Some coins are important because they are virtually impossible while others are important because they are more available than might be expected. It is the latter which is certainly the case with the 1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagle.
The 1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagle stood out from the start and was short-lived. There had been no motto because President Theodore Roosevelt read the scriptures God and gold did not mix. He wanted no mention of God on coins, and for a brief time on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle he got his way, as there would be no “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the issue of 1907 or some in 1908. However, it was eventually a fight he would lose as with some of the 1908 mintage, “IN GOD WE TRUST” was restored.
Normally speaking, when you have a coin which is produced for just a couple years, you have potentially a very tough type coin as it was not enough time to produce large numbers to meet later type demand. That might well have been the case with the No Motto type as the mintage in 1907 was 361,667 while the 1908-D without the motto was at 663,750.
The one exception to the low mintages was the 1908 which had a total mintage of 4,271,551. Of course, having a large mintage is only part of the solution for having numbers available today, as someone has to save the coins. Maybe that would be likely today but this was 1908 and saving a coin with a $20 face value was out of the budget range of many.
Back in 1908, there were very few collectors of double eagles by date and mint. There might have been a few or maybe even a half dozen, but even if they had all saved a nice example, it was hardly enough to meet the demand just for type coins today.
It was also a case where what few collectors there might have been would have had no indication it was going to be a better coin. Even though examples with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” were made in 1908, it would have been too late for many to rush out and try to find an example. Moreover, there was no real reason to try and find an example as double eagle collecting was not expanding dramatically and the 1908 No Motto double eagle had by far the largest double eagle mintage in recent time. So, there was no reason to expect it to be a better coin.
Under the circumstances, there was basically no saving of the 1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagle. The mintage was assumed to have reached circulation. A significant number were simply placed in vaults and in many cases sent to European banks or banks in other nations.
When American dealers later went and purchased the coins which had been in foreign banks for decades, the best examples were in lower Mint State grades. The Wells Fargo Hoard of 19,900 examples of the No Motto 1908 Saint-Gaudens double eagle was an exception. Found in the 1990s and purchased by dealer Ron Gillio, the hoard was simply exceptional.
In MS-65 the 1908 without a motto lists for $1,545 because it’s the Wells Fargo Hoard, which had the best grades seen in such hoards and in large numbers.
At PCGS, they graded 5,256 MS-65 examples of the No Motto 1908 not from the hoard and another 2,381 from the hoard. In MS-66 there were 1,167 not from the hoard and 4,848 from the hoard. In MS-67 there were 38 not from the hoard and 793 from the hoard. The grade, MS-68, showed a single coin not from the hoard and 100 from the hoard.
It was the same at NGC, where there were 6,012 MS-65 examples not from the hoard and 2,999 from the hoard. In MS-66, there were 3,259 examples not from the hoard and 1,629 from the hoard. In MS-67, there were 94 examples not from the hoard and 941 from the hoard. Finally,in MS-68, there were 10 examples not from the hoard and 147 from the hoard.
There is simply no way of avoiding the fact that thanks to the Well Fargo Hoard, the No Motto 1908 Saint Gaudens double eagle is a coin many can afford today in a top grade. That is good news for all and it makes for an interesting story of one coin where the prices are definitely lower thanks to a hoard