Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 31

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Lot 1075

1861-S $20 Liberty. Pacquet reverse. PCGS graded AU-58. Choice About Uncirculated, well struck and lustrous with original mint frost around the date, letters and stars and within protected areas. There are contact marks on the devices and in the fields, but these are fewer than expected with similarly graded coins of the period and type. On the reverse, just below the eagle's left wing (the right, as viewed), there are two tiny dark inclusions, the result of foreign matter on the die or planchet during the striking process. These will serve as diagnostics for this particular specimen.

The history of the Paquet type $20 gold coin holds great fascination for the numismatic community and especially for those intetested in gold coinage, particularly double eagles. Walter Breen discusses the issue in his Encyclopedia, assigning nos. 7203 to 7206 to the known varieties (7205 for the 1861-S), and Q. David Bowers provides an excellent, expanded treatment of the Paquet reverse in his recently published work on double eagles.

Breen stated that this reverse type came about as an "attempt to improve the design" though no mention is made of why the design needed improvment. Bowers surmises that long standing problems with reverse die cracking may have been the impetus, but in any case, Assistant Mint Engraver Anthony C. Paquet began experimenting with new reverse design details in 1859. Dies dated 1861with Paquet's reverse were made in late 1860 for Philadelphia, New Orleans and the San Francisco Mint which would receive four pairs of Paquet reverse dies. The main difference between the old reverse and the Paquet reverse is that the letters on the Paquet are taller and narrower. Perhaps it was concluded that this slight change would spread the striking pressure in ways that would prevent die cracking around the legend?

Shortly after production began in Philadelphia on Jan. 5, 1861, it was dicovered that because of the design configuration, the reverse rim was narrower than expected and that this might lead to undesirable results during circulation. The experiment was not allowed to be played out as production was halted by Mint Director Snowden at Philadelphia. He also contacted the San Francisco Mint ordering cessation of production there as well. Bowers interestingly tells us that "the telegraph connection to the Wset Coast had not been finished past St. Joseph, Missouri, and the directive had to be carried overland to California from that point. By the time that the information was received, on February 2, 19,250 1861-S Paquet Reverse double eagles had already been struck and issued."

Of the original 19, 250 coins struck and placed into circulation, it is estimated that possibly 200 or so may have survived, aproximately 1% of the mintage. We expect that the presently offered specimen is among the finest of those survivors. The population at PCGS in this grade is only one, this coin, and of course it is the finest graded by that firm. Extremely Rare (PCGS # 8936) .
Estimated Value $115,000 - 125,000.

Realized $134,550

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