1924-S Saint-Gaudens US Gold Coins double eagle claims a mintage of more than 2.9 million pieces, but the issue is scarce in all grades in today’s market, and coins at the Gem level are major rarities. Most of the large mintage was melted after the Gold Recall of 1933, rendering the official production figures irrelevant. In fact, during the decade of the 1940s, the 1924-S was regarded as the rarest date of the series, with prominent coin dealers like B. Max Mehl and Abe Kosoff estimating the surviving population at just 3-6 pieces. Fortunately for present-day collectors, a number of US Gold Coins were discovered in European banks, beginning in the 1950s, causing the 1924-S and many other double eagle issues to become more available. Currently, PCGS and NGC combined have certified more than 1,000 coins in all grades, but that total undoubtedly includes many duplicate submissions.

On the other hand, when collectors seek a truly high-quality example of the 1924-S, they find the situation has changed little from the early days of the 1940s. The US Gold Coins found in European holdings were subjected to the rigors of transport and storage in bags with other large gold coins. Few examples escaped without significant surface marks, and the great majority are in lower Uncirculated grades, below MS64. At the Gem level, the same handful of pristine survivors that were in the hands of collectors in the 1940s constitute the available supply today. PCGS has graded only seven coins in MS65, with a single piece finer at MS67 (5/18). Even these small totals probably include some resubmissions and crossovers.



1895 Dollar, PR65 Cameo
Stopper to the Morgan Series
Stark White-on-Black Contrast

1895 $1 PR65 Cameo NGC. In addition to its immense popularity, the 1895 Morgan dollar is one of the most mysterious and controversial issues in American numismatics. Mint records indicate 12,000 business-strike examples were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in June of 1895, to complement a nominal proof mintage of 880 specimens struck throughout the year (290 in March, 180 in May, 90 in September, and 320 in December). Other records indicate five obverse and four reverse dies were prepared by the Engraving Department to produce proof dollars in 1895, but none were produced to strike regular-issue coins. The fact that no business strike dies were produced and the regular issue mintage took place at the end of the fiscal year, in June, has convinced many numismatists that no business-strike 1895 Morgan dollars were ever struck. They believe the 12,000-coin entry in June represents coins dated 1894, carried forward to balance the books at the end of the fiscal year. Supporting this theory is the fact that no business-strike 1895 Morgan dollar has ever been confirmed in any collection, down to the present day.

Writing in Coin Values magazine in September 2006, Roger W. Burdette suggests an alternative explanation for the lack of business strikes. He notes six circulation strike and four proof Morgan dollars were submitted to the 1896 Assay Commission, according to their official report. Two business strike coins were tested and destroyed. Burdette notes the legal purpose of the Assay Commission was to verify the prior year’s coinage for weight and fineness and they would have been acting outside the law to test coins dated 1894, or any date other than 1895. From this, he concludes the 12,000 coins produced in June were actually 1895-dated regular issue coins, struck using one of the proof die pairs, but with none of the planchet polishing, etc., which would have accompanied a proof mintage. One explanation for the missing business strikes is that the 12 bags containing the entire mintage were stored in government vaults, and later melted under the provisions of the Pittman Act in 1918. Of course, this explanation leaves open the hope that one of the four untested business strikes from the Assay Commission might surface someday, if one of the commission members purchased it for his collection. As time passes, this seems increasingly unlikely.

Whatever the explanation for the missing business strikes, the rarity of the 1895 Morgan dollar has been recognized ever since the coins were struck. It was fairly common for 19th century collectors to update their collections every year by purchasing proof sets from the Philadelphia Mint. One such collector was F. Merritt Alden, who had an unbroken run of silver and minor proof sets from 1859 to 1895 when his collection was sold by the Chapman brothers in April of 1896. The Chapman’s description of lot 161 reads, “1895 Brilliant proof set. Dollar rare. 6 pieces.” It is telling that the Chapmans singled out the rarity of the dollar only four months after the final coins were issued.



1915-S Pan-Pac Octagonal Fifty, MS62
Robert Aitken’s Numismatic Masterpiece

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS62 PCGS. The Panama-Pacific Exposition was larger and more prestigious than any previous major fair held in America. The occasion of the event was the completion of the Panama Canal, and the exposition also served to celebrate the rebirth of San Francisco after a devastating earthquake and fire in 1906. Moreover, the series of commemorative coins issued for the Pan-Pac Exposition not only surpassed those of previous expositions in number but also in artistic merit and numismatic significance. Art was a central theme of the Pan-Pac Exposition, and great care was taken in selecting appropriate designs for the commemorative US Gold Coins, which included four denominations in five different types. The authorizing legislation read in part:

“The words, devices, and designs upon said coins shall be determined and prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and all provisions of law relative to the coinage and legal-tender value of all other gold and silver coins shall be applicable to the coins issued under and in accordance with the provisions of this Act; and one-half of the issue of $50 gold coins herein authorized shall be similar in shape to the octagonal $50 gold pieces issued in California in eighteen hundred and fifty-one; and the entire issue of said $50, $2.50, and $1 coins herein authorized shall be sold and delivered by the Secretary of the Treasury to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Company at par, under rules and regulations and in amounts to be prescribed by him.”

From the beginning, Robert Aitken’s design for the fifty dollar gold piece was viewed with moderate enthusiasm by the Commission of Fine Arts, but Treasury Secretary William McAdoo was only satisfied with the work after Aitken made minor adjustments that included the removal of a spider web element in the design that McAdoo believed was “not accepted as a symbol of industry, if that was the artist’s meaning, but the contrary.” Aitken’s use of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and agriculture, and her owl, a symbol of wisdom, along with a Roman numeral date, recalled the classic designs of ancient Greek coinage and art, which heavily influenced much of the art and architecture throughout the Exposition grounds.

As the Act of January 16, 1915, dictated, the fifty dollar gold piece was issued in two varieties — one round, the other octagonal, being modeled after the “slugs” struck by the U.S. Assay Office in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. Aitken prepared only one design for both varieties, a decision that is generally attributed to the swiftness with which the Mint sought to have the coins in production. However, on the octagonal version, in the angles created around the border by the unique planchet shape, Aitken placed swimming dolphins, which were described as representing the uninterrupted water route made possible by the Panama Canal.



1920-S Ten Dollar, MS62
Heavily Melted Branch Mint Rarity
A Major Series Key

1920-S $10 MS62 PCGS Secure. If we consider the final-year 1933 ten dollar gold piece to be uncollectible, then the rarest potentially accessible key date in the Saint-Gaudens Indian Head eagle series is the 1920-S. Although the San Francisco Mint manufactured a healthy quantity of ten dollar US Gold Coins in 1920, Bowers notes that it “is virtually a certainty that nearly all of the 126,500 pieces minted were held by Treasury Department and melted after 1933.” He adds: “Relatively few must have seen actual distribution, either domestically or in international commerce. No hoards are known, not even small ones.”

No ten dollar US Gold Coins had been struck at any mint facility since 1916. Production resumed four years later, but the timing was not exactly ideal. In 1920, the United States was going through a post-war recession, and there was little demand for these relatively large gold coins in commerce. So why were any eagles struck in 1920? Part of the reason is that by law, one-third of outstanding gold certificates had to be backed by gold coinage held in reserves. One of the main flaws of the Gold Standard was that it was not responsive to the needs of the American economy during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. This is a perfect example.

Survival estimates for the 1920-S range from 110 to 145 pieces extant. Unsurprisingly, most known examples are in Uncirculated condition, and the few circulated pieces typically grade AU. Distribution across the various Mint State levels is fairly even, with MS62 being the grade with the most submissions at PCGS.


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