January 14, 2013
Executive Order 6102, which went into effect on April 5, 1933, required everyone in the United States to deliver gold coins, gold bullion and gold certificates to a Federal Reserve Bank or any of its branches by April 28, 1933. The banks in return would redeem their gold with paper currency. Additionally, Section 9 stated: Whoever willfully violates any provision of this Executive Order or of these regulations or license issued there under may be fined not more than $10,000 or if a natural person may be imprisoned for not more than ten years or both.
Following the 1933 recall of gold coins by former President Theodore Roosevelt, many U.S. gold coins in circulation and in bank vaults were melted and converted to gold bars. One of the greatest victims of that melting is the now famed 1927-D Saint Gauden's Double Eagle. With an original mintage of 180,000 coins, most wouldn't consider this a scarce or rare coin. However, due to the destruction of most of these coins, it is believed today that there are only about 11 – 15 survivors, making it one of the rarest regular issue coins ever struck by the U.S. Mint.
In the 1940's through 1960's some coin dealers and collectors considered other dates such as the 1924-S and 1926-D to be scarcer dates that the 1927-D. But as time went by a few more examples of the 1924-S and 1926-D turned up in Europe. Ultimately the 1927-D became rarer than almost all dates in the Saint Gaudens Double Eagle series, with the exception of the 1933 Double Eagle which is illegal to own (except one lone example for which the government legalized ownership).
It is believed that many 1927-D Double Eagles survived for several years after they were struck and remained in gold vaults up until at least 1931, as transfer journals from the U.S. Treasury make no mention of any 1927-D Double Eagles being moved. Some researchers also indicate that coins were still available to order from the Treasury Department up to late in 1932 and anyone could have ordered them at face value plus a minimal handling fee. Unfortunately at the time no one really knew how rare this issue would ultimately become and no one bothered to order the coins from the Mint.
Because of Executive Order 6102 many other gold coins were melted and became very rare because of the gold recall. This included the 1933 Double Eagle which became the world's most expensive coin ever sold at auction, when it realized 7.59 million in 2002. The gold recall created many coin rarities and the 1927-D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle remains foremost among them.