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Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, No Motto (1907-1908) | CoinWeek

1907 No Motto Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1907 No Motto Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness. Would it be possible, without asking permission of Congress, to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage that would have some beauty?

So wrote President Theodore Roosevelt to Secretary of the Treasury Leslie Mortier Shaw in December 1904. The drama between artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens and United States Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber dominated the later months of the sculptor’s life, as his assistant Henry Hering labored over a series of necessary revisions to satisfy Roosevelt’s request to produce a more beautiful coinage.

The first examples were produced in what is described as “Ultra High Relief“, extraordinary pattern pieces of which fewer than 20 likely survive today. Mortally stricken with cancer, Saint-Gaudens lived long enough to see only the striking of the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle patterns.

A revised design labeled High Relief had a greater mintage of more than 11,000 coins. This version was most likely a pattern that effectively became a regular issue through Roosevelt’s insistence that the coin be released. Still, Chief Engraver Barber raised technical concerns about the design and made further revisions to lower the relief so that the coins could be produced on the Mint’s high-speed presses. Barber’s reputation has been dragged for his efforts. While it is true that the low-relief versions of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle do not match the artistry of the artist’s initial vision, “a mint is a coin factory, not an artist’s studio,” as Q. David Bowers points out.

The first low-relief version of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle was minted in 1907. Unlike the Ultra High Relief and High Relief versions, the low-relief coins used Arabic numerals to display the date.

As intended, the coin did not display the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The Act of March 3, 1865 mandated that the motto be placed on the double eagle denomination but Roosevelt opposed its use on the new coins. Many members of the general public and Congress were offended by this omission. In 1908, Congress passed legislation requiring the motto to be placed on all coins. Most double eagles produced in 1908 at both the Philadelphia and Denver mints are of the No Motto type. All 1908-S Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles include the motto.

What Is the Saint-Gaudens, No Motto Double Eagle Worth?

Thousands of business strike No Motto Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles have been certified, most from the 1908 Philadelphia issue. Prices are modest for examples through MS62, often trading for not much above bullion value, while coins graded MS63 and finer are expensive to very expensive (MS67 and finer). The 1908-D becomes very expensive in the grades of MS65 and finer.

Fewer than seven Proofs of the type have been certified. These are dated 1907 and designated by some as having either a satin or a matte finish; all are prohibitively expensive.

In-Depth Date Analysis by CoinWeek

1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle $20 gold coin
1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle $20 gold coin

Design

Obverse:

The obverse features a full-length image of Liberty, facing forward with an olive branch in her left hand and a raised torch in her right hand. Draped in a long, flowing gown (a chiton), her hair is swept to the left. Some describe her as striding forward, but she appears instead to be in a pose; the foot of her left leg rests on a large rock (in front of which are oak leaves), difficult terrain through which to be walking.

To Liberty’s right, at the bottom of the coin, the sun is visible behind a depiction of the U.S. Capitol building. Rays from the sun extend upward from behind the Capitol and Liberty to about the level of Liberty’s waist. At the top of the coin is the word LIBERTY, the torch separating “I” and “B”. Forty-six tiny six-pointed stars (representing the number of states) are arrayed just inside the flat rim, forming a circle broken only by the rock and oak leaves.

Reverse:

The date (in ‘Arabic’ numerals rather than the original Roman style) is at the right bottom above the rock, and a monogram of the designer’s initials ASG is below the date. No Motto Saints were minted in Philadelphia and Denver; the D mintmark is above the date.

The crest of the sun appears again on the reverse, at the bottom with rays extending upward nearly to the top of the coin behind a majestic left-facing eagle, wings uplifted in flight. At the top is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in a concentric arc next to the flat rim, with the denomination TWENTY DOLLARS just below in another arc. The words of both phrases are separated by centered triangular dots, and the text is also in front of the sun’s rays.

Edge:

The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM in raised letters, with 13 separating raised stars, is on the edge of the coin.

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Coin Specifications

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, No Motto
Years of Issue: 1907-08
Mintage (Business): High: 4,271,551 (1908); Low: 361,667 (1907)
Mintage (Proof): 40-50 (1907 only, estimated)
Alloy: 90% gold, 10% copper
Weight: 33.436 g
Diameter: 34.00 mm
Edge: Lettered: E * PLURIBUS * UNUM ***********
OBV Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Henry Hering; modifications by Charles E. Barber
REV Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Henry Hering; modifications by Charles E. Barber

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Double Eagle Gold Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Dannreuther, John and Harry W. Bass, Jr. Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, A Study of Die States. 1795-1834. Whitman Publishing.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

–. Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins: 1795-1933. Whitman Publishing.

Halperin, James L., Mark Van Winkle, Jon Amato, and Gregory J. Rohan. The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse Collection.  Heritage Auctions, Inc.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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