Monday, November 23, 2009

Coin Monday: Lucky 13 and the 1927-D Double Eagle

Nov. 23, 2009
Written by John Dale

Normally, I’d be talking about a coin in the upcoming December 2009 Houston U.S. Coin Auction in this space, but if I don’t get started on my preview/commentaries for the January 2010 FUN Auction , I know what’ll happen — it’ll be the day before the auction and I’ll still have half a dozen coins to write about. (That may happen anyway, though. Heritage’s FUN auctions are just that awesome.)

For the longest time I had to keep the secret that a certain coin is coming up for auction, as part of a remarkable set of Saint-Gaudens double eagles. With the mailers we’ve sent out, though, plus the Heritage Web site preview and the humongous advertisement in Coin World, I figure it’s safe to say…

We have a 1927-D! We have a 1927-D! (Insert video clip of me doing the Heritage Happy Dance of Coin Joy.) [Not happening. – Noah]

The 1927-D double eagle is rare, and I’m not talking garden-variety rare. When Heritage sold a Class III 1804 dollar earlier this year for $2.3 million, one of the big selling points, as has always been true in its history, is that there are only 15 known 1804 dollars out there.

In our census of 1927-D double eagles, part of an in-depth and potentially mind-bending catalog description in its final stages, Heritage has accounted for only 13 distinct examples. While 13 is seen by many as an unlucky number, it takes a mighty lucky (and wealthy!) numismatist to own one; moreover, since four of the 1927-D double eagles are in museum collections and thus as good as permanently impounded, that leaves just nine coins for collectors.

Just between us, there are a lot more than nine people who want this coin.

When Heritage offers a 1927-D double eagle, the results can be impressive. We offered this particular 1927-D $20 once before, when it was consigned by the Connecticut State Library; it brought $390,500 back on June 2, 1995. (For reference, I was still in fifth grade then. You may now feel old.)

In the Heritage Auction Hall of Fame’s Coins Wing, 17 of the 20 pieces listed sold for more than a million dollars total, and of the 17, two of the coins are 1927-D double eagles. In November 2005, we sold the MS67 Morse specimen for just under $1.9 million, while the MS65 example we offered in January 2006 went for slightly more than $1.3 million.

This coin is graded MS66, so it splits the difference, and it seems a fairly safe bet that this 1927-D $20, part of the Ralph P. Muller Collection, will be Heritage’s Million-Dollar Coin #18…unless it turns out to be Million-Dollar Coin #19, that is!

The story of that other seven-figure coin, however, will have to wait until next week, so stay tuned…

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-John Dale Beety

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