Like the 1903-0 Morgan dollar, the 1924-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle is one of the rare coins that actually became much more available over time. Of course, like the 1903-0 Morgan dollar, the 1924-S did not delight the few who owned it at the time, but it made for an extremely interesting story.
Its story starts out with a mintage of 2,927,500 pieces, which was a large mintage for Saint-Gaudens double eagles. The only other high totals were the 1924s from the other mints.
No one in their right mind was going to save the 1924-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle. Dealers were certainly not interested as being a high denomination there were virtually no collectors of Saint-Gaudens double eagles by date and mint.
To put it bluntly, no one knew or cared what happened to the 1924-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle for decades. It was about the middle or late 1940s when the first real interest in collecting double eagles by date and mint surfaced. Collectors then discovered that the 1924-S was conspicuous in its absence.
No less a figure than B. Max Mehl thought there were only three examples of the 1924-S known to exist. You did not take a B. Max Mehl statement lightly as Mehl knew more and handled more rare coins than anyone.
How did the 1924-S get so rare? The natural answer is that they were all melted in the wake of the Gold Recall Order of 1933. It made sense as over 30 percent of all the double eagles ever made had been destroyed.
There was no dramatic moment when suddenly the rare date became common. It was closer to a slow drip. Starting around the end of World War II, a small number of American coin dealers began going to Europe to see what gold coins might be in the vaults. What they found was a literal gold mine.
Sitting in the European bank vaults by the millions were U.S. gold coins that had been exported long before the 1933 recall. Having cheerfully been out of the country the coins were just sitting, and included in their numbers were many good dates and large quantities of Mint State coins.
We don’t know how many there were, but today we find the 1924-S at $1,619 in VF-20, $3,000 in MS-60 and $162,500 in MS-65. These are premium prices, but they are a long way from the prices brought by the great Saint-Gaudens rarities.
The grading service totals are quite a surprise considering the 1949 estimate of three. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen 405 and all but 22 were Mint State. Just seven were in MS-65, and they are surely European coins. Professional Coin Grading Service reports 417 examples with 66 being circulated and just a single example as MS-65 or better.
The 1924-S is now a coin that can be found. There are others like it as the European hoards changed forever the gold coin market.