Our recent March Baltimore auction produced some outstanding prices realized, not least of which was the amazing total of $117,500 paid for a beautiful 1912 Saint-Gaudens ProofDouble Eagle, graded PR-66 by PCGS and CAC. From a tiny mintage of just 74 pieces, this coin is one of the finest survivors from that small group.
These Matte Proof coins were first introduced in 1908, and quickly proved to be very unpopular among collectors accustomed to either the traditional polished Proof finish, with reflective fields and frosted central devices, or the “semi-brilliant” Proof finish employed extensively during the years between 1902 and 1907. In 1909 and 1910, the Mint employed another experimental Proof finish variously referred to as the “Roman” or “satin” finish.
The Mint resumed using the matte finish for Proofs in 1911, and continued to tinker with variations of this process in 1912, when the surfaces were sandblasted after striking to create thousands of sparkling facets in the fields, in contrast to the bright field textures seen on the 1909 and 1910 specimens.
Our catalog description of the impressive 1912 premium Gem Proof coin, referred to above, was penned by Senior Numismatist and Consignment Director James Matthews, and bears repeating:
“From the original mintage there are perhaps 45 to 55 of these known today -- this is one of the finest seen by PCGS with just a single coin noted finer by their ‘+’ designation at this level. The color is a bright mustard yellow-gold, perfectly uniform throughout. Examination finds the expected microscopic facets that reflect back twinkling light like a galaxy of stars when examined under a light. This matte finish is unique to a few years at the Mint on these Saint-Gaudens Proof gold coins, some years the matte finish was darker, others more of a khaki color, but always attractive. Boldly struck throughout with virtually no signs of handling on the surfaces. No copper specks or shiny areas are present, and likely in essentially the same condition today as when it left the dies 101 years ago.
“These early Matte Proofs are the absolute caviar of American numismatics. Their mintage was tiny and survivors are even fewer today. At the Gem level these are well beyond most numismatists means to purchase, but they are always in high demand -- far higher than the meager supply of coins that trickles onto the market in any given year. Here is history in your hands, in the form of the highest and finest available of our most handsome denomination.”