CoinWeek Staff Reports…..
A choice uncirculated 1907 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle graded MS63 by PCGS is one of several interesting highlights that will close at this week’s GreatCollections Certified Coin Auctions sale. With less than five days to go, the lot has received more than 20 bids and reached a price of $15,500 ($17,437.50 with Buyer’s Premium). It is almost certain to exceed this number in the days to come. How does this bid stack up against prior public sales of the coin? Let’s find out.
An Impractical Coinage
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 beautiful 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 actually only made possible due to the work of Saint Gaudens’ assistant Henry Hering.
The Mint’s first strikings of this $20 design came in the form of two dozen Proofs, which were struck in March, each coin requiring nine impressions to realize the full detail of Saint Gaudens’ high relief design.
The Mint’s engraving department, led by Chief Engraver Charles Barber, was adamant that the high relief models were completely impractical for use in striking circulating coins. 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!
With continued adjustments having been undertaken by the Mint and by Hering, a second 1907 coinage of the gold $20 was undertaken in November, where 11,250 examples were struck (requiring seven impressions!). Slight deviations found in the two sets of working dies reveal two naked-eye visible varieties: the flat edge and wire edge high reliefs.
Both are scarce in the ultimate sense, but according to David Akers and others, nearly 2/3 to 3/4 of the entire High Relief business strike mintage of 1907 are of the wire edge variety. The present piece is one of them.
1907 High Relief $20 Wire Edge Market Value
The market value of the 1907 High Relief $20 Wire Edge variety in uncirculated condition starts at approximately $16,000 for a poor example up to about a quarter million dollars for a superb gem. One superlative example graded MS69 by PCGS and CAC-Approved, and formerly of the Ed Trompeter Collection, was sold two years ago by dealer Russ Augustin for a sum approaching one million dollars.
The value of the present specimen is between $22,000 and $24,000, which is quite reasonable considering the issue’s historic importance, low mintage, and its fascinating backstory.
While not a key date insofar as the totality of the series is concerned, the High Relief Saint should be considered as an essential piece of any serious 20th-century type set. It is, in essence, the 1909-S VDB of the $20 Saint Gaudens gold type.
The Mint closed out 1907 by making several necessary adjustments to the design and finally came up with a much flatter version of Liberty Standing / Flying Eagle motif. While the rarest issues of the series are struck with that impression, the true beauty and character of the design as intended resides in pieces like this.
Ostentatious, baroque, and art for art’s sake… ladies and gentlemen, the Saint Gaudens $20 in High Relief…