1926-S $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle NGC MS63 CAC. Like many dates from the 1920s, the 1926-S began to turn up in European holdings in the 1950s, and its rarity as a date has declined over the years. Today, the 1926-S ranks as the 18th-rarest issue of the 53-coin series. CAC has endorsed a total of 60 coins in all grades thus far, with a majority of them being in the Choice BU MS64 grade. In MS63, we see 9 as of this writing.
David Akers Comments:
For nearly 20 years, the 1926-S was at the top of the rarity pinnacle for Saint-Gaudens double eagles behind only the 1924-S and 1926-D and then just marginally so. It was considered slightly rarer than the 1921, 1927-S, and 1931-D and much more rare than the 1920-S, 1927-D, and 1930-S. The reasons for the rarity of the 1926-S were obvious to the dealers and collectors of the period. Sure, the mintage figure was quite high, slightly over two million pieces, but it was well known that these coins were not put into the normal channels of commerce and they were never available to the general public at local banks. Dealers and collectors knew the mintage figures of the double eagles struck during the 1920s and were well aware of the fact that the coins were not really minted for circulation but rather to be held by the government as part of the gold reserves that backed the country’s currency. They also knew that after 1933 virtually all of the gold coins held by the Treasury were melted into gold bars and so, when 1926-S double eagles almost never were offered for sale either privately or at public auction, it was reasonable and logical to assume that they had all been melted, with the exception of just a very few specimens that may have been acquired directly from the mint in the year of issue. What dealers and collectors did not know, however, about the 1926-S and most of the other large mintage issues of the 1920s was that large quantities of double eagles had been sent to Europe between 1926 and 1933 for various payments. Some of these shipments consisted of bags of mixed early dates containing both circulated and uncirculated coins as well as single date bags of uncirculated examples of many issues including the 1926-S. Beginning in the early 1950s many of these coins, including numerous mint state specimens of the 1926-S, were returned to the U.S.
At the end of the 1940’s, the consensus among numismatists was that only three to six examples of the 1926-S had survived. B. Max Mehl, the legendary Fort Worth, Texas, dealer claimed in his mail-bid-only sale of the Dr. Charles W. Green Collection in 1949 that only three were known and the Green specimen realized $1,525, more than double the price realized by the 1927-S in that sale and triple the amount brought by the 1930-S. Only the 1926-D realized more than the 1926-S in that sale which was the finest set of Saints sold at auction at that time. The Green coin had been purchased from the F.C.C. Boyd (WGC) sale in 1946. It was apparently purchased by Amon Carter at the Green sale since it was sold with the Carter Collection in 1984.