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Saint-Gaudens - High Relief Double Eagle 1907

1907 High Relief

 

Specifications:
Edge: Lettered with E PLURIBUS UMUN and stars
Weight: 33.436 grams (516 grains) (1.075 troy ounces)
Diameter: 34 millimeters
Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper
Gold Content: 30.093 grams (464.4 grains) (0.9675 troy ounces)

August Saint-Gaudens, son of a shoemaker, was one of the most talented American sculptors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born in Dublin in 1848 and moved to New York with his family before his first birthday. When Saint-Gaudens was thirteen, he left school and apprenticed with a cameo cutter. During this time he took classes at the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union. At nineteen he moved to Paris and then to Rome where he studied classical art and architecture. He then began work as a professional sculptor.

When he returned to New York Saint-Gaudens received his fist commission in 1881, a statue of Admiral Farragut, which still stands in Madison Square Park in New York City. In Europe Saint-Gaudens had learned to express the physical being of a person as well as his or her personality.

By the 1890’s Saint-Gaudens had produced his statues of Diana and Abraham Lincoln, both considered some of his greatest works. He also created works such as the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on Boston Common and the equestrian monument to Civil War general John A. Logan in Chicago. He became part of a group of new artists and architects and worked for an architectural firm for whom he produced a considerable group of monuments and decorative sculpture. Throughout his career, he worked with architects creating works that were designed specifically for the architectural sites they were building.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Saint-Gaudens worked on several projects that took more than ten years to complete. The most famous of this time was the draped figure in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C., which shows the grandeur as well as the emotional component of his work. At the entrance to New York’s Central Park is his bronze statue of General Sherman led by Victory. It took him eleven years to complete this project.

Saint-Gaudens moved to his summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire in 1900. Joined there by a community of artists including his brother, Louis who was also a sculptor, Saint-Gaudens spent his final years. He died of stomach cancer in 1907 just after he created the beautiful high relief models for the eagle and double eagle coins at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt had a vision of a totally redesigned United States coinage. He spoke of his “pet crime” now that he was president and could act on his feelings. He recruited Saint-Gaudens to aid him in this new project. The two had met in 1905 when Roosevelt chose Saint-Gaudens to design his inaugural medal for his second term as president.

Not only did Roosevelt love the medal, but he realized that Saint-Gaudens shared his admiration for the high relief coinage of ancient Greece. Despite the fact that his health was in decline, the artist accepted Roosevelt’s challenge to redesign America’s coinage. Although he never lived to see his designs in circulation, many feel that High Relief double eagle is finest United States coin ever minted.

After Saint-Gaudens succumbed to stomach cancer, Henry Hering, his student and assistant, attempted to reduce the relief of the Ultra High Relief pattern coins and have them put into production. At each step of the way, he was opposed by Charles Barber, the jealous Mint Engraver, who felt that even the lower relief coin was simply impractical for commerce and banking. Because of Barber’s interference, Hering decided to go to France to have Saint-Gaudens’ bas-reliefs made to coin size. When he returned, President Roosevelt had to intervene to get the coins minted. Finally, 12,367 High Relief coins were struck.

There are two varieties, the flat rim and the knife-rim, which are also called the flat edge and the wire edge double eagle. The “wire edge” is actually a rim or flange around half or more of one or both sides of the coin. It was made when metal was squeezed between the collar and the die. Most researchers believe that the flange was made unintentionally since it caused problems in ejecting the coins as they were struck. Charles Barber used this characteristic as another reason to remake the coin with lower relief, and he did so with the date in Arabic numbers on later 1907 coins.

The double eagle is considered by some to be the most beautiful coin of all time and Saint-Gaudens’ most famous work. Certainly numismatists feel that the double eagle is his most important work. Struck in high relief Liberty is seen striding towards the viewer as the sun rises behind her. She holds a torch, symbol of liberty, in her right hand an olive branch in her left. On her right at the bottom is the Capitol building. LIBERTY is above her head, and she is surrounded by forty-six stars, one for each state in the Union at the time. Saint-Gaudens took the figure of liberty from his statue of Victory, which is part of the Sherman monument in New York City. The reverse of the coin shows a magnificent eagle in flight to the left above the sun. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS form a double arc above it.

Saint-Gaudens deliberately left off the motto IN GOD WE TRUST at the request of President Roosevelt, a religious man who felt that it was blasphemous to have God’s name inscribed on a coin. He did not wish the name of Lord on coins to be dropped and stepped on or passed around brothels, saloons, gambling halls or used for other immoral purposes.

When Roosevelt saw the first double eagles, he knew that Saint-Gaudens had created a masterpiece. What he could not have known was that, in a supreme irony, his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt would recall all privately owned gold including many of the Saint-Gaudens’ twenties.

With fewer than fifteen specimens of the Ultra High Relief double eagles in the hands of collectors, they are prohibitively rare and often sell for over a million dollars each. However, while both the “wire rim” and “flat rim” types of regular MCMVII High Relief coins are beautiful and famous, they are not particularly rare; consequently, a pleasing example is affordable for a serious collector.



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1907 High Relief - 1907 $20 High Relief - Flat Rim - Saint Gaudens Double Eagle - 1907 Double Eagle

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