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1906'D' Very Choice Specimen Strike

From Stack's October 2006 New York Auction, Session 2 on Oct 18, 2006

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Categories  •  Stack's October 2006 New York The 71st Anniversary Sale U. S. Double Eagles ($20.00 Gold) U. S. Liberty Head Double Eagles

1906'D' Very Choice Specimen Strike, on the threshold of full Gem. This coin's fields are deeply glowing...1906'D' Very Choice Specimen Strike, on the threshold of full Gem. This coin's fields are deeply glowing and wonderfully reflective, the devices pristine with lightest frosting creating tantalizingly subtle contrast. The strike is meticulous and exacting, resulting in diamond-sharp stars, letters, locks of Liberty's hair and eagle feathers. Systematic study reveals a tiny obverse rim disturbance at 11:00 and three reverse hay marks that are noted for accuracy. High magnification reveals parallel microscopic surface lines probably resulting from the special planchet preparation for this Presentation strike.

Accompanying this coin is an About Uncirculated example of the 1905 Denver Mint Opening So-Called Dollar. Hibler-Kappen 876. Bronze, 34.2mm. This reeded-edge piece is believed to have been struck to test the coining presses that were about to strike Gold Double Eagles and to provide an appropriate souvenir for the opening ceremonies that could not be accidentally spent later as a coin. This is a rare item seldom found, especially in such high grade.

This extraordinary Double Eagle is one of six pieces struck on April 2, 1906, the first day of $20.00 coinage at the new Denver Mint, whose coinage began just over a century ago. The Denver Weekly Republican reported the striking under the headline MR. MOFFATT COINS FIRST $20 PIECE (Thursday, April 5, 1906) with sub-heads announcing BANKER GIVEN HONOR OF MAKING DENVER'S FIRST DOUBLE EAGLE, RECALLS TIME WHEN PEOPLE HERE USED GOLD DUST FOR MONEY.

The six coins were all struck specifically for Presentation purposes, and the late Walter Breen included them in his trail-blazing listing of Branch Mint Proofs in his 1977 Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins. Breen was able to trace only two examples, and the present coin was the second listed. The other example was the coin appearing in The Adolphe Menjou Collection of Choice United States and Foreign Coins, Abner Kreisberg and Hans M.F. Schulman, January 1957.

The recipients of the first six Specimens struck are known, and all were inter-related though the Tarbell, Moffatt and Gotthelf families that dominated railroads, banks, real estate and the legal profession in Denver and its environs. The Tarbell family included in its orbit the Mint's Superintendent Herman Silver and Coiner Harry Tarbell, who also directed distribution of the first six Specimens.

The six recipients were (1) David H. Moffatt of the Denver Railroad whose Moffatt Tunnel bears his name, connected to the First National Bank of Denver; (2) Charles Tarbell, connected to the Gotthelf interests and brother of the Coiner, Harry Tarbell; (3) F.G. Moffatt, nephew of David H. Moffatt, President, First National Bank of Denver; (4) Isaac Gotthelf (the present coin, see below; (5) W.L. Hartman Esq. of Pueblo, who married a Tarbell, sister of Edward, brother of Charles and Harry Tarbell; (6) Harry Tarbell, Coiner of the Denver Mint.

The present coin was that presented to Colorado pioneer Isaac Gotthelf, born in Germany in 1844, who arrived in Colorado in 1866 and formed the town of Saguache in 1873. When Colorado achieved statehood in 1876, he was elected to the first State Legislature, and was reelected in 1878. Gotthelf married Florence M. Lot on March 18, 1879, niece of Denver Mint Superintendent Herman Silver. He served as President of the Saguache National Bank, was a member of the firm of Gotthelf & Tarbell (Charles), and was the largest landowner of the county. Isaac Gotthelf died in Saguache on Nov. 10, 1910.

His presentation letter is on the letterhead of the MINT OF THE UNITED STATES AT DENVER, OFFICE OF THE COINER, dated April 10, 1906 and addressed by Coiner Harry Tarbell to Hon. Isaac Gotthelf, 2601 Champa St., Denver, Colorado. ''I take pleasure in handing you herewith the fourth $20 gold piece stamped at the United States Mint at Denver on Monday, April 2, 1906. You will notice by the Denver Republican of April 3rd., 1906, that the Honorable David H. Moffatt fed into the press six double eagle blanks, from which were made $20 gold pieces, he receiving the first one, my brother Charles Tarbell the second, Mr. F.G. Moffatt the 3rd., and I am saving for my brother-in-law, Mr. W.L. Hartman of Pueblo the 5th.''

At the bottom of this letter is the attestation ''I hereby certify that the above double eagle mentioned was the fourth $20 gold piece struck at the United States Mint at Denver, Colorado on April 2, 1906. Paul R. Hempel, Foreman Coining Room.'' Few U.S. coins of any era can boast such thorough documentation.

By 1949 all of Gotthelf's children but one son had died and around 1950 the grandchildren sold the 1906'D' Specimen Double Eagle and its documentation to prominent Denver coin dealer Dan Brown. In 1963 the coin passed to Paul Jackson of Las Palmas Coin Shop, Casa de Palmas Hotel, McAllen, Texas. Jackson exhibited the coin at the Greater Houston Coin Club's Seventh Annual Convention, Feb. 22-24, 1963, placing third in the Gold Coin category. His Award Medal was inscribed PAUL JACKSON, 3rd AWARD MEDAL, 1906 D $20.00 PRESENTATION PROOF.

This 1906'D' Double Eagle was lot 363 in Kagin's Dec. 30, 1963 sale, under the banner $20 1906-D PROOF SURFACE. The lot description noted that the U.S. Mint Coiner's letter would accompany the coin in a deluxe lucite holder, the coin itself called 1906-D BRILLIANT PROOF SURFACE SPECIMEN. The description included the entire text of Coiner Tarbell's letter.

A collector named Marchant purchased this coin from Jackson in 1966. Marchant was himself a Western pioneer, a bricklayer who came to America in time to work on rebuilding San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire. He bought this Double Eagle because of the significance of its date to his own adventurous life. In 1988 the coin moved on to professional numismatist R.E. Wallace. The coin won the First Place Exhibit Awards at the Central States Numismatic Society 50th Anniversary Convention in April 1989, receiving a Lucite award enclosing a 1987 Constitution Bicentennial Gold $5.00 coin. At the Texas Numismatic Association convention of April 1989, this coin received a second place exhibit award, going on to win 3rd Place for U.S. Gold Coins at the 1989 Pittsburgh American Numismatic Association Convention. The original presentation letter of 1906, four award plaques, Lucite holder, ANACS Photo Certificate, and photocopies of relevant documents accompany this lot.


The United States Mint at Denver celebrates its Centennial as an active coining facility during 1906. In a sense, however, the Denver Mint was 43 years old at its birth, since the U.S. Government actually purchased the existing private Mint of Clark, Gruber & Co. as far back as March 1863. The government's failure to begin coinage at Denver might have resulted from the existence of functioning Mints at San Francisco after 1855 and at Carson City, Nevada, 1870-1893. Gold had actually be found in Colorado as early as 1852-59. A settlement on Cherry Creek was named for the Governor James Denver of Kansas in 1858 and soon grew to a small city and ultimately the capital of the new State of Colorado in 1876. In 1858, two Kansas merchants, Austin M. and Milton B. Clark began dealing in Colorado gold dust in addition to outfitting gold-seekers. They soon relocated in Denver, where they became one of America's most successful private coiners in partnership with E.H. Gruber. Their ''Bank and Mint'' at 'G' and McGaa Streets became a showplace of pioneer Denver. They began coining ''Pike's Peak Gold'' on July 25, 1860 and their Federal type $2.50 and $5, and mountain-view $10 and $20 were an instant success. Federal type $10 and $20 were added in 1861 and all were found to contain about 1% more pure gold than their U.S. Mint counterparts. In 1862 small gold bars replaced the Clark, Gruber coins and the firm even had its own 1861 paper money, successful in the universally anti-paper Far West.

Colorado's first Territorial Convention expressed the need for a public Mint in Denver, an idea approved by Clark, Gruber. Influential citizens urged purchase of the Clark, Gruber facilities and on March 31, 1863, the U.S. Treasury bought the private Mint for $25,000, ownership officially passing on April 16. Clark, Gruber remained active in banking until the partnership dissolved in March 1864, and the brothers left the banking world of Denver in May 1865. To the great chagrin of Denver citizens, the former Clark, Gruber Mint was utilized only as an Assay Office until February 1906. The Treasury affected to believe that the operating Mints at San Francisco and Carson City should meet the needs of the entire West.

Once the Denver Mint began full-scale coining operations, it became a key unit of the ''tripod'' of working Mints with Philadelphia and San Francisco. Noted for its volume, Denver still gained fame for such scarce items as the 1922 'Plain' Lincoln Cent and the 1937'D' 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel. It outlived the San Francisco Mint that closed for normal coinage in 1955 and gained more than a few later headlines with the fiasco of the 1964'D' Peace Dollar. Denver struck some 400,000 of these coins, only to be ordered to destroy all that had been produced. Today in its hundredth year, Denver stands just behind Philadelphia in day to day production of the nation's coinage.

Lot # 2393 Session 2
Hammer Price: $130,000.00

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Click to open a larger image - 1906'D' Very Choice Specimen Strike, on the threshold of full Gem. This coin's fields are deeply glowing... Click to open a larger image - 1906'D' Very Choice Specimen Strike, on the threshold of full Gem. This coin's fields are deeply glowing...

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