PCGS 9135 - 1907 $20 High Relief-Wire Edge

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1907 $20 High Relief-Wire Edge

Naviagte to PCGS numbers: St. Gaudens $20, Ultra High Relief (1907 only)


Authorization

[1]One of the consequences of the immense discoveries of gold in California was an inordinate increase of gold bullion coming into Philadelphia for coinage. Authorities felt that large-scale domestic and international transactions payable in gold should be more compact form than eagles or smaller denominations. Accordingly, Representative James P. Iver McKay (D.-N.C.) was persuaded to introduce an amendment to his Gold Dollar bill, February 1849 and passed on March 3, 1849, which would authorize coinage of $20's, to be called Double Eagles. These were to weigh 516 grams = 33.436 grains., a little over a troy oz. each and would be roughly comparable in value to Latin American denominations. Referred to as a Double Eagle, it is a gold coin of the United States with a denomination of $20. (Its gold content of 0.9675 troy oz was worth $20 at the then official price of $20.67/oz).


The St. Gaudens is named after its designer, the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens, who designed the obverse and reverse. St. Gaudens' mark appears on the obverse of the coin under the date. Saint-Gaudens told President Roosevelt that his idea for the design of the twenty-dollar gold piece was "to make it a living thing and typical of progress." The coin is considered by many collectors to be the most beautiful coin ever minted in the United States.The president had a specific concept in mind: to mint high-relief coins in the style of ancient Greece. “High-relief” is a numismatic term to indicate the distance between the highest and lowest points of the coin is greater than usual: in other words, the coin's raised featured protrudes higher from the its surface than one would normally expect.

With this thought in mind, Roosevelt wrote to Saint-Gaudens on Nov 6, 1905:

'My dear Saint-Gaudens: How is the gold coinage design coming along? I want to make a suggestion. It seems to me worth while to try for a really good coinage; though I suppose there will be a revolt about it. I was looking at some gold coins of Alexander the Great today, and I was struck by their high relief. Would not it be well to have our coins in high relief, and also to have the rims raised? The point of having the rim raised would be, of course, to protect the figure of the coin; and if we have the figures in high relief, like the figures on the old Greek coins, they will surely last longer. What do you think of this? With warm regards, etc.

A limited number of coins were produced using a high relief design, but the high relief made the coins difficult to stack. Charles E. Barber, the Mint engraver, insisted that a lower relief version be made. In December 1907 a "business issue" of the coin was first struck, and was minted until 1933.


There were several changes in the early years of this design. The first coins issued in 1907 design featured a date in Roman numerals, but this was changed later that year to the more convenient Arabic numerals. The motto "In God We Trust" was omitted from the initial design, as Roosevelt felt that it was inappropriate to put the name of God on money. By act of Congress, the motto was added in mid-1908.

The story of the Motto can be found here: History of 'In God We Trust'

The design of the St. Gaudens coin was slightly changed once more when New Mexico and Arizona became states in 1912, and the number of stars along the rim was accordingly increased from 46 to 48.

Obverse

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The Augustus Saint-Gaudens design features a full length image of Miss Liberty walking forward, as if she is ready to step out of the coin. She holds aloft in her right hand a torch of enlightenment and her left hand presents an olive branch symbolic of peace. To the lower left, nearly concealed by her flowing gown, the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is visible.

In 1986, the U.S. Treasury paid the “Saint” the highest compliment by placing its obverse design on the American Eagle gold bullion coins, where it has remained ever since.

Reverse

The reverse, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (modified by Charles E. Barber), is dominated by a majestic eagle in flight, bathed in sunlight. The inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS are arranged in two concentric arcs located above the eagle.

Mintage

St. Gaudens $20, No Motto (1907-1908) Mintage

Specification

  • Weight: ±516 grains (±33.436 grams)
  • Diameter: 34 millimeters
  • Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper
  • Gold Content: ~30.093 grams (464.4 grains) (0.9675 troy ounces)
  • Rim/Edge:|******E|*PLURIBUS*|UNUM***** See, modification of starts above.

Catalog reference

Prices realized from past auction lots. (PCGS Holder)

PCGS Price Guide [1]

Source

  • Breen, Walter H., Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
  • Yeoman, R. S., and Kenneth Bressett (ed.), A Guide Book of United States Coins, 59th Ed., Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, 2005.
  • The National Park Service
  • U.S. Mint

Gallery