1908 $20 Motto PR66 NGC.
The artistic spirit that was unleashed at the U.S. Mint
with the new Saint-Gaudens designs apparently carried
over to the Mint's experiments with proof gold finishes
in the 1900s and 1910s, before regular-issue proof gold
coinage largely came to an end in 1915. The 1908 With
Motto proof double eagles were the first proofs sold
to the public of the new Saint-Gaudens design. While
the Mint tried as many as three different finishes on
proof gold in 1908, the large majority were produced
in a dark, fairly coarse-grained matte proof finish.
Matte proofs were all the rage at European mints of
the era, particularly Paris, but they failed to catch
on with American collectors, who preferred brighter,
more reflective finishes of earlier years. Proof gold
of 1909 and 1910 saw the lighter Roman or Satin Finish.
The matte finish on this impressive piece is not quite
as coarse as on some examples from this year, nor does
it give off as much of a sparkling appearance. The mustard-gold
surfaces display sharply struck design elements, with
no areas of weakness. No significant contact marks or
copper spots are apparent on either side. Close inspection
of the obverse rims exhibits incompleteness, or a somewhat
"wavy" effect, from about 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock.
We cannot provide a definitive explanation for this,
but it may be associated with David Bowers' observation
in his 2004 A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins
that "Some (1908) Proofs have a slight 'ripple
effect' on the rim due to lack of metal to permit the
raised rim and raised edge letters to be fully brought
up at the same time." Census: 26 in 66, 11 finer
(11/07).(Registry values: N10218)
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