Goldberg Coins and Collectibles



Sale 48


 
Lot 1286

1861-S $20 Liberty. Pacquet reverse. PCGS graded AU-58. Well struck with intensely lustrous light yellow golden surfaces. Normal allotment of light chatter marks in the unprotected fields. A splendid extremely high grade example and certainly one of the finest known.
The fields retain extensive luster (not often seen), while the strike is complete and balanced including full obverse stars. Free of annoying rim bruises, too, or other value-impairing circulation-related problems, this coin will persuade the experienced numismatist who appreciates such quality to place a bid. Identifiable by a small impurity spot in the metal below the right wing of the eagle.

The internal squabbles within the Philadelphia Mint that the public knew nothing about persisted unabated when 1861 rolled around. Mint Director Snowden and others seemed to disapprove of Chief Engraver James Longacre. Some say they actively worked to undermine his authority. One such attempt was this new reverse die engraved by Anthony C. Paquet. The reverse letters on the Paquet design were taller and more narrow than on the Longacre design, and was briefly accepted, but when a few double eagles were coined from it, the mint staff realized that there was insufficient room for the border, thus the design elements would wear quickly, and the Philadelphia Mint stopped production. Mint Director Snowden cabled the San Francisco Mint and asked them to use the old leftover dies rather than the new Paquet reverse, but 19,250 had already been coined. Rather than melt perfectly good coins, these S-mint Paquet reverse double eagles were released into circulation, along with the regular dies coins in 1861.

In 1937 A. J. Fecht first noticed the unusual reverse die, and called it a pattern in "The Numismatist" for March 1937, page 199. It wasn't until 1951 that the archival record revealed the story behind this reverse die made by Paquet. Most of the surviving 1861-S Paquet $20 gold pieces came from Europe and are heavily bagmarked.

The Paquet pieces are generally referred to as having "taller letters," than the coins struck from Longacre-produced dies. There were more changes than this made by Paquet, with the letter size being relatively minor. The scrolls and eagle are larger, and placed closer to the denomination; the eagle's head has been remodeled, while the ring of stars is widened with the rays removed from within it. In the process of enlarging the shield, Paquet seems to have made an error: he put 17 horizontal lines, thus creating a 16-stripe shield instead of the official United States 13-strike one. PCGS reports only 2 at this level and none finer. (PCGS # 8936) .
Estimated Value $120,000 - 140,000.

 
Realized $166,750
 



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