When you realize that more than 30 percent of all the double eagles ever made by the United States ended up in the melting pot after the Gold Recall Order of 1933, it?s close to a miracle that they are available in any numbers at all for today?s collectors. Well, it may not be a miracle, but rather a simple activity known as export that saved millions of double eagles, making them readily available today. That is particularly true of the 1904.
To understand the story of the 1904 you have to remember that starting around 1880, with the problems of the Civil War and other issues in the past, the United States became very active in international financial activity.
The assorted trading partners of the day did not want to be paid with paper, and this would continue right up until 1933. Gold was good in their minds, and as the largest gold coin, that meant double eagles were a popular choice.
Gold coins that were shipped overseas included just about anything from 1830s quarter and half eagles to the newest double eagles of the day. Once the coins arrived at their destination, they were usually placed in bank vaults, which meant they did not circulate. It was also very fortunate that the vaults happened to be in Switzerland, France and other nations. That meant the Gold Recall Order of 1933 had no impact unless the coins returned to the United States, and that was not about to happen.
Had it not been for those factors, you might well pay many times more for a gold coin today. There was not a large number left in the United States. In 1904, for example, there were only a few gold coin collectors and even fewer double eagle collectors as a double eagle of $20 was simply too much money.
In the summer of 1932, the government offered to sell double eagles at their face value plus postage and handling. There were no takers, and we know that because the 1927-D was one of the coins offered. Had there been any buyers, the 1927-D would not be seen at prices of $2 million or more at auction.
Realistically, if you find a double eagle with more than a few dozen known examples in Mint State, those coins did not start out with collectors and dealers. They simply would not have saved such numbers.
Those coins would have probably come from European bank vaults, and the 1904 is the classic example. You will not have to pay premium prices for a 1904. It had a high mintage of 6,256,699. As Q. David Bowers states in his book, A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, ?It seems that many, if not most, of the 1904 double eagles were shipped overseas.?
Bowers is not kidding. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded a total of 156,003 examples for the 1904 double eagle, and the overwhelming majority were in grades from MS-60 to MS-64. The Professional Coin Grading Service has graded 111,495 examples of the 1904 primarily in grades from MS-60 to MS-64. The MS-60 price is $1,135. In MS-65 it is $4,650. Bowers sums it up well by suggesting, ?For companies specializing in selling to investors rather than serious numismatists, the 1904 is a coin made in heaven.?
In terms of ?investment grade,? the 1904 is easy to find and promote, and as Bowers notes, ?there is nowhere near enough numismatic demand to absorb