The St Gaudens 1908 No Motto and the Wells Fargo Hoard, Coin World

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The number of certified Mint State 66 1908 Saint-Gaudens, No Motto $20 double eagles will multiple five-fold once 5,000 such specimens are retailed by Spectrum Numismatics and other dealers into the collector market.

from the front page article in the November 3rd, 1997 edition of Coin World

The coins are part of a hoard of more than 15,000 coins the Santa Ana, Calif., coin firm acquired earlier in 1997 for more than $10 million, according to Spectrum President Greg Roberts. Some 7,000 to 8,000 1908 Saint-Gaudens, No Motto double eagles graded MS-66 and lower are already in the hands of retail investors and collectors. Roberts declined to say what other dates and Mint marks and denominations are included in the deal and whether all of the coins are gold, or include silver and other compositions.

What the influx of this many high-quality gold coins will do to the price of the date and denomination remains to be seen, according to market insiders. Many gold experts believe the market will be able to sustain the price until Spectrum completes its retail sales, after which the price could drop before stabilizing.

Spectrum’s chief operating officer, Elaine Dinges, likened the gold cache, however, to the LaVere Redfield silver dollar hoard and the John Beck 1856 Flying Eagle cent hoard, both of which stimulated interest in the market and were followed by rising prices on the market.

“This could significantly heighten interest in the gold coins and numismatics,” Dinges said. “But if we wholesaled them, it could flood the market.” All of the coins are being offered by retail sales, and one of them will be offered wholesale, she said.

The gold assemblage has been dubbed the “Wells Fargo Nevada Gold Collection,” since the transaction was consummated at the Wells Fargo Bank where the coins were stored, according to Roberts.

Roberts said that Wells Fargo makes no claims that it owned the coins at the time the deal was made with Spectrum to acquire them or that Wells Fargo ever owned the coins. The coins were pedigreed through a special licensing agreement with Wells Fargo & Co. to use the Wells Fargo name along with the marketing of the coins. The Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America have pedigreed the coins “Wells Fargo Nevada Gold” on the holders. PCGS has assigned the coins special serial numbers, with W as the prefix letter and F the suffix letter.

Until recently, PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America had a combined census of 976 1908 Saint-Gaudens, No Motto double eagles graded MS-66. ANACS has graded no 1908 Saint-Gaudens, No Motto double eagles above MS-65.

Roberts said Spectrum officials were told the No Motto double eagles were originally acquired around 1917 and that they remained untouched until the early 1970s when they were sorted, counted and resealed in bags. The coins again remained untouched until they were moved about 1996.

Stored in the vaults of a Wells Fargo bank in Nevada, this monumental find was purchased by Spectrum Numismatics in 1997. And, it was at the same Wells Fargo bank in Nevada that the biggest hoard of superb quality U.S. gold coins in numismatic history traded hands, says a Spectrum news release. Roberts declined to disclose the city in which the Wells Fargo bank is located. The identity of the owner of the coins has not been revealed.

Roberts said he did not know if the coins have always been stored at the Wells Fargo bank in Nevada where the coin deal was consummated, only to say that it was the location where he first saw the coins. Roberts said he did not know the legal ramifications of how the coins circumvented having to be turned in under President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 executive order banning gold ownership except for pieces having substantial numismatic value.

Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coins were known to have been used by banks for large transfers of funds between individual institutions.

Total mintage figures for No Motto vs. With Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagle indicate that less than one out of 12 coins were struck without a motto. There were 64,535,878 With Motto coins struck, but only 5,296,968 No Motto coins, with 4,271,551 of that total produced at the Philadelphia Mint.

The 1908 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is the second of a two-year type coin created when President Theodore Roosevelt requested the motto “In God We Trust” not be used on the coins. Roosevelt was a very religious man and he felt that having God’s name on coins that would be used for gambling, liquor, brothels and other activities showed irreverence and was sacrilege. None of the 1907 Saint-Gaudens double eagles bear the motto. The motto was placed on the coins by order of Congress in 1908, but not until after some No Motto coins were struck.

A reproduction of the Roosevelt letter (owned by Spectrum) on White House stationery in which Roosevelt explains his feelings about the motto, is available in limited quantity with these coins.

The quality of the coins is considered “amazing” in that the No Motto 1908 coins were struck with less pressure than the 1908 With Motto and later dated $20 gold coins, according to the Spectrum news release. The lower relief pieces would attract more marks and nicks more readily to their wide, flat surfaces.

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