Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
ISSUED FROM 1907 TO 1933
The $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is a cornerstone coin that every collector and investor should own in their holdings.
Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is considered the most beautiful coin in the world, with a rich provenance and historical significance that makes it one of the top picks in most numismatic portfolios.
The birth of this magnificent gold coin is unlike any other coin in the world. Born out of the vision of one of our finest Presidents, and designed as the final masterpiece of a dying artisan.
Throughout history coins have always been symbols of pride, and the face of a nation’s spirit, proudly on display for the world to admire for centuries after their creation.
That is exactly what President Theodore Roosevelt felt in 1905 while touring the Smithsonian Institute admiring the ancient Greek coinage of Alexander the Great. The high relief designs brought the coins to life, and lasted throughout the ages as a living testament to a great man and the classic Greek civilization.
By 1905, America had grown to become the most powerful nation on earth. Roosevelt wanted our coinage to reflect our Nation’s pre-eminent status. He felt our coins at that time had become very bland, and in his words were “artistically of atrocious hideousness.”
The decision was made to launch new designs for the panorama of U.S. coins.
President Theodore Roosevelt first met Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a preeminent American Artist and Sculptor, in 1901 at the Pan-American Exposition.
Saint-Gaudens reputation preceded him, and he had already designed America’s first Commemorative Silver Coin, the 1892 Columbian Exposition 50 cent piece, and was commissioned to design Roosevelt’s 1905 inauguration medallion.
Roosevelt shared his vision of America’s new coinage, and enrolled Saint-Gaudens in his quest to create the finest coinage in the world.
Saint-Gaudens agreed to redesign all U.S. denominations from the cent to the double eagle for a fee of $5,000 which was a tidy sum at that time. The two began a close collaboration reformed American coinage into works of art that would set the standard for the finest coins in the world.
President Roosevelt wanted to break away from the traditional portrait of Liberty and the standing eagle designs from the past, and Saint-Gaudens had a vision to create a gold coin that would, in his words, “become a living thing.”
Augustus Saint-Gaudens had just created his gold masterpiece statue in 1903, for the Sherman Victory monument in Central Park. The Winged Goddess of Victory, Nike striding forward was the inspiration for his design for the new Double Eagle.
The obverse of the coin features Liberty striding toward us in the dawn of a new day, wielding an olive branch in one hand symbolizing peace, and in the other hand, the torch of Liberty. The reverse features the American eagle soaring through the rays of the sun with its wings spread in majestic flight.
Saint-Gaudens designed his coin in very high relief, giving it a three-dimensional, sculpted appearance with the 1907 date in classic Roman numerals, as MCMVII.
The U.S. Mint Chief Engraver at the time was, Charles E. Barber, who had vicious objections to Saint-Gaudens design, after seeing the proposed high relief design.
Saint-Gaudens and Barber already had a contentious relationship because of their involvement in the 1892 Columbian Exposition Commemorative. He submitted beautiful artistic “nude” designs for the coin that immediately ran into controversy. He reluctantly redesigned a “clothed” coin, and in disgust vowed that “he would go to his grave before having anything further to do with the Mint Bureau”.
Saint-Gaudens knew that Barber and other Mint officials would “Throw Fits” because of the problems of the multiple striking needed for High Relief coins, and the slow production pace that was sure to come, due to his designs. Barber strongly argued that it would be impractical to strike such a coin because each one required multiple blows from the coining press.
Roosevelt was aware of this situation, and ensured the dying Saint-Gaudens that he would see that his vision was to be followed despite the Mint Official objections. The fierce objections of the Mint Chief Engraver, Charles E. Barber, were initially silenced by the President himself, who declared, “Begin the new issue even if it takes all day to strike one piece!” He ordered Barber to commence production in 1907.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens died at his famous artists’ retreat in Cornish, New Hampshire on August 3, 1907, and even though he never saw the first issue of his famous design circulated, generations today, can experience the most beautiful coin in the world thanks to him and President Theodore Roosevelt.
When Roosevelt first viewed Saint-Gaudens’ Double Eagle design, he knew that the artist had created a coin that would be admired for the ages. What he did not know, however, was that a quarter-century later in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression, his cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would confiscate all privately-owned gold and most of these beautiful works of art would be melted into lifeless bars.
Surviving specimens of this historic gold coin in high grades are in very limited supply with an increasing high demand, as these coins are taken off the market and placed in private collections.
Mint records show that 445,000 St. Gaudens double eagles were struck in early 1933, however the coins were never officially released into circulation because of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order 6102, ceasing the circulation of all gold coins in March of 1933. The 1933 double eagles were ordered to be melted in 1937.
In the early 1940s surviving specimens surfaced which the government quickly confiscated and destroyed at least nine specimens.
In 1996 government agents seized another 1933 double eagle from a British coin dealer entering the United States. The coin was claimed to be the 1933 double eagle once owned by Egyptian King Farouk, who was granted an export license for the coin by the Treasury Department in 1944.
After a prolonged court battle and in an unprecedented action, U.S. Mint officials reached an out-out-court agreement with the British coin dealer to permit the seized coin to be sold at public auction with the proceeds split evenly between the two.
The 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle was sold July 30, 2002, in New York City in a one-lot auction conducted by Sotheby’s in conjunction with Stack’s for just over $7.59 million, as the only 1933 double eagle approved for private ownership.
In 2003, another ten 1933 double eagles turned up when Joan Switt Langbord, the daughter of Philadelphia Jeweler, claimed she found them in a family safe deposit bank box.
When the Langbords’ asked the U.S. Mint to determine if the discovered coins were genuine, Treasury agents confiscated all 10 of of these historic St Gaudens in 2004.
The Langbord family filed suit seeking return of the coins and the case was still in litigation for 10 years until April 2015 when federal appeals court on April 17, 2015 issued a favorable ruling for the Langbord family in the ongoing battle over who rightfully owns ten 1933 $20 St. Gaudens.
The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings, so it is far from over, but for now the Langbord’s efforts to keep the ten coins is looking better.
When considering investing in the $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle, there are three primary profit factors, Rarity, Popularity, and Historical Significance.
Produced from 1907 to 1933, the “Saint” was the final $20 gold Double Eagle produced by the U.S. Mint. As such, these coins carry a certain mystique, are widely popular, and are treasured by collectors and investors alike.
In 1907, the first St. Gaudens Double Eagles produced consisted of slightly more than 12,000 high relief pieces struck for general circulation. This original version of the coin struck for circulation has higher relief than was practical. Barber created a lower relief version to replace Saint-Gaudens’ original concept.
All High Relief coins struck during 1907 met with objections from bankers, who said the coins could not be stacked. There are arguments regarding how many of these coins exist, with new “discovery” pieces periodically appearing in the market.
Several major versions of the coin may be included in a type collection:
Mintages were never very high on any Saint-Gaudens double eagles. The highest mintages recorded are 8,816,000 for 1928; 4,323,500 for 1924; and 4,271,551 for the 1908 No Motto.
The high mintage of the 1908 No Motto coin makes it attractive as a type coin alongside a subtype with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. This two-coin variety set should be affordable, where date collecting of this series may not be.
A type set including Roman numeral dates and High Relief coins will be more expensive to complete.
A type set of coins by Mint in both Motto and No Motto varieties is also possible at a modest price. Mint marks are on the obverse for the Saint-Gaudens series above the date, an unusual placement for Mint marks on U.S. coins from this period.
Disregarding 1933 coin and the pricy 1907 varieties, collectors seeking this series must still contend with such low mintage key dates as;
Proof coins exist for all dates between 1907 and 1915. As with most Proof coins in this time period, they were struck in extremely low quantities and can be quite expensive. The highest mintage is a mere 167 pieces dated 1910. The survival rate of this date in Proof is significantly lower.
St. Gaudens gold coins are a great investment because there is fixed and extremely limited supply with an increased demand. They’re a private, portable, solid liquid asset, that is non-reportable, and can never be confiscated. These double eagles have enjoyed profit appreciation over the years, with a solid upside potential in the years to come.
Finest Known proudly offers exceptional examples of the 1907 “High Relief” St. Gaudens Double Eagle for your consideration. These are incredible specimens, graded and certified in exceptional condition.