Saint-Gaudens coin collection designed in Cornish, NH could fetch more than $7m at auction

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CORNISH, NH — A complete set of historic U.S. Double Eagle $20 gold coins designed by famed sculptor and Cornish resident Augustus Saint-Gaudens minted between 1907 and 1932 are currently up for auction online and expected to fetch “north of $7 million,” said coin dealer Barry Stuppler.

Stuppler’s California-based firm Mint State Gold by Stuppler and Co. is representing the collection owner in the auction that began Thursday on e-Bay, he said Tuesday.

The collection owner spent 15 years bringing the collection together so that each coin in the collection is of the highest quality in terms of its condition.

In all his years in numismatics — the study or collection of currency — “I’ve never seen a set like this come on the market,” Stuppler said.

He said the auction is expected to end Sunday and already has 53 bidders and a high bid of $2.1 million, though he predicts that by Sunday the bids will reach “north of $7 million.”

“A number of these people are numismatists, many of them are not. Many of them are just looking for an interesting collection with investment potential,” Stuppler said.

One of the reasons these coins are so rare is that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ended the production of all gold coins in the United States because of the Great Depression, ordering the collection of the coins by the banks so they could be melted down.

“That’s how we got Fort Knox,” Stuppler said.

The ban on gold coins in the U.S. continued well into the 1960s, he added. “American citizens in the U.S. weren’t able to own gold coins until 1968.”

Before that, $5, $10 and $20 gold coins were used interchangeably with paper currency, Stuppler said.

One of America’s foremost sculptors, Saint-Gaudens was living and working in Cornish when he designed the coin in 1907, the last year of his life, said Henry Duffy, curator of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.

“He was designing it in the last year of his life. He had started, of course, earlier than that, but he was working on it at the time of his death,” Duffy said. “He had done small works when he had started off when he was a child designing, making jewelry, making cameos, so he was familiar working in small scale and he had also done medals. So he did know about small objects, but designing coins was something new and that was the idea of President Roosevelt, who wanted to redesign American coins, and he was familiar with Saint-Gaudens’ work. Saint-Gaudens had made an inaugural medal for him when he became President.”

Now a museum and National Park, the former home, gardens and studios of Saint-Gaudens is home to more than 100 pieces of art made by the sculptor as well as a complete set of the Double Eagle coins, Duffy said.

Stuppler said people interested in learning more about the set and how to make a bid can find out online at http://www.saintsets.com.

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