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1908 St. Gaudens Double Eagle

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1908 St. Gaudens $20
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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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