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“Sleeper” Flat Edge High Relief MCMVII Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold Coin Offered at GreatCollections

By CoinWeek ….
On Sunday, August 22, bidding ends at GreatCollections.com for this High Relief Flat Edge MCMVII Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle, graded MS-65 by PCGS and sealed in a Gold Shield holder.

While not a key date insofar as the totality of the series is concerned, the 1907 High Relief Saint–the date of which was rendered in Roman numerals for one year only–should be considered as an essential piece of any serious 20th-century type set.

1907 was, of course, the first year of issue for the new double eagle design by famed American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. As such, collectors (those who could afford to, anyway) tended to save the High Relief 1907 Saint as a first-year-of-issue type coin. This means that a larger percentage of the 12,367 double eagles struck for circulation that year have survived, and survived in better condition, than perhaps other issues in the series.

But that mintage, the lowest of the Saint-Gaudens $20 series, includes two widely acknowledged varieties: the Wire Edge (or Rim) and the Flat Edge (or Rim). Resulting from loose collars in the coin press, the Wire Edge double eagles were struck first, and constitute the majority of the issue. These coins feature a thin raised line or rim all along the edge of the coin. Once this error was caught and the collars adjusted, the remainder of the run produced coins lacking this unintentional feature.

Both varieties are scarce in the ultimate sense, but according to experts like David Akers, only 1/4 to 1/3 of the entire 1907 mintage is of the Flat Edge variety, approximately 3,000 to 4,200 pieces. Taking these numbers into account, at the time of writing PCGS has certified 5,184, or about 42% of the entire mintage. Of those graded by PCGS, 4,345 are of the Wire Edge type, and only 839–about 7% of the total original mintage–are of the Flat Edge type.

As for Mint State examples of the Flat Edge High Relief 1907 double eagle, PCGS has graded more specimens at MS-64 (202 at the time of writing) and MS-63 (146) than it has at MS-65 (130), but the trend for this issue is apparent. Those coins go for mid-five-figure prices. Higher Gem grades see significantly fewer graded examples and command six-figure prices, with 58 pieces certified MS-66, eight certified MS-67, and one coin occupying the top pop position at MS-68+.

Several auction prices for PCGS MS-65 Flat Edge High Relief 1907 Saints from this year show that collectors value this coin somewhere in the low to mid-40,000 dollar range – a bargain compared to prices for higher grades. Two examples sold for $43,200 each in both April and March auctions. The same auction in January saw another two examples cross the block; one selling for $40,800 and the other selling for $44,400. An auction from September of last year saw a specimen go for $40,800 as well.

At the time of writing, the high bid for this High Relief Flat Edge MCMVII Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle is $20,500 after 23 bids.

To search through GreatCollection’s archive of over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years, please visit the GreatCollections Auction Archives.

Background of the 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold Coin

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle is one of the most famous of all American coin types. Its existence came only at the insistence of President Theodore Roosevelt, who sought for years to beautify America’s humdrum coin designs.

Saint-Gaudens’ involvement in the process was meant to be more far-reaching than it turned out to be. The artist set out to redesign every denomination of America’s circulating coinage but fell seriously ill before this plan could truly come to fruition. In fact, what we have in the form of the Saint-Gaudens-designed $10 and $20 gold coins were made possible only due to the work of his assistant, Henry Hering.

The Mint’s first strikings of this $20 design came in the form of two dozen Proofs struck in March, each coin requiring nine impressions to realize the full detail of Saint-Gaudens’ high relief design. Business strike double eagles were then struck, resulting in the above two varieties.

Yet the Mint, led by Chief Engraver Charles Barber, was adamant that the high relief coins were completely impractical for striking and circulation. Barber is often slandered in numismatic circles as being entitled, hard to deal with, and unprofessional to his peers in the U.S. Mint engraving department and to outside artists. This could not be farther from the truth, and, in the case of the double eagle design, he was absolutely correct.

Design

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, her hair is swept to her right. 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 the I and the B. Forty-six tiny six-point stars (representing the number of states at the time) are arrayed just inside the flat rim, forming a circle broken only by the rock and oak leaves.

The date in Roman numerals is at the right bottom of the coin, above the rock, and a monogram of the designer’s initials (“ASG”) is below the date. Without Motto Saints were minted in Philadelphia and Denver; the mintmark, when appropriate, is located above the date.

The crest of the sun appears again on the reverse, at the very bottom, with rays extending upward nearly to the top of coin behind a majestic left-facing eagle, wings uplifted in flight. At the top is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in a concentric arc next to the flat rim, with 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.

The edge is lettered, featuring the motto E PLURIBIS UNUM separated by 13 raised stars. On Flat Rim 1907 Saints, there are also lines that run around the rim on the edge of the coin.

CoinWeek
CoinWeek
Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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