The 1927-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle may just be one of the most interesting great rarities of the United States. What makes it all the more interesting is that we cannot really be sure just what the future holds for it.
In A Guide Book of Double Eagle Coins, Q. David Bowers sums up the situation well, calling the 1927-D the “darling of the market.” It is not really overstating the case since the 1927-D is in very short supply, and estimates of the price of an example in MS-65 surpass $1 million. In fact, if an auction were held tomorrow and a 1927-D were to top $1 million in price, it would not be surprising.
How the 1927-D got to such prices is part of the story. With a mintage placed at 180,000, it would normally be priced well below $1 million. The 1915, for example, had a mintage of just over 152,000, and it is $1,250 in XF-40, not $240,000 like the 1927-D; and $22,000 in MS-65, not $1.6 million.
The story of the 1927-D is actually fairly common among Saint-Gaudens double eagles in that it is believed that the 1927-D was heavily melted at the time of the gold recall of 1933. It is interesting, as Bowers discloses in his book, that back in the early 1930s the Treasury was willing to sell the 1927-D along with many other desirable dates of all denominations for their face value plus postage. In short, you could have purchased a bag of 1927-D double eagles now valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars each basically for the cost of shipping.
The situation is important for several reasons, not the least of which was that apparently few, if any, took the government up on the offer to get rich. At the time, the 1927-D and other dates involved were of no special value and it was also in the middle of the Great Depression; there were probably very few who even had $20 to spend on a single example.
It’s interesting that the 1927-D was available as the 1927-D appears to have been one of a number of dates that were not exported. That is a major factor as, at the time, some quantities of double eagles were exported. Years later, this would cause some to seem exceptionally rare only to have in some cases quantities emerge, especially from European hoards.
As it turned out, a number of better dates would emerge. Before appearing in the European hoards, many of the dates had been seen as at least as good, if not better, than the 1927-D, including dates like the 1924-S and 1926-D.
As it worked out, the 1927-D was in something of a unique position, having been kept in the U.S. where the collectors of the day had the chance to purchase them but apparently opted instead for 1931-S Lincoln cents or other items also offered at the time. As a result, when the gold recall order was issued, the 1927-D (or at least most of the mintage of the 1927-D) was apparently still sitting in Treasury vaults and was destroyed.
That is the likely story behind the 1927-D or at least the overwhelming majority of the 1927-D double eagles. A few did, however, reach circulation or the hands of collectors, but the number was very small.
The question of just how rare the 1927-D is can produce a variety of answers. Probably the best sources are the grading services. Professional Coin Grading Service reports four examples with one receiving an MS-65 grade, while two were called MS-66 and one other MS-67. At Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, they also report four coins with one just below Mint State and another in MS-65, plus one in MS-65 and one more in MS-66. In his book, Bowers estimates a couple in circulated grades and another 12 to 15 in Mint State, concluding, “Nearly all are Mint State and very attractive.”
So, what is the 1927-D worth? The answer very clearly depends on the grade. In all probability, the examples below MS-63 are coins that would command less than $1 million with those over MS-63. This happens to be a reasonable number of the very few known.
Certainly whatever the grade, any 1927-D is a great rarity and that makes it, along with the Ultra High Relief and 1933 Saint-Gaudens coins, possibly the third $1 million coin in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle set. No other set of U.S. coins can boast three potential $1 million coins. The 1927-D is perhaps the lesser-known of the three and, with the numbers known and estimated to exist, it is slightly more available than most great rarities. There is no mistaking the fact that it is an extremely valuable and interesting coin worthy of the title of great rarity and the $1 million price that it usually brings.
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