**1907-D
Double Eagle @ over Half Million Dollars**
by Greg Reynolds
I. The Sale of
this 1907-D $20 Gold Coin
During the course of the January 2010 FUN
Convention in Orlando, arrangements were
finalized for the sale of a 1907-Denver Mint
Double Eagle that is possibly unique in Proof
format. It is NGC certified as “Proof-62” with a
“Farouk” pedigree noted. It is thus indicated
that it was formerly in the epic collection of
King Farouk.
In November 2009, Carlos Cabrera, Executive Vice
President of Park Avenue Numismatics, acquired
it from a collector. This coin became the star
of the FUN bourse floor. Cabrera then finalized
the sale and handed it to a buyer of rare and
important coins. Cabrera reports that the price
“was well above a half million dollars.”
There is no evidence of another specially struck
1907-D Double Eagle ($20 gold) existing. It has
been suggested that Proof 1906-D Double Eagles
exist. I have seen the 1906-D that the PCGS has
certified as “Specimen-66.” While that 1906-D
Double Eagle is a wonderful coin with a very
distinctive appearance, I find that this 1907-D
Double Eagle fulfills the criteria for a Proof
and that 1906-D does not.
The ‘Pacific Rim’ collection was formed by the
collector who sold this 1907-D to Park Avenue
Numismatics in November 2009. His Philadelphia
Mint Proof Liberty Head $20 gold coins were
auctioned by Superior in 2005 and his $50 gold
pieces were offered by Heritage in the August
2007 ANA sale. Most of these $50 pieces were
slugs, which are Humbert and/or U.S. Assay
office octagonal coins from 1851 and ’52.
Additionally, the ‘Pacific Rim’ consignment
featured an 1855 Proof $50 Kellogg, an 1855 Wass
Molitor $50 business strike, and a gold plated
copper 1877 $50 pattern. This West Coast
collector, who prefers to remain anonymous,
really likes large coins that are neat and
unusual.
II. The Rarity of Branch Mint Proofs
Prior to 1968, very few Proofs, in any metal,
were struck at the Branch Mints. Please click
here to see my article about the only known
Proof 1876-CC dime, which includes some
background information about Branch Mint Proofs.
I have seen a substantial number of 19th
century, Proof San Francisco Mint coins, all but
one of which are silver. Further, I have seen
several New Orleans Mint Proofs and a very small
number of Carson City Mint Proof silver coins. I
have seen only one New Orleans Mint gold coin
that I would regard as a Proof, an 1844-O Eagle
($10 coin), and just two O-Mint gold coins that
are (non-Proof) Specimen Strikings, an 1853-O
Eagle and an 1856-O Double Eagle.
Kris Oyster, managing director of numismatics at
DGSE (parent of Superior Galleries and other
entities), declares that this 1907-D Double
Eagle is “gorgeous, with highly reflective
fields and sharp detail on the devices. It is a
showstopper.” Oyster adds that “it was
fascinating to to see a Denver Mint $20 Liberty
in Proof — I have never seen anything else like
it. It is in the same category of importance as
the 1856-O that sold in 2009. ” Kris is
referring to the 1856-O Double Eagle that
Heritage sold for $1,437,500 in the May 2009
Long Beach auction. It has been certified as
“Specimen-63” by both the PCGS and the NGC. It
is definitely a special striking, though it is
not a Proof.
I (this writer) am not aware of the existence of
any Proof Carson City Mint gold coins. Moreover,
I have never seen a, pre-1965, Denver Mint
copper, nickel or silver coin that I would
regard as either a Proof or a Specimen Striking.
There are 1906-D dimes that are purported to be
special Specimen Strikings or Proofs. I have not
seen them and I am a skeptical. I have been
putting forth an effort to view, or at least
obtain suitable expert opinions about, any
specially struck Branch Mint coins that are
offered.
The 1906-D Double Eagle that the PCGS has
certified as Specimen-66 realized $172,500 in an
October 2007 Stack’s auction. Though an
extremely attractive coin that is of high
quality in terms of grade and striking
characteristics, it just barely qualifies as a
Specimen striking. This coin has a special
finish, and it is very cool.
Long ago, Walter Breen stated that other 1906-D
Double Eagles may (or at least did) exist that
are similar to the one that is now certified as
SP-66. Breen, though, knew of only one specially
struck 1907-D, the coin that is the focus here.
It seems that these 1906-D Double Eagles and
this 1907-D Double Eagle are the only specially
struck Denver Mint gold coins, and may be the
only Denver Mint coins that are specially struck
in any metal, during the classic (pre-1934) era
of U.S. coinage. Indeed, I wonder if this 1907-D
Double Eagle is the only Denver Mint Proof, of
any metal, from the classic era.
The Denver Mint did not produce coins until 1906
and Liberty Head Double Eagles were last minted
in 1907. So, special strikings may relate to the
opening of the Mint and the ending of the design
type.
In total, pre-1934, Proof or Specimen Branch
Mint gold coins are dramatically rarer than
their silver counterparts. The Parmelee1844-O
Eagle, which I mentioned above, is widely
believed to have a little sister, the Parmelee
1844-O Half Eagle, which is thought to also
clearly be a Proof. Both were in the epic
Parmelee collection that was auctioned in 1890,
and both were later owned by legendary collector
William Woodin. I do not know of any other New
Orleans Mint Proof gold coins.
The only, pre-1934, Proof San Francisco Mint
gold coin that I have ever seen is an 1855-S
Three Dollar Gold coin. It was auctioned by
Stack’s in 2004, and was earlier in Auction ’90.
It is, unquestionably, a Proof. Breen stated
that there is a Proof 1854-S Double Eagle in the
Smithsonian.
III. The Pedigree of this 1907-D
Experts at the NGC clearly regard this coin as
the 1907-D Double Eagle that was in the
collection of King Farouk of Egypt and auctioned
by Sotheby’s, in Cairo, in 1954. The “Farouk”
name is on the insert in the NGC holder. In his
1988 encyclopedia, Walter Breen mentions one
Proof 1907-D and lists the Farouk auction sale
as its pedigree. In 1988, he cited his 1977
encyclopedia as a source for this information.
In his 1977 book, however, Breen does not
mention a Farouk pedigree. He states that “only
one” Proof 1907-D Double Eagle has been
“reported” and indicates that it was in two
different auctions conducted by the firm of
Abner Kreisberg and Hans Schulman, the first in
1959 and the second in 1960.
Circa 2000, Bob Green sold this specific 1907-D
to Paul Nugget, who, in turn, sold it to the
consignor of this coin to a Stack’s auction that
was conducted in Oct. 2001. A New Jersey dealer
bought it at the Stack’s Oct. 2001 sale and he
submitted it to the NGC. He may have been the
consignor when Heritage auctioned it in Jan.
2004, probably on ‘Platinum Night.’ The Stack’s
cataloguer cites David Akers as tying the Farouk
1907-D to the first of the two Kreisberg-Schulman
sales that Breen mentioned in 1977. Further,
Akers is cited as referring to this coin as a
“Proof.” When I saw this coin at the Jan. 2010
FUN Convention, and concluded it was a Proof, I
was not aware of its history. It is fair to
theorize that all five of these auction
appearances, in 1954, 1959, 1960, 2001 and 2004,
are of the same coin. It is certain, though,
that neither Breen nor Akers knew of another
1907-D Liberty Double Eagle that had a strong
claim to Proof status. Further, Jeff Garrett has
never heard of another. As far as I know, this
coin is unique.
IV. Is this 1907-D Double Eagle A Proof?
There is no doubt that this 1907-D Double Eagle
is specially struck. It has fully mirrored
fields and it looks dramatically different from
1907-D business strikes. In my view, there is a
tremendous difference between a true Proof and a
Specimen striking. Also, a coin that is struck
from heavily polished dies, like many deeply
prooflike Morgan silver dollars, is much
different from either a Proof or a Specimen
striking.
Unfortunately, the fact that this 1907-D Double
Eagle has been certified as a Proof is not
conclusive. The same grading service may decline
to certify a coin a Proof in one year and then
certify the same coin as a Proof in another
year. Moreover, in a recent auction, there was a
Capped Bust half dollar that a leading grading
service had certified as a Proof, yet no expert,
whom I know, regarded it as a Proof. In my view,
that Capped Bust half is clearly not a Proof. I
find it hard to believe that many experts would
honestly regard that Capped Bust half as such.
As for this 1907-D Double Eagle, Matt
Kleinsteuber declares that “it definitely is a
Proof.” Kleinsteuber is lead grader and trader
for NFCcoins and he is an instructor at ANA
grading seminars.
Jeff Garrett asserts that this coin is
“special.” He regards it, though, as a “Specimen
Striking or a presentation piece” rather than as
“a true Proof.” He explains that it does not
have the “fabric of [Philadelphia Mint] Proof
Double Eagles of the era.” Garrett is the
co-author of a comprehensive encyclopedia on
U.S. gold coins. He has been recognized as an
expert in gold coins for decades. Even so, I
find that Garrett’s criteria for Proofs is too
narrow.
It is unfair and illogical, in my view, to
expect Branch Mint Proofs to have the same
characteristics and be of the same striking
quality, as corresponding Philadelphia Mint
Proofs. The Branch Mints may have had less
advanced tools and/or less of a selection of
tools and supplies. Further, since the founding
of Branch Mints in 1838, the Philadelphia Mint
had presses that were more powerful, more
adjustable, and/or superior in some other way.
From 1838 to the end of the classic era of coins
in 1933, Philadelphia Mint products, both
business strikes and Proofs, are of higher
striking quality, on average, than corresponding
coins of the Branch Mints.
Why is the certified SP-66 1906-D not a Proof
and this 1907-D a Proof? A Specimen was
(usually) struck only once while a Proof was
struck at least twice. Specimens were intended
to look aesthetically distinct from business
strikes, but not meant to possess the refined
technical characteristics of Proofs. Proofs will
usually have more complete and fuller reflective
fields that are more integrated into the metal
of the coin, rather than seen as polish resting
on the surfaces. Moreover, the relationships
between the devices (design elements) and the
fields (flat areas) are much more developed on
Proofs than on Specimens, and are qualitatively
different rather than being just differences of
degree. Generally, Specimen strikings and Proofs
have different overall looks and textures,
fabrics.
How can it be proved that this 1907-D Double
Eagle is a Proof, not just a Specimen Striking?
There are several factors, seven in my view,
that define whether a coin is a Proof. It is not
necessary for a coin to meet all Proof criteria
to be a Proof, and most Proof coins will
probably meet only some of the criteria.
Further, some criteria are much more important
than others. A coin that meets more criteria is
not necessarily more of a Proof than a coin that
meets fewer Proof criteria
(1) This 1907-D Double Eagle was struck at least
twice. The crispness and detail found are
consistent with double-striking. Additionally,
doubling on some devices (design elements) and
shadowing of others constitute important
evidence of double striking. Plus, the rims and
dentils show some evidence of double striking,
particularly in terms of how they are separated
from each other. Usually though not always,
multiple blows from the dies are needed to
separate elements that would otherwise at least
partly blend together.
(2) This 1907-D was deliberately given a finish
that was intended to and does distinguish the
resulting coins from business strikes of the
same design type. The whole coin has a
smoothness and a glossiness that distinguishes
it. (3) It has incredibly strong mirrors that
are distinct from the reflective fields that are
found on prooflike business strikes or on the
Specimen 1906-D Double Eagle mentioned above.
(4) It would be unreasonable to expect it to
pass the frosting test, as Philadelphia Mint
Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles struck in 1907
or even in 1906 or 1905 do not tend to have
cameo contrasts, or even any frosted devices.
(5) It does not meet the ‘rims and edges’
criteria. But, Philadelphia Mint Proof Liberty
Head Double Eagles do not tend to have broad
rims that are squared with the edges. This
criterion is more important for authenticating
Proofs of other design types. It is not
especially pertinent to Liberty Double Eagles.
Besides, there are many Proofs of several types
that do not meet the ‘rims and edges’ criterion.
Wide rims and relatively squared edges are not
present on numerous 19th century Proofs.
The sixth factor in identifying a Proof is one
of the most important and is the hardest to
explain. Proofs are characterized by
qualitatively different relationships between
the devices (raised design elements) and the
adjacent fields (flat areas). Ideally, every
numeral and letter would be high and
perpendicular to the fields; every dentil would
be perfectly struck, squared and distinct from
the rim; all devices (design elements) would be
crisp, of higher relief than on business
strikes, and markedly distinct from the fields
almost as if they are separate units; there
would be no mushiness or evidence of die flow.
No early 20th century Proof, especially not a
Branch Mint Proof, comes anywhere close to being
a perfect Proof.
This Proof, however, scores fairly high in this
category. On business strikes, the devices tend
to slope into or flow into the fields.
Sometimes, it looks like the devices popped from
the metal fields, which they did in a sense.
Ideally on a Proof, however, the devices look
more like they are resting on the fields. While
ideally, the differences between a Proof and a
business strike, in this respect, would be
stark. In reality, such differences tend to be
subtle and require an experienced expert to
analyze.
On this 1907-D Double Eagle, many (though not
all) letters are relatively squared; many
obverse dentils are extremely well defined; the
stars are crisp and suitably distinct from the
fields; other elements (or parts thereof) are
relatively high and relatively squared from the
fields. Ten to twenty times magnification is
often required to see the relationships between
the devices and the fields. In my view, many of
the devices on this coin have the special
relationships with the respective adjacent areas
of the fields that are indicative of a Proof
rather than a business strike or a Specimen
striking. There are, however, some weak letters
and dentils. On the whole, though, the devices
on this coin meets the ‘devices & fields
relationship’ criterion for a Proof.
While I was viewing this coin at the Park Avenue
Numismatics table, I placed it ‘side by side’
with a Proof 1899 Double Eagle. This 1907-D had
stars that are just as well defined and
relatively more perpendicular to the fields than
the stars on a Proof 1899 Double Eagle.
The overall look and texture of a coin, the
fabric, is the seventh factor in the
determination of a Proof. Although I understand
why some experts believe that this coin fails
the fabric test, I assert that it easily passes.
It has incredible mirrors, crisp devices, a
stunning glossy look, and other features. It is
just illogical to expect it to look exactly like
a Philadelphia Mint Proof Liberty Head Double
Eagle. Moreover, it looks a lot more exciting
than some 1905, 1906 and 1907 Philadelphia Mint
Proofs. It has the fabric of a Proof.
V. The Quality of this 1907-D Double Eagle
The main reason why the quality of this 1907-D
is an issue is because it has been ‘shined’
since it left the Mint. I am not here referring
to the extensive moderate cleaning, which left
hairlines almost everywhere; this coin has been
subject to more than just a cleaning. Someone
made it shinier than it already was before. The
individual who did so is (or was) NOT a rational
and knowledgeable coin enthusiast. This coin has
amazing mirrors and is very brilliant. There was
nothing to be gained by tampering with it.
Though Jeff Garrett remarks that it “was lightly
polished,” I believe that this term makes the
problem sound more severe than it is and, in my
view, the problem is different from a polishing.
Someone lightly wiped a small amount of some
gunk on the coin to make it shine more and
sparkle. The effects are not terribly
noticeable, though the rims twinkle oddly, at
some angles.
If this issue is ignored, it is a very
attractive coin. The greenish-orange-gold
devices and greenish inner fields are pleasant
and appealing. The numerous hairlines everywhere
are only bothersome when a magnifying glass is
employed. A few faint, horizontal scratches on
the cheek probably come from the shining, though
perhaps from the cleaning. Maybe both activities
were simultaneous.
It is my strong belief that the deep, thick,
smooth mirrors that completely cover the fields
are natural. The hairlines come from a cleaning
and there are some natural die-polishing lines
as well. The mirrors themselves have not been,
puttied, buffed or otherwise strengthened, as
have reflective surfaces on many pre-1934 coins
that coin surgeons aim to ‘get into holders’
with Proof or Specimen designations from the
leading grading services. This coin is an honest
Proof.
As it is attractive, very much so when tilted
under a lamp, and of tremendous importance, it
definitely deserves, in my view, to be in a NGC
or PCGS holder with a numerical grade. It has
not been severely modified. It would make sense
to me, though, if it were certified as Proof-60
rather than as Proof-62.
It would be harmful to the coin collecting
community if coins that are not extremely rare
and have been treated in the same manner as this
1907-D, regularly receive a 62 grade from the
NGC or the PCGS. This coin is a wonderful
Proof-60. The new owner should feel proud that
he has a Proof Denver Mint gold coin, possibly
the only one, of any pre-1984 date. It is truly
an astonishing coin that I will never forget. |