Monday, October 5, 2009

Coin Monday: The Double, Part One

Oct. 5, 2009
Written By John Dale

At around 2000 lots, the Signature® section of Heritage’s October Dallas U.S. Coin auction is small by division standards. “Small,” though, hardly implies “unimpressive” and there are several coins or varieties in the auction that don’t come up for sale every day. Surprisingly enough, two of those varieties are represented in multiples — miss out on the first one? Well, there’s another on the way!

Both the 1907 Wire Rim Saint-Gaudens eagle (or $10 coin) and the 1969-S cent with prominent obverse doubled die fall into the category. The latter deserves its own blog post, which I’ll give it next week, meaning today I’ll focus on the 1907 Wire Rim eagle, which has a mintage of only 500 pieces. We’re offering a pair of Wire Rims, both graded MS64 by NGC. Lot 1575 is the Little Rock Collection example, which I touched on in Part Two of “One Collection, Seven Spectacular Coins” back in mid-September.

Right after lot 1575 hammers down, lot 1576 comes up, the same issue in the same grade. It’d be hard to confuse the two coins, though; lot 1576 has deep orange-gold luster, while lot 1575 is substantially paler and yellow-gold in color. Between the two different looks, at least one is likely to appeal to most collectors.

Just 500 of the Wire Rim $10s were struck, as previously noted; the design for the Wire Rim $10, like the ancient Greek coins said to have been an inspiration, was in relief far too high to be practical for coinage in the 20th century. This was irrelevant to then-President Theodore Roosevelt, however; the coinage designs created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens had become a personal quest, an obsession, a “pet crime” in Roosevelt’s own words, and he would not be denied. The Wire Rim $10s, distributed to the President and well-connected interested parties, were meant to placate Roosevelt until the actual lowered-relief Saint-Gaudens eagle design was ready for production.

While a number of the Wire Rim Saint-Gaudens eagles survive, the low initial mintage, coupled with the coins’ distinctive beauty, has made them collector favorites. On most nights when a Wire Rim $10 is up for auction there can only be one winner; this time, however, two bidders can walk away happy, and for me, that’s a beautiful thing to see.

Next week: the 1969-S doubled die cents!

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-John Dale Beety

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