The numismatic database project is designed to provide all information any coin collector or numismatist would need regarding a coin, medal or note of interest.
Overview / History
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt began a campaign to "beautify" American coinage due to his perception that the current U.S. gold coinage was "artistically of atrocious hideousness." He reached out to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a sculptor and personal friend of his, to request that he redesign the Double Eagle to reflect the beauty of the coinage of the birthplace of democracy - ancient Greece. Saint-Gaudens agreed, in spite of failing health, and produced several designs for President Roosevelt. The president personally selected his favorite - a high-relief design - and sent it for proofing.
In March and April 1907, 24 proof specimens were created, and it was discovered that the high-relief design required an incredible nine blows to strike the design in full detail. After several revisions of the dies failed to maintain the artistic high-relief of the original design while also allowing the coin to be struck in a single blow from the press, President Roosevelt grew impatient for the coins to be put in production. On November 18th, he ordered that the second version of the dies be used to create the coins, as they could strike the design to an acceptable level in only five blows. Chief Engraver William Barber felt that the high-relief coins could not be continued, and redesigned the coin to lower the relief. Approximately 12,000 of the high-relief coins were minted in 1907 before the new design was implemented. With the new design, production began in earnest.
From 1916-1919, production of the Saint-Gaudens was temporarily discontinued due to the rising price of bullion as a result of World War I. Large quantities were produced again starting in 1920, as the coin became popular in Europe where many people distrusted their own local currencies - this resulted in the Saint-Gaudens becoming used near-exclusively for foreign trade. Mintage of the coin ceased in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an effort to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression, ordered that all gold coinage be recalled to be melted down as collateral for the Federal Reserve.
In all, over 70 million Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles were minted between 1907-1933. They were struck primarily in Philadelphia, though the Denver and San Francisco mints augmented production some years. They are generally considered highly available, and thus many mintages are worth little more than their bullion value. Certain mintages, however, are extremely rare due to government meltages in the early 1930s. For instance, though nearly 1.8 million pieces were minted in 1929, fewer than 2,000 are believed to have survived the government meltages.
- Size & Makeup: The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is made of 90% gold and 10% copper, with a gold weight of 0.96750 troy ounces. The coin weighs 33.431 grams and measures 34.1 mm (1.342 in) across.
- Obverse: The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle depicts the full figure of the Goddess Liberty, holding a torch in one hand and an olive branch in the other. She is pictured in mid-stride across a rocky outcrop with the United States Capitol and rays of sunlight visible behind her. The figure is surrounded by 46 stars for coins minted from 1907-1912, while coins minted from 1912-1933 feature 48 stars, one for each of the states at the time of the designs. The word "Liberty" appears over the head of Goddess Liberty, and the mintage date and mint mark are located near her left foot in the lower portion of the obverse.
- Reverse: The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle shows an eagle in mid flight from slightly below, a rising sun and its rays visible behind the eagle. The words "United States of America" and "Twenty Dollars" edge the top of the coin over the eagles wings in two lines, while the motto "In God We Trust" is written in small letters on all coins minted after 1908.
- The words "E Pluribus Unum" run along the edge of the coin, since Saint-Gaudens did not feel he could place this as a third line of text on the reverse without making the design appear unbalanced, while he simply could not make room on the obverse.
- The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is generally considered one of the most beautiful gold coins ever struck.
- The version of the Goddess Liberty designed by Saint-Gaudens was based on a female figure design he had created for a New York City monument to General William Tecumseh Sherman, the ultimate carving of which was heavily inspired by a combination of Henrietta Anderson and the Nike of Samothrace.
- The Saint-Gaudens was intended to replicate the look of ancient Greek coins, an aesthetic that appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt.
- The motto "In God We Trust" does not appear on any Saint-Gaudens minted in 1907, and some from 1908, due to President Roosevelt feeling it was sacrilegious for the word "God" to appear on money that could be gambled with, thrown on the ground, or otherwise used for immoral transactions. President Roosevelt was overruled by Congress in 1908, and the motto was placed on all future mintages.
- The 1933 Saint-Gaudens was outlawed for private ownership by President Franklin Roosevelt, and the restriction has never been lifted. Only a single 1933 Saint-Gaudens is known to be held privately, and was purchased for $7,590,020 in 2002 with special arrangements to the U.S. Government. In 2004, the Mint seized ten specimens from the heirs of a Philadelphia jeweler who had brought the specimens in for authentication. The legal battle raged until 2017, when the U.S. Federal Courts declared that the seizure was lawful, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear further appeal.
- Saint-Gaudens passed away in August 1907, and thus never saw his coin design go into circulation.
- Approximately half of the 1909 Saint-Gaudens minted in Philadelphia contain an overdate, showing an 8 under the final 9 of the date. It is believed to have happened when a 1908 die was struck by a 1909-dated hub.