1908 $20 No Motto MS66 Certification #21821421, PCGS #9142
David Akers (1975/88)The 1908 is one of the really common issues of the series. Thousands of Mint State examples exist and in anything less than full gem condition, the 1908 No Motto can be obtained in quantity. Gems are also quite easy to obtain but they are not so common that they could be found by the roll, for example.
The 1908 No Motto has a similar general "look" to the 1907 Arabic Numerals in that it is usually well struck but looks "flat" on the obverse due to the dies. Lustre is usually very good, better than the 1907, and the color is rarely less than excellent and is often great - an ultra rich greenish gold, sometimes with rose or orange highlights. the surfaces typically have a "soft" frosty look, but many specimens have a satiny sheen that is rarely seen on a 1907.
The 1908 No Motto is one of the most common dates in the St. Gaudens series. In fact, there was a time in the 1980's when dealers would post sight-unseen bids for Saints they would post their bids and say "no 1908 No Mottos" or they would post a bid for all Saints except the 1908NM and then post a little bit lower bid for 1908 No Mottos. I believe this was because most 1908 No Mottos look pretty ratty and the dealers' customers probably didn't like them.
In contrast to the usual "ratty" look of the 1908 No Motto Saints, in the early 1990s, dealer Ron Gillio found a hoard of 9900 absolutely incredible 1908 No Mottos. The hoard was dubbed "Wells Fargo Discovery" because the initial transactions involving these coins took place in a Las Vegas Wells Fargo bank. The hoard contained thousands of superb Gems graded MS66 by PCGS, nearly 1000 coins graded MS67 by PCGS, 101 coins graded MS68 by PCGS, and 10 virtually perfect gems graded MS69 by PCGS, the only Saints ever graded MS69 by PCGS (as of 2009). It was the largest hoard of ultra high quality $20 St. Gaudens ever discovered.
When we were grading the Wells Fargo $20 Saints at PCGS, we had seperated the 10 coins that we felt were graded MS69. All ten were virtually perfect gems...the most amazingly perfect Saints we had ever seen. We tried real hard to find one of the ten that we could call MS70. We even narrowed it down to the "best three," but we just couldn't find the one truly perfect coin, though we found ten that were very close and three that were really, really close. Just an absolutely amazing hoard of $20 Saints and the ten MS69s were truly off the charts!