Considered one of the most beautiful coins ever released by the United States—the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is truly a marvelous representation of not only history, but American artistry. Minted from 1907 until 1933, the coins have become must have’s for Numismatic collector’s, investors, and fans of American history.
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt, who was known to assert his influence in many political and cultural matters, sought to improve the state of American coinage. A close friend of President Roosevelt, the famed sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was chosen to revive the Double Eagle: a gold coin which was first minted in 1850 and has the denomination of $20. In a letter to Secretary of the Treasury, Leslie Mortier Shaw, President Roosevelt wrote, “I think the state of our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness. Would it be possible, without asking permission of Congress, to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage which would have some beauty?”
Continuing with his campaign for change, the President furthered his interest by asking Saint-Gaudens to produce coins reminiscent of Ancient Greek coinage; which incorporated high relief images. While Saint-Guaden’s health was failing due to cancer, he still undertook the task, and produced a truly remarkable design. The first dies produced were made in France to bypass any obstruction by the U.S. Mint; as the President was still acting without the aid of Congress.
Taking Roosevelt’s vision for a coin with high relief, Saint-Gaudens produced one of the most complicated designs ever proposed to the U.S. Mint at the time. In fact, Charles E. Barber, chief engraver at the United States Mint initially rejected the designs, but later agreed to the experimental undertaking of striking the ultra high relief designs.
Featured on the Obverse of the coin is a representation of liberty with a flowing gown artistically rendered to show movement, and subtle realism. Clutched in her left hand is an olive branch, and in her right a torch is held high; the capital can be seen in the background to the left of Liberty. The first designs also featured the date written in Roman Numerals, but was subsequently changed to show the date as it typical shows in modern coinage.
Shown on the Reverse of the coin, is the eagle design Saint-Gaudens originally intended to show on the cent, but developed it for the $20 coin after learning that by law, an eagle was not allowed to appear on the smaller denomination coin. Saint-Gaudens eagle is shown mid flight, with the beaming sun just barely peaking over the horizon.
Fun Fact: Saint-Gaudens’ design was first struck in 1907 in Ultra High relief and High Relief. In order to render the design in its entirety the U.S. Mint had to use a medal press, set at maximum pressure and even then the coin had to be struck nine times. On May 8, 1907, President Roosevelt admitted a small defeat: “It has proven hitherto impossible to strike them by one blow, which is necessary under the condition of making coins of the present day.” Of the Ultra-high relief coins created by the mint during the experimental procedure—only 20 coins are known to exist. In November 2005 one such coin sold for $2,990,000 during a Heritage auction.
Following the realization of the impracticality of minting such a high relief design, Saint-Gaudens, at this point weakened by cancer, set out to reduce the relief of the Double Eagle design. What he was unaware of at the time, was that the Mint used the medal press to create the models; and when he submitted his new design the coins still had to be struck three times. Saint-Gaudens died in August of 1907, and his assistant, Henry Hering, was working on a third design that would reduce the relief of the coin.
In an odd twist, no one knew how to find Hering after Saint-Gaudens death. Barber was called while on vacation to begin rendering the design into a useable product. Hering arrived with the new design shortly after, but Barber deemed the design impractical still. Growing extremely impatient with the process, Roosevelt ordered the minting of the Double Eagle using the second rendering; and 12,000 High Relief coin were struck. One sold in 2005 for $575,000 at a Heritage Auction.
By the end of 1907 the low relief coin were released, showing the date in Arabic numerals rather than Roman. The coin’s design underwent one more change: in 1908 Congress forced the Mint add the motto “In God We Trust,” which Roosevelt had protested against as he thought the addition of the Lord’s name was a debasement.
Legacy and Value Today
The last Double Eagles were struck in 1933, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt order the Treasury not to pay out any gold; and on December 28, 1933 Americans were ordered to turn in all gold coins and gold certificates—millions of gold coins were melted down by the Treasury in the following years.
1933 Double Eagles are extremely rare, only eight or ten were known to exist in the early 1940’s; but a recent scandal has unearthed ten 1933 Double Eagles. Heirs of a Philadelphia jeweler submitted the coins to the Mint for authentification. They turned out to be the real deal; but the U.S. Mint kept the coins and refused to return them. After grueling legal proceeding, the family was deemed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to be the rightful owner of the coins.
The timeless appeal of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is what makes the coin a must have for any Numismatic collector, and even investors to own. Today, the value of the coins ranges from the thousands to the millions! Owning a piece of the iconic design doesn’t have to break the bank for anyone looking to own a piece of history: the U.S. Mint releases the Saint-Gaudens obverse design on the 1986 to present American Gold Eagles ranging from 1/10th ounce to a full ounce of 22-karat gold.
To learn more about these beautiful coins and the astounding history call Global Monetary Reserve today at 877-795-9585 to receive your own personalized investment advisement from our extremely capable financial and numismatic experts. To see our wide ranging selection of Numismatics an Bullion products: visit our E-commerce site by Clicking Here!