Stylized Indian Head facing left, female portrait wearing a feathered headdress (worn by male Native Americans of the plains when worn at all), stars around the border, date below. On the reverse the standing eagle is accompanied by inscriptions, with periods before and after.
The original coinage of the 1907 with wire rim on the obverse and with periods after the legend on the reverse is not known, as at the time games were being played at the Mint. Contemporary figures vary slightly, but the numbers of 500 to 550 are often cited, 500 now being the favorite. The truth will not be known unless someone uncovers some long-hidden records (if indeed records were kept to begin with).
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Stacks Auctions
Today we estimate that perhaps 325 to 375 exist. All have semi-lustrous surfaces, a hybrid finish between matte and mint frost. The beauty of this particular variety is perhaps best stated by quoting Walter Breen in his 1988 Encyclopedia: “The very first of these [the wire rim issue] are the only available gold $10s showing the Saint-Gaudens’ conception in anywhere near their pristine splendor.” All specimens are from the same pair of dies, and under magnification there will be seen a multitude of tiny swirls or raised die finish lines. The motif differs from the circulation issue in that there are raised periods before and after the reverse inscriptions. On the Wire Rim version, the rim is raised or sharp, more appropriately called a wire rim, but sometimes called a wire edge. The term “knife rim” or “knife edge” is occasionally used, including in some early listings, and later by Walter Breen. In the past some of these have been called Proof, but as all are from the same dies this point can be debated. They are all Mint State, or they are all Proofs.
Some extensive discussion has taken place about this in the past, including by David Akers in his illustrious study of the series, and in the 1982 Eliasberg catalogue. Perhaps answering the question, the Guide Book doesn’t list Proofs at all. However, precisely the same situation rears its head with the next issue, the rolled or rounded rim.
The history of this piece is extensive, rich, and interesting. While these pieces have sometimes been called patterns, an examination of the situation leaves no room for any conclusion except that these were “special” coins produced not at all as patterns, but distributed in small numbers for the profit of Mint employees and favored others with “connections.”
On the other hand, to qualify as a pattern, a coin would be a design proposal made in small numbers to test a motif, often involving adjustments made by the engraver before the coins are struck for circulation. In the present instance, these “special” 1907 coins with wire rim and with periods on the reverse were placed in the hands of those who were free to keep them as souvenirs or sell them at a profit.
In order to take advantage of the numismatic trade, such pieces were filtered out of the Mint into the hands of receptive coin dealers, most prominently Henry Chapman of Philadelphia and Thomas L. Elder of New York City, both of whom had quantities on hand for years afterward and regularly offered them in their catalogues.
The portrait is said to have been modeled after Henrietta (Hettie) Anderson, and also used by Saint-Gaudens on a sculpture portrait bust. The reverse is a standing eagle adapted by Saint-Gaudens from that used on the inaugural medal created for Theodore Roosevelt in 1905.
Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Mintage: 542 Wire Rim (70 Melted in 1914-15) 32,500 Rolled Rim (all but 50 melted)
Diameter: ±26.8 millimeters
Metal content: 90% Gold – 10% Copper
Weight: ±258 grains (±16.7 grams)
Varieties: Wire Rim and Rolled Rim