The St. Gaudens Double Eagle $20 gold coin has a fascinating history. The double eagle has been hoarded by ordinary citizens and sold by an Egyptian prince for millions. The design is impeccable, and the value is real. It’s a very interesting coin, to be sure, but is it really worth your attention? Here are some great reasons people have for investing in this timeless coin.
The design of the double eagle was sculpted by Augustus St. Gaudens, who was asked to create a design for a new gold coin. Why Saint Gaudens? He was the natural choice after President Theodore Roosevelt suggested that new U.S. coins should be more beautiful. Saint Gaudens was an experienced and talented sculptor who began working with the U.S. Mint in 1891.
The Saint Gaudens design showed a fabulous image of Lady Liberty on the obverse of the coin. Liberty holds aloft a torch representing enlightenment. In Liberty’s other hand is an olive branch, symbolizing peace. Rays of light from a rising sun stream up from the horizon behind her. At the time Saint Gaudens designed the coin, in 2007, there were 46 U.S. states, so Gaudens added 46 stars surrounding Lady Liberty.
Saint Gaudens’ reverse design of an eagle flying with the rays of the sun behind it provided the perfect complement to his obverse design. Gaudens’ original design was for a specially-minted coin which showed the design in stunning high relief.
The Saint Gaudens gold double eagle holds a special place in history. Roosevelt, of course, had prompted the turn toward more beautiful coins.
Another interesting aspect of its history is that Roosevelt asked that the motto “In God We Trust” be omitted from the coin. Although he did this to prevent God’s name from being on a coin that might be used for criminal activities, thus debasing God’s name, the public saw the matter differently. They weren’t willing to accept a U.S. coin without the motto. Congress ordered that the motto be included, and the design was modified.
On another historical note, the Saint Gaudens double eagle was in production as President Franklin Roosevelt came into office in 1933. This Roosevelt almost immediately took the country off the gold standard and ordered the end of production for the gold double eagles. However, they continued to be struck until May of that year. In December of 1933, the Secretary of the Treasury demanded that all gold coins and gold certificates be turned in. Gold was melted down and turned into bars. It was the end of an era, and the gold double eagle was there to usher it out.
By investing in a coin with collectors’ value as well as intrinsic value, you can diversify your precious metals portfolio. The Saint Gaudens double eagle is an especially appropriate coin for diversification, because it’s a high-purity gold coin as well as a much sought-after example of American numismatic art.
Affordable to Start
An entry-level gold double eagle is certainly a significant investment. However, low grade double eagles are not as expensive as one might think. Some are only a hundred or so dollars over the spot price of gold. Of course, these aren’t true collectors’ pieces, but they do add diversity to your precious metals holdings. You might also find a Saint Gaudens a more interesting addition than a plain gold bar.
Available but Not Overabundant
If you would like to buy a Saint Gaudens coin, you won’t have trouble finding them. Between 1907 and 1933, at least 70, 290,763 of the coins were struck in all. During some years, mintage figures were relatively low. The 1907 coin, which was struck in the high relief design, only had a total mintage of 12,367 coins, although the low relief design that replaced it was struck in 361,667 coins as well that year.
It’s difficult to say exactly how many gold double eagles still survive. Many can be found in foreign bank vaults. A great many of them were melted down and formed into bars. Yes, there is still a large number of high quality gold double eagles left, but not nearly as many as were originally minted. So, no Saint Gaudens coin can truly be considered common, which adds to its intrinsic value significantly.
Many High-Grade Examples
Many of the Saint Gaudens gold double eagles have been preserved in Very Fine or higher condition. With the high-relief 1907 coins, the novelty was interesting enough to inspire people to hang onto them. Also, the beautiful design made them a valued collectors piece. When you’re ready to make the leap to a high-grade coin, you’ll still have little trouble finding a coin worth investing more money to own.
Choose Your Spending Level
Any Saint Gaudens coin is going to cost you at least the spot price of gold for its gold content alone. You don’t have to go much higher than that to have one of these coins. Yet, if you want to invest more, there you can invest at just about any level above that, up to coins that are worth up to millions of dollars each. Whatever level you choose to invest at, there’s a Saint Gaudens to consider.
Certain Variants More Valuable
The Saint Gaudens double eagle dies were changed several times over the course of its minting. Some of the intentional variations include:
- 46 stars and 48 stars, depending on how many states there were at the time.
- High-relief coins and ultra-high relief proof coins.
- Different mintmarks, with D for Denver Mint, S for San Francisco Mint, and blank for Philadelphia Mint.
- With and without the motto “In God We Trust.”
- The 1907 Saint Gaudens double eagles with Arabic numerals.
At least one unintentional variation exists. It’s the 1909 gold double eagle that was minted with an overdate resulting from a 1908 hub and a 1909 hub to create at least one of the dies used that year. All these variations represent additional interest in certain coins as well as additional value.