Lustrous and pleasing were this a common date issue, as the strike is sharper than often seen and the surfaces are free of all but minor evidence of bag handling. The peripheral tiny stars are sharp too, and the dress folds on Liberty show strong definition, as do the eagle's tiny feathers on his chest, neck and wings. No heavy copper specks are present, and the luster is bright, fresh and attractive. For future identification there is a shallow scuff right at the center of the upright of the L of LIBERTY. With so few known of this date and mint, there are always many Saint-Gaudens collectors seeking an example.
As so commonly seen in the numismatic history of our country, the original mintages are at best general guides to finding examples today. The student of this immensely popular series soon learns the number struck has little to do with the number that survived. Similar to the gold coinage of the 1820s and 1830s, or the silver coinage of the early 1850s, disruptions in the legislated balance of the silver to gold ratio caused wholesale melting of the available coins--when a profit was to be had. A similar case transpired in the 1930s, where country after country decided to go off the gold coin standard for their circulating money. In America the coinage of gold stopped during 1933, and all the available gold coins were called back to be under government control. Much of the gold coinage struck in this period had never left the control of the government, and many bags of double eagles were simply returned to the appropriate agency. Most of the double eagles struck between 1912 and 1933 were melted, with lower mintage dates suffering along with common, high mintage dates. Remarkably, a significant number of bags of double eagles had been sent overseas, under normal banking agreements prior to this change of heart in 1933, and while these were generally coins shipped from the east and frequently of Philadelphia Mint origin, a great many of those known today missed the melting pots of the 1930s by their prolonged European visit where they served as bank reserves for international trade.
Now highly collectible, this series offers incredible challenges as some dates and mints are represented by no more than a handful of coins. Several dates and mints are known with populations in the 75 to 150 coin range only--despite original mintages in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. One of these rarities is the 1920-S double eagle offered here, with an estimated number known in the 100 to 150 individual coin range. Considering the original mintage of 558,000 pieces, this gives the collector an idea of the magnitude of the number melted. Furthermore, nearly one half of those known show evidence of circulation, putting even more pressure on the surviving Mint State 1920-S double eagles from collectors. Although of comparable rarity to the well known 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D and 1932 issues, each of those later dates are represented almost entirely by Mint State examples, as these had little or no time to circulate before gold coinage was halted in 1933 under Executive Order 6260. America soon left the gold coinage standard altogether, with the gold coins called back into government coffers and eventually retained as monetary reserves in the form of large gold bars made from the gold coins turned in during this period. Hence, gold coins from this period are highly collectible and many issues are prohibitively rare.
PCGS Population: 11; 17 finer (MS-66 finest).
From Heritage's ANA Auction, July-August 2007, lot 2105.