Roger Burdette's Saint Gaudens Double Eagles Book
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1 minute ago, RWB said:

RE: "This book is much much easier to read than FMTM (at least for me)."

This is a frequent observation. FMTM is about technology, operations and related matters, all of which are both obsolete and arcane. Thus, much of the language is new to readers and interrelationships are not always obvious. Collectors focus on objects; FMTM is focused on the things that make the objects - kind of the "metadata of coins." The CD bundled with each FMTM book is an effective way to search for subjects that might be related.

I don't recall getting a CD with the book but maybe I did.  I'll look later.  I remember you signed it so it must have come from Wizard.

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Mintmarks were individually punched into working dies. The Mint use alignment jigs to get them in the correct places, but there was some "play" in the final location and rotation of letters. I used an 8x magnifier, but many of the mintmark varieties can be seen without magnification - a bit of practice is required.

Today's metals are better than those available in the early 20th century. Modern equipment also has tighter tolerances, better lubrication and well defined maintenance schedules. Our metal alloys are also more consistent and better designed for specific tasks.

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9 minutes ago, RWB said:

RE: "This book is much much easier to read than FMTM (at least for me)."

This is a frequent observation. FMTM is about technology, operations and related matters, all of which are both obsolete and arcane. Thus, much of the language is new to readers and interrelationships are not always obvious. 

So true....the terminology and actual mechanics of making a coin are something I never have seen 1st-hand or actually read about like in a "Coin Making For Dummies" book. :)   

I wonder if the West Point Mint gives tours.  I'm 20 minutes away and have never been there (been to West Point, just not the Mint).

Edited by GoldFinger1969
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8 hours ago, RWB said:

RE: "This book is much much easier to read than FMTM (at least for me)."

This is a frequent observation. FMTM is about technology, operations and related matters, all of which are both obsolete and arcane. Thus, much of the language is new to readers and interrelationships are not always obvious. Collectors focus on objects; FMTM is focused on the things that make the objects - kind of the "metadata of coins." The CD bundled with each FMTM book is an effective way to search for subjects that might be related.

This is an interesting conversation - especially since I have not started FMTM and have yet to purchase your SGDE book. I also appreciate @GoldFinger1969 review of the DE book. 

Question for Roger - you mentioned that South America held a large amount of soveriegns in addition to US gold coins. Do you know what countries held the most sovereigns? I suspect that they were mostly from the London mint as opposed to elsewhere. 

Back to to the discussion at hand - sorry for the off ramp.

 

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Zebo, British Sovereigns are just under 1/4 ounce, right ?

No need to apologize, any question that leads to more knowledge is welcome even though most of this thread has obviously focused on Roger's outstanding book.

Do you collect or have interest in Saints ?  If you do, this book is a must. 

I'm just about to get up to the year where I own that coin, the 1915-S.  After that, eagerly waiting to get up to the 1923-D, 1924, and 1927 sections.  Wish I had anxiousness to get up to the 1930's coins that are super-rare, but alas, a wee bit out of my price range.:)

 

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34 minutes ago, GoldFinger1969 said:

Zebo, British Sovereigns are just under 1/4 ounce, right ?

No need to apologize, any question that leads to more knowledge is welcome even though most of this thread has obviously focused on Roger's outstanding book.

Do you collect or have interest in Saints ?  If you do, this book is a must. 

I'm just about to get up to the year where I own that coin, the 1915-S.  After that, eagerly waiting to get up to the 1923-D, 1924, and 1927 sections.  Wish I had anxiousness to get up to the 1930's coins that are super-rare, but alas, a wee bit out of my price range.:)

 

Soveriegns are .2354 oz. and were produced at seven mints in five countries.  As for Saints, while I do not really collect them - I do have interest in them. 

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4 minutes ago, Zebo said:

 As for Saints, while I do not really collect them - I do have interest in them. 

Fantastic story behind them, just teed off I didn't learn about them before I did. xD

Can not only be used as a bullion substitute for pure gold (I saw a report today about $3,000 gold !) but then you have your affordable numismatics all the way up to pricey rarities.

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Zebo -- Question for Roger - you mentioned that South America held a large amount of sovereigns in addition to US gold coins. Do you know what countries held the most sovereigns? I suspect that they were mostly from the London mint as opposed to elsewhere.

Sovereigns dominated in South America wherever British businesses had large financial interests. These countries included Bolivia, Chili, Peru, Argentina and to a lesser extent in Colombia and Venezuela. Brazil used US double eagles as their gold backing for national coinage. Railway and other infrastructure projects were British specialties, along with purchases of wheat and beef.

Sovereigns were a true "international coin" even though they were not really coins - there's no denomination on most. They were commonly preferred to any other gold coin even though quality control was less stringent than US gold.

I have limited information on the prevalence of sovereigns from any one mint in any specific country. The North American west coast -mainly San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, received mostly Australian coins; Argentina had London coins, beyond that is a wide open guess at present.

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Roger, was there a particular year when holdings of Liberty or Saint DE's took off in foreign country holdings, like maybe after the Panic of 1893 or 1907 ?  Or was it a gradual thing from the late-1800's as the U.S. began to eclipse the UK as the #1 economic power ?

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12 hours ago, GoldFinger1969 said:

Roger, was there a particular year when holdings of Liberty or Saint DE's took off in foreign country holdings, like maybe after the Panic of 1893 or 1907 ?  Or was it a gradual thing from the late-1800's as the U.S. began to eclipse the UK as the #1 economic power ?

Quantities held by South/Central American countries varied widely from year to year. Multiple political and economic factors influenced agricultural, raw materials, and infrastructure accounts. This meant that in one year there might have been a large inflow of US gold to Argentina for wheat, and two years later that gold went to London to pay for steel and locomotives. Peruvian guano was paid for in US gold which then went to US engineering companies for railroads to support US-controlled mining infrastructure, etc., etc.

Banking and official records for all of South/Central America are spotty and often difficult to access. A large problem is that when the next coup d'etat occurred, gold vanished and records were destroyed or altered. Local dictators had a habit of maintaining multiple sets of books. Central American countries were heavily influenced by American business interests and much hard currency activity was not recorded in national accounts. (See the subject  "Banana Wars" circa 1898-1934 for more information. I barely touch on this in the DE book. At times it might have seemed that the US Navy was using Caribbean countries for target practice.)

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18 hours ago, RWB said:

Sovereigns were a true "international coin" even though they were not really coins - there's no denomination on most.

Many of Britain's 19th century coins especially the larger value ones, did not carry denominations.  Many of the smaller ones diidn't until the 1830's or later.

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Roger, what magnification is the book using to look at the die cracks and mint marks ?  I just finished the 1915-S chapter and I have that coin but my 8x mag couldn't really show me anything on the "S".

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17 hours ago, GoldFinger1969 said:

Roger, what magnification is the book using to look at the die cracks and mint marks ?  I just finished the 1915-S chapter and I have that coin but my 8x mag couldn't really show me anything on the "S".

I did not use a specific magnification for the details. It depended of availability of good photos and specific coins. I simply tried to use the clearest images. I then cropped them so they were reasonably consistent in the area shown in the tables. As with most things, reality dictated that compromises were necessary (A couple of months ago a new mm variety for 1916-S DE showed up; bottom of page sample. I took more than 60 photos to get the overall best photo of the mm area. See below - this was photo #47.)273758074_New1916-SRPM.thumb.jpg.aaf2b9ac412195c77e3fcf25ce92573e.jpg

 

Edited by RWB
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Yeah, that's got to be 20-30x power.  I may buy a more powerful lens just to study mint marks and/or close-ups of die cracks.   My current lenses are good for looking for major imperfections when I'm considering buying a coin.

I think on the 1915-S section I just finished you actually used the phrase "steel failure" for the first time (it was implied elsewhere).  These dies are pretty small I take -- a few inches ? -- and to take 150 tons of striking pressure thousands of time....well, that's alot of force to absorb.

BTW, it seems like any striking imperfections in the coins get called a die crack.  I think this takes away from legit "errors" or major imperfections, like a double strike on a mint mark....or a major wiggly line in the same place before they either repair or replace a die. 

But that's just me.  They're interesting to see and study, but I'm not sure I would catalog them based on that (and certainly not pay more $$$ for the varieties).  JMHO.

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I wonder how many Saints back then would get MS70 and MS69 right off the mint press vs. today....look at how near-perfect so many of the 2009 UHRs came out.  We've come along way with technology, metallurgy, polished finishes, etc.

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"As they left the dies" all DE would have been MS-70 unless damaged during striking. The 2009 bullion imitations were handled individually as are most other modern gold bullion pieces.

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This thread is awesome!!! :bigsmile: Thanks to OP for starting it and thanks to @RWB for posting about his book. I don't collect DE but it sounds like there's a lot of other information in the book I'll have to check it out. 

@RWB I was soooper curious how you find your source information? Is it you are you sitting in the ANA library everyday, or are you firing off FIOA requests to some lonely custodian of records in the basement at the treasury dept? I never would have thought to check out books on banana wars, or that there was a Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce that existed, let alone put together tables to pull information on coins from. 

Not trying to hijack the thread, but I've studied a little on European and US trade during and right after WW2 and I can't find the answers I'm looking for. It's a real struggle. I sorta gave up but apparently you figured out a good way to find this information.

 

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13 minutes ago, Lev99 said:

This thread is awesome!!! :bigsmile: Thanks to OP for starting it and thanks to @RWB for posting about his book. I don't collect DE but it sounds like there's a lot of other information in the book I'll have to check it out. 

@RWB I was soooper curious how you find your source information? Is it you are you sitting in the ANA library everyday, or are you firing off FIOA requests to some lonely custodian of records in the basement at the treasury dept? I never would have thought to check out books on banana wars, or that there was a Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce that existed, let alone put together tables to pull information on coins from. 

Not trying to hijack the thread, but I've studied a little on European and US trade during and right after WW2 and I can't find the answers I'm looking for. It's a real struggle. I sorta gave up but apparently you figured out a good way to find this information.

 

Lev, glad you are enjoying it.  I think my questions and comments are adding something, and Roger is gracious enough to chime in when he can.  He's fantastic...so's the book !! xD

Lev, if you want I can probably write down some of the sources that Roger uses in the book...many are listed in the footnotes, which are very good....he may also have a bibliography at the end (I don't know, haven't skipped ahead that far xD).  I do believe that Roger uses the Neuman Coin Portal but how to access stuff there is beyond me.

Speaking as an economics and finance guy, some of the sources that he uses for gold flows and trade data look very authoritative.  They are largely from before modern economic statistics were kept by the BEA and Commerc Department, but still very good data.  Central bank records at that time HAD to be accurate, since so much $$$ were at stake.

I'll let Roger respond first, but if you want me to put down some of the sources that he uses that repeat most often, let me know.

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Lev99 - Glad to hear you find the thread interesting. GoldFinger1969 is asking some very good questions and taking an orderly approach to the Saint-Gaudens DE book. The book is structured in a way that builds on prior essays and concepts.

As for research, I try to use the best sources that can be located, then cross check as much as possible. There are no "easy" sources for the book's material. No FOIAs to secret sources or hidden archives. I do all the research item-by-item. What I find often implies other events or information locations, and the research branches into unexpected places. While NNP is an excellent source of some American coin-related information, it was barely on its feet when this book was being researched and written. Even at present, it contains almost none of the sources I used. ANA and ANS libraries contain little of use for this book except some collector notebooks.

RE" "...I've studied a little on European and US trade during and right after WW2 and I can't find the answers I'm looking for. It's a real struggle. I sorta gave up but apparently you figured out a good way to find this information."

Drop me a PM (or post here) with the main questions you have. I might be able to point you to sources. Are you comfortable reading French and German ? That would help.

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10 hours ago, GoldFinger1969 said:

I'll let Roger respond first, but if you want me to put down some of the sources that he uses that repeat most often, let me know.

Thanks GoldFinger1969, but you keep on reading the book.  I'll just chill out and see what you and others bring up. I like the parts about the Gold Standard section and the details on various issues of corruption and playing loose with rules you bring up. Carry on. :applause:

"Drop me a PM (or post here) with the main questions you have. I might be able to point you to sources. Are you comfortable reading French and German ? That would help. "

Thanks Roger, I'll shoot over a PM on the side. Heh...Google Translate is my friend. It's promising to me you aren't getting your research off FOIA requests and sitting in libraries for hours. I am curious for your book, do you go into depth with DE counterfeits or what happens after mint production stops? I have noticed that when one country uses popular coins from another country (like the way Ecuador uses Sacagawea coins), you start getting counterfeits or stockpiling of certain years. Similar happened to US gold in Europe, and apparently a lot of countries as I understand. 

Edited by Lev99
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So I'm reading Chapter 4 and how Mint Curator T. Louis Comparette is securing some "tough to obtain" (i.e., they weren't supposed to be released) 1920 Saints for a museum and collectors. 

Quick, someone notify the Mint and Secret Service, maybe they want to question his corpse !!  xD

I'm referring, of course, to their obsession about the "unauthorized" release of 1933 DE's.

OK, back to the book....need to make a big dent today if I want to finish by next weekend.....weekends are strictly for reading the Saint book and BARRON's. xD

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RE: "I am curious for your book, do you go into depth with DE counterfeits or what happens after mint production stops? I have noticed that when one country uses popular coins from another country (like the way Ecuador uses Sacagawea coins), you start getting counterfeits or stockpiling of certain years. Similar happened to US gold in Europe, and apparently a lot of countries as I understand. "

The Saint-Gaudens DE book barely touches counterfeiting - that's a massive subject by itself.

Ecuador uses US dollars as a way of stabilizing their economy. It helps avoid political interference with money supply. As noted elsewhere above, sovereigns were the primary international gold piece. However, locally they were not coins. They were pieces of stabilized gold. Lebanese counterfeit sovereigns were usually of full gold weight. Their purpose was to profit from the exchange and private market rates versus various currencies. Other, non-sovereign pieces were later counterfeited to fool buyers outside of middle eastern economies and, of course, coin collectors.

US DE were not an important target for counterfeiters. Demand in the gold trade was low, and DE primarily went through the hands and very sharp eyes of banking and bullion specialists who were highly suspicious of DE. Counterfeit US gold - modern full gold versions - were purpose-made to fool collectors. Old 19th century pieces - were made to fool small merchants by having reduced gold content.

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Chapter 4 was very interesting before I hit the 1920's Saints' analyses:

(1)  I didn't know that there was pressure from gold miners to raise the gold price to $40/oz. to improve profitability.  That kind of information gets skipped over when you have a macro view of the Gold Standard.  I guess the miners and management all loved FDR in 1933 when he moved the price to $35/oz.xD

(2)  Didn't realize how few Saints (Liberty's too ?) actually circulated.  Probably less than 0.1% in the aggregate.  I always assumed it was more, something like maybe 1-10%.  A few dozen numismatists seem to be the ones most concerned with getting the coins and the proofs.  Now I get the appeal of having the Gold Certificates if you wanted gold but didn't want to have 3 or 4 coins in your pocket.  Wish I had asked my grandfather about all this when he was alive (he was born in 1903).:frown:

(3)  Die cracks and die breaks analysis was very informative.  Now I understand what they are, the differences, etc. xD  The crystaline structure of steel and the relative lack of metallurgy knowledge 100+ years ago added to the problem.  I suspect we don't have these problems today.

It would also appear that those years when the description is that it's a "weak strike" means that all or most of the survivors came from a die or dies that was defective.  Assuming the strike wasn't a low pressure thing, unless ALL THE DIES were defective some of the strikes should have been good and some would be "weak" for that particular year.    Now, what actually survived the 1934-37 melt could be the weak strikes, the good strikes, or both.  But the notion that 100% of that year's coins were all "weakly struck" has been disproven from what I read here.  It's just a question of how many defective dies there were and then which coins from which dies survived. 

(4)  The re-striking of a nations's coins was something I didn't know about.  Am I correct that we would melt down British Sovereigns and turn them into coins/bars and they would do the same with Saints ?  I guess I just assumed that there would be a mutual prohibition against melting down and re-coining another country's currency/coins, as opposed to bars of gold.  Guess not !

 

Edited by GoldFinger1969
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On April 25, 2020 at 11:23 PM, GoldFinger1969 said:

Chapter 4 was very interesting before I hit the 1920's Saints' analyses:

(4)  The re-striking of a nations's coins was something I didn't know about.  Am I correct that we would melt down British Sovereigns and turn them into coins/bars and they would do the same with Saints ?  I guess I just assumed that there would be a mutual prohibition against melting down and re-coining another country's currency/coins, as opposed to bars of gold.  Guess not !

 

Reminting of a countries coins into a host country currency or bars is common. As for Sovereigns, two examples of this happening are:

the James Smithson gift that was used to create the Smithsonian. It's interesting that Smithson never visited the United States. 

The Smithson bequest consisted of 104,960 gold Soveriegns. The coins were melted down, reminted as American coins - according to his will (if there were no children) all of Smithson’s assets—worth 104,960 gold sovereigns—would go "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The U.S. government melted down almost all of the coins (worth $508,318.46) and re-struck them as 10 dollar Eagles. 
 
Another example of Sovereigns being melted down are the 1916 and 1917 Sovereigns that were paid to the U.S. by England to pay for their war debt. The 1917 Sovereign was not released for circulation and the entire year's production was paid, mainly to the U.S., but also some other countries in small amounts for war debts. The 1917 is a very rare Sovereign as most were melted down upon receipt. There are many counterfeits out there - some very good ones and some very obvious ones.
 
On the other side - other countries would either store double Eagles as struck or melt them and re coin them into their currency. In the case of England - would melt them down and produce sovereigns of of them. 
 
Edited by Zebo
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For those of you considering buying the book:  not only do you have sections where Roger takes a break away from going in-depth on each particular mintmark and year of Saint coins (i.e., The Gold Standard, The Roaring Twenties, etc.), but each coin review has the same sections repeat on survivorship, mintage, assay coins, etc.  After a while, it kind of "drills into your head" and you pick up on stuff that you thought you might not have interest in or understand.  This repetition alone makes the book easier to read than FMTM (still an outstanding book in its own right).

The text has some sections that might not be of major interest (i.e., number of dies used) but also has focuses on Mint Delivery Schedules, Date and Monogram Alignment, Appearance, Die Varieties, a 1976-2015 Price Grid, and my favorite, Commentary.

Commentary I find the most interesting because you get snippets of quotes from various sources....could be a letter from a collector to a Mint official....could be from Bowers or Aker's own books on Saints....the use of that particular year in settling trade flows....hoards discovered for that particular year.  Or Roger's own thoughts.  Or an analysis on condition rarity or the surivorship above/below a certain grade (i.e., the 1921's and the MS65 level).

The book really has you wanting to keep on reading.  

OK, enough for now, I want to make sure I get up to the 1923-D and 1924 sections today ! xD

Edited by GoldFinger1969
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Thanks for the analysis, Zebo.  Interesting.....

Speaking of foreign stuff overseas.....I wouldn't mind learning alot more about how these guys like Paul Wittlin went overseas to Europe or to South/Central America and found these Saint hoards.  It's possible the book talks about it more in-depth later on (I'm @ Page 370 right now xD).

I wonder when collectors or their dealer friends first realized that lots of coins survived overseas....how long did they have to spend in Europe or South of The Border to find them.....how much did they pay to free the coins (a 5% premium ? 25% ?  More ?)....were any bank or government officials palms greased ? xD

Fascinating when you think about it.  Too bad a few hundred or even dozen of the super-rare ones didn't make it out of Mint vaults and avoid melting by going overseas or south and presereving their mint state condition. :mad:

 

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