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Perennially Popular 1907 Saint-Gaudens High Relief Sold in our December Collectors Choice Online Auction

​One of the highlights of December Collectors Choice auction was a beautiful MCMVII (1907) Saint-Gaudens double eagle struck in high relief with a wire rim and certified by PCGS as Choice Mint State-63. This beautiful specimen displays fully lustrous splendid golden-yellow surfaces, a soft satin texture and a full strike. A classic 20th century design that has been eagerly sought after since its inception, the MCMVII High Relief $20 is frequently lauded as one of the most beautiful ever produced by the United States Mint. The present specimen was sold without reserve and realized $21,600.

Acknowledging that the story of this coin is well known, we take a minute or two to reiterate: In 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt had occasion to visit the Smithsonian Institution in the "Castle" building, a short walk from the White House. On display were coins of ancient Greece, this before the Mint Collection was moved there in the 1920s. He contemplated the array of beautiful designs before him and reflected that current United States silver and gold coinage was rather unappealing from an artistic viewpoint (never mind that we all dearly love Liberty Head gold coins, Morgan dollars, and Barber silver today!). On his own he contacted Augustus Saint-Gaudens, America’s best-known sculptor, who had his studio in Cornish, New Hampshire, and was working on various commissions. Roosevelt suggested that the entire United States coin spectrum be redesigned from the cent to the double eagle.

Saint-Gaudens took up the commission, valued at $5,000, and set about making sketches and models. As fate would have it, the sculptor was in declining health, his condition worsened, and by early 1907 he had created detailed motifs for only the $10 and $20 pieces. He passed away on August 3 of that year. Charles E. Barber, the chief engraver of the United States Mint, vigorously protested Roosevelt’s interference in the Mint’s normal prerogative of creating whatever designs it pleased. Taking up the challenge, Roosevelt called the project his "pet crime." As models were finessed and dies in high relief were completed, Barber stated that the coins would be virtually impossible to strike in quantity. The riposte from Roosevelt was that he did not care if only one coin per day could be struck, that is how it would be! A compromise was effected, and slightly over 12,000 MCMVII High Relief double eagles were struck in 1907 and from the same dies early in 1908. The design was subsequently modified by flattening the motifs, eliminating the Roman numerals and making certain other changes. We estimate that perhaps about half the mintage survived, as these coins were appreciated in their own time and many were saved.

Our Collectors Choice Online auctions run every month and exciting collector coins such as this are always available. If you would like to consign your collection to a future Collectors Choice Online Auction call 800-458-4646 or e-mail Info@StacksBowers.com to speak to a numismatic expert today.

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