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SAINT GAUDENS TWENTY DOLLARS OR DOUBLE EAGLE (1907-1933)

1911 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle

1907 High Relief

1911 Proof Saint Gaudens

PCGS No: 9157, 9208
Circulation strikes Mintage: 197,250
Proof Mintage: 100
Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (modified by Charles E. Barber)
Diameter: ±34 millimeters
Metal content: Gold - 90%
Other - 10%
Weight: ±516 grains (±33.4 grams)
Edge: |******E|*PLURIBUS*|UNUM*****
Mintmark: None (for Philadelphia) above the date

1911 St. Gaudens, Matte Proof
The Philadelphia Mint returned to the matte finish for 1911 double eagles. With 63 examples reported in the population reports, and most of those in gem grades or finer, this date is the fifth scarcest of the 10-coin series in Proof grades. Most have a distinctive mustard color. Of course, all are rare and desirable, and few collectors can ever dream of owning a single Proof example of this series, let alone a date collection. All known 1911 Proof double eagles were apparently struck in the matte finish. Memorable auctions records include the example of late 2005 that sold for $ 184,000.

Though Pres. Theodore Roosevelt was devoutly religious and a Freemason, he disagreed with Congress and the average citizen on the need-or the desirability-of having God's name placed on coins. Ever since the Rev. M. R. Watkinson had come up with the idea (1861), officialdom and the general public approved of keeping IN GOD WE TRUST on the coins; possibly some dimly remembered the line from one of the later stanzas of Francis Scott Key's "The Battle of Fort McHenry" (later renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner"): "And this be our motto, In God is our trust." Roosevelt's objection to the motto is more consonant with the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state; his line of reasoning is discussed in Chap. 37, Sect, vi, introductory text.

Though there is much to be said for Roosevelt's view, Congress disagreed, feeling (like much of the general public) that anyone opposing the use of God's name on coins was of necessity an atheist and probably an anarchist or even a Bolshevik. Congress therefore ordered that henceforth all coins large enough to accommodate the motto should do so, in compliance with the Act of March 3, 1865.

Barber reworked the double eagle rev. to carry this motto. His revision had nine tail feathers instead of the former eight, and 33 rays instead of 34, but the location of rays remained unaltered. Barber omitted one at extreme 1., and made the heavy rays thinner and some of them longer.

Until Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt abolished gold coinage in 1933, there was only one more design change. Coins of 1912-33 show 48 obv. stars instead of the former 46, commemorating the admission of New Mexico and Arizona as forty-seventh and forty-eighth states, Jan. 6 and Feb. 14, 1912. The two extra stars were added to the end of the curved row at lower r., about 5:00, among oak leaves below date, but without other design modification. Barber evidently did this by sinking a master die from a 1908-11 hub and punching in the stars by hand, thereafter in turn raising working hubs from it and sinking working dies.

Relative rarity of the later dates, unlike those of earlier years, owes less to limited mintages than to extensive meltages and random survival of specimens in French and Swiss banks during the decades after the Great Recall of 1933-34. Secrecy about some of the rarer dates, on both sides of the Atlantic, has obscured the picture: Thanks to the unlamented Leland Howard and his Office of Domestic Gold and Silver Operations (ODGSO), federal interference with imports of numismatic material increased during the 1950s and '60s side by side with official paranoia about collectors, and with collectors' fears that Treasury snoops would search, seize, and destroy first, before any legal actions for recovery could be instituted. In more recent years, now that Howard and the ODGSO are as dead as the Volstead Act and one no longer needs a license to import gold coins, the picture has become clearer-and the gold coins costlier.

However, exact numbers rediscovered have remained elusive, partly because many dealers irrationally fear that such information might lower prices.

Wholesale meltage destroyed the majority of the dates 1912-33. This has not significantly affected 1928, which has the largest mintage of any gold coin of any denomination in American history. In a few instances (1920 S, 1921, 1927 D, 1930 S, 1931 D) low mintage aggravated the problem, so that fewer specimens reached Europe. A few dates (1913 S, 1924 S, 1926 D) were virtually unknown to American collectors until the 1950s, when handfuls were recovered in France.

As a result, when specimens of the rarer years are offered at all, they are normally uncirculated with the usual bag marks; but the same remark also applies to many of the commoner dates.

As a result, when specimens of the rarer years are offered at all, they are normally uncirculated with the usual bag marks; but the same remark also applies to many of the commoner dates.

There is one important var. in this group, the overdate 1909/8. As with the 1918/7 D nickel and S quarter, this resulted from use of both 1909 and 1908 hubs on a single working die blank, probably during fall 1908 when working dies were being prepared for both years. This var. was discovered by Edgar H. Adams in 1910, then forgotten until its rediscovery about 1943. It is less scarce than the normal date except in mint state.
Mintmark D is from a wide punch (boldface extended, in typographical language) through 1910, as on the eagles. This was difficult to fit between rays above date, so that on many specimens the D leans 1. Coins of 1911 and later years from Denver show a tiny mintmark similar to that on cents. It is barely possible that coins of 1910 D or 1911 D may exist with both styles of mintmark; if so, the 1910 Small D and/or the 1911 Large D would be great rarities.

In March 1933, Presidential Order 6260 prevented any further release of gold coins from the mints. Though eagles had been legally issued in January and February from Philadelphia, double eagles were not. Nevertheless, an unknown quantity managed to leave the Mint Bureau, allegedly obtained by clandestine exchange for other double eagles in unissued stocks at the Philadelphia Mint. B. Max Mehl, in the Roach sale (1944), admitted to having sold two of the 8-10 then known. The first one to appear at auction (Col. Flanagan's, also in 1944) was seized by the Treasury Department, as have all others to come to federal attention since then: NumRev 13, p. 17 (1/47). King Farouk's (Farouk:185) was withdrawn but not returned to the Treasury; whereabouts unknown. At least one other was reportedly flung into the ocean to avoid seizure, prior to 1956. The only chance anyone has to see what these legendary coins look like is to view the exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.
What the first Roosevelt began in 1907, the second ended in 1933; and the date 1933 forms as rare an end to the double-eagle series as 1849 did to its beginning.
The Coinage Act of July 23, 1965 (PL 89-81), Sect. 392, has apparently restored legal-tender status to the double eagle.

MOTTO ADDED
Designer, Engraver, as before. Mints, Philadelphia (no mint-mark), San Francisco (mintmark S), Denver (D). Mintmarks above date. Physical Specifications, Authorizing Acts, as before.
Grade range, VERY FINE to UNC.; not collected below EXTREMELY FINE except for extreme rarities. Later dates are almost always UNC. with varying degrees of bag marks. Grade standards, as before.

 

Courtesy Breen, Garrett and Guth: Breen Enccylopedia of U.S and Colonial Coins & Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795 - 1933:



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