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Exploring the Unmatched Beauty of the Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle: A Collaboration Between Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens

Updated: May 3

Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens: A Unique Collaboration, The spectacular Saint-Gaudens double eagle, a $20 gold piece minted in 1907, is often considered one of the most beautiful U.S. coins ever made. This exceptional coin is the result of a special partnership between two prominent figures of their time: Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the renowned American sculptor, and Theodore Roosevelt, the forward-thinking U.S. president.

The Visionary Artist and the President: In 1905, Roosevelt commissioned Saint-Gaudens to design his official inaugural medal, showcasing the artist's exceptional talent. During a conversation at a Washington dinner party, the two men expressed their admiration for the high-relief coins of ancient Greece. Inspired by this conversation, Roosevelt encouraged Saint-Gaudens to create a new series of U.S. coin designs based on these classical models.

The Challenge of Numismatic Art: Eagerly accepting the challenge, Saint-Gaudens set out to design striking new images for the Liberty double eagle and Coronet eagle, as well as a new one-cent coin. The resulting double eagle featured a captivating portrayal of Liberty holding a torch and an olive branch, framed by stars representing each state in the Union at the time. On the reverse side, an impressive eagle in flight graced the coin, alongside inscriptions of "United States of America" and "Twenty Dollars." This design became a symbol of American numismatic artistry.

Ultra-High Reliefs and Exquisite Detail: Before the official production began, a limited number of proof specimens with ultra-high relief were minted under Roosevelt's direct orders. These coins, with intricate details and sharp features, are considered masterpieces of coin design. The production process involved significant pressure from the dies, resulting in a unique knifelike appearance. Despite some initial resistance, the high-relief double eagle resonated as a work of art.

Historical Significance and Rarity: The Saint-Gaudens double eagle quickly became a coveted collector's item, with its high relief edition being particularly sought after. The intricate design and limited mintage of certain years have made these coins rare and valuable. Despite modifications to the relief and design over the years, the Saint-Gaudens double eagle remains a pinnacle of American coinage that continues to captivate collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Evolution of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Design

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle, revered as a masterpiece of American coinage, underwent several notable changes in its design during its production years from 1907 to 1933. These modifications, influenced by practical considerations and evolving preferences, shaped the visual appeal and historical significance of this iconic coin.

High Relief to Lower Relief Transition

The initial striking of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle in 1907 featured a high relief design, emphasizing intricate details and creating a striking visual impact. However, the practical challenges of mass production necessitated a shift towards lower relief. Mint officials, led by Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, advocated for reduced relief to facilitate the minting process and enable easier stacking of the coins. This transition from high relief to lower relief marked a significant design change in the coin's evolution.

Introduction of Arabic Numerals

Another notable alteration to the Saint-Gaudens double eagle design was the introduction of Arabic numerals for dating purposes. Initially, the coins bore the date in Roman numerals, adding a touch of classical elegance to the design. However, as minting practices evolved and commercial considerations took precedence, the use of Arabic numerals became standard across all subsequent coinage. This change represented a shift towards modernity and efficiency in coin production.

Addition of IN GOD WE TRUST

One of the most debated design changes to the Saint-Gaudens double eagle was the inclusion of the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST." Initially omitted from the first strikes at the behest of Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens, this motto was later mandated by Congress on subsequent coinage, starting from late 1908. The inclusion of this motto reflected differing viewpoints on the role of religious references on currency and underscored the evolving cultural and political landscape of the United States.

Mint Mark Variations

Throughout the production years of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle, mint marks played a significant role in distinguishing coins minted at different locations. The main Philadelphia Mint was supplemented by branch mints in Denver and San Francisco, each contributing to the overall mintage of the double eagle. Mint marks, along with the designer's initials (ASG), added a layer of historical context and collectibility to these coins, making them sought-after by numismatists.

Rare Dates and the End of Regular-Issue Coinage

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle series includes several rare and valuable dates, primarily due to heavy melting and limited mintages. Coins like the 1927-D, 1920-S, 1921, 1930-S, and 1932 stand out as major rarities sought by collectors. The cessation of regular-issue U.S. gold coinage in 1933, following the gold recall order, further enhanced the rarity and historical significance of these coins. The limited availability of certain dates, coupled with their intrinsic beauty, continues to fuel interest in the Saint-Gaudens double eagle among collectors worldwide.

Significance of Mint Marks and Designer's Initials on the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Mint marks and designer's initials play a crucial role in the identification, authentication, and historical context of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle coins. These markings provide valuable insights into the production, distribution, and provenance of these iconic coins, adding layers of collectibility and significance for numismatists and enthusiasts.

Mint Marks:

Mint marks on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle coins denote the specific minting facility responsible for producing the coin. The main mint in Philadelphia, along with branch mints in Denver and San Francisco, contributed to the overall mintage of the double eagle series. Mint marks such as "D" for Denver, and "S" for San Francisco are typically found above the date on the coin while Philadelphia has no mint mark. These marks not only indicate the origin of the coin but also reflect the historical distribution of minting activities across different locations in the United States.

For collectors, mint marks hold significant importance in determining the rarity and desirability of specific date and mint combinations. Coins from certain mints may exhibit unique characteristics or variations in striking quality, making them sought after for their distinctiveness. The presence of mint marks adds a layer of intrigue and historical context to the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series, enriching the collecting experience and enabling enthusiasts to assemble comprehensive sets based on mint variations.

Designer's Initials (ASG):

The inclusion of the designer's initials, "ASG" for Augustus Saint-Gaudens, on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle coins serves as a tribute to the acclaimed artist behind the iconic coinage. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a renowned sculptor of his time, left a lasting legacy through his numismatic creations, with the double eagle standing as a pinnacle of his artistic vision. The presence of the designer's initials not only acknowledges Saint-Gaudens' contribution to American coinage but also enhances the aesthetic and historical value of the coins. Collectors and enthusiasts often seek out coins bearing the designer's initials as a mark of authenticity and artistic merit. The presence of "ASG" located under the date on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle coins reinforces the connection to the artist's original designs and intentions, underscoring the significance of these coins as masterpieces of numismatic art. The designer's initials serve as a signature of excellence and innovation, embodying the spirit of collaboration between Saint-Gaudens and the U.S. Mint in creating a timeless coinage legacy.

Coin Specifications of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle, a masterpiece of American numismatic artistry, boasts distinctive specifications that contribute to its enduring allure and historical significance. From its composition and dimensions to its intricate design details, the coin specifications of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle exemplify the meticulous craftsmanship and artistic vision that define this iconic coin.

Composition and Weight:

  • The Saint-Gaudens double eagle was minted in 90% gold and 10% copper, giving it a rich golden hue and a durable composition suitable for circulation.

  • The coin has a nominal face value of twenty dollars, reflecting its substantial gold content and monetary worth during its minting years.

  • With a weight of approximately 33.436 grams this contains AGW of 0.9765 troy ounces of gold, the double eagle embodies a significant amount of gold, making it a valuable and sought-after collectible. .

Design Details and Inscriptions:

  • The obverse of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle features a captivating portrayal of Liberty holding a torch and an olive branch, symbolizing freedom and peace.

  • Surrounding Liberty are 46 stars, representing each state in the Union at the time of minting, adding a patriotic touch to the design.

  • Inscriptions such as "United States of America" and "Twenty Dollars" adorn the reverse of the coin, along with a majestic eagle in flight, showcasing the nation's emblem with grace and elegance.

  • The designer's monogram "ASG" (Augustus Saint-Gaudens) appears below the date on the obverse, signifying the artist's role in creating this exceptional coinage.

Edge and Mint Marks:

  • The edge of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle features the motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM," emphasizing unity and diversity within the United States.

  • Mint marks, including "D" for Denver, and "S" for San Francisco, may be present above the date, denoting the minting facility responsible for producing the coin.

  • These edge inscriptions and mint marks add a distinctive touch to the coin, enhancing its aesthetic appeal and providing valuable information for collectors and enthusiasts.

Legacy and Collectibility:

  • The specifications of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle reflect a harmonious blend of artistic beauty, historical significance, and monetary value, making it a prized possession for collectors and investors alike.

  • With its timeless design, exceptional craftsmanship, and limited mintage of certain years, the double eagle continues to captivate numismatists and enthusiasts worldwide, cementing its status as a pinnacle of American coinage history.

When considering whether to purchase numismatic gold coins or gold bullion coins, investors should weigh several factors to make an informed decision based on their investment goals and preferences. Here are some key considerations for investors:

Numismatic Gold Coins:

  1. Historical and Collectible Value: Numismatic gold coins often carry historical significance and collector appeal due to their rarity, age, or unique design features. Investors interested in coin collecting and historical artifacts may find numismatic coins appealing beyond their intrinsic gold value.

  2. Potential for Appreciation: Some numismatic coins have the potential to appreciate in value over time, especially if they are rare, in high demand, or well-preserved. Rarity, condition, and historical importance can contribute to the value growth of numismatic coins.

  3. Higher Premiums: Numismatic coins typically come with higher premiums over the spot price of gold due to their collectible and historical aspects. Investors should be prepared to pay a premium for these coins, which may affect the overall investment returns.

  4. Long-Term Investment: Investing in numismatic gold coins can be a long-term commitment, as the value of these coins may appreciate gradually over time. Investors should research market trends, consult with numismatic experts, and consider the potential for future demand.

Gold Bullion Coins:

  1. Intrinsic Value: Gold bullion coins primarily derive their value from the underlying gold content, making them a straightforward investment in physical gold. Investors looking to hedge against economic uncertainty or inflation may prefer the intrinsic value of bullion coins.

  2. Liquidity and Recognizability: Bullion coins issued by government mints, such as American Eagles or Canadian Maple Leafs, are widely recognized and easily tradable in the precious metals market. The liquidity of bullion coins may offer investors greater flexibility in buying, selling, or trading their gold holdings.

  3. Lower Premiums: Gold bullion coins generally have lower premiums compared to numismatic coins, making them a cost-effective option for investors seeking exposure to the gold market without significant collector premiums.

  4. Short-Term Investment: Bullion coins can serve as a short-term investment or a liquid asset for portfolio diversification. Investors looking to capitalize on gold price fluctuations or preserve wealth in times of market volatility may find bullion coins a suitable choice.

In conclusion, the decision to invest in numismatic gold coins or gold bullion coins depends on individual investment objectives, risk tolerance, and preferences. Investors should conduct thorough research, consider their financial goals, and assess the pros and cons of each option before making an investment decision in the precious metals market.

Researched and excerpts through NGC Coin Grading

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