Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Obverse designer:
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus  Search this
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia  Search this
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .21 cm x 3.475 cm; 3/32 in x 1 3/8 in
Object Name:
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to lead an effort to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens developed a design for what many consider the most beautiful American coin ever conceived. Unfortunately, the coin required multiple strikes to produce, even when its ultra-high relief design was reduced to a lower relief.
Deciding how to modify the coin so it could be produced in large quantities with a single strike in a high speed press was left to the Mint's Chief Engraver, Charles E. Barber. In effect, he told President Roosevelt to make a choice. He could have artistry in small quantities or mediocrity in large amounts.
If he chose the first, Americans would have beautiful money that few would ever see. If he opted for the second, Americans would have as much money as they needed, even though it might be merely pretty rather than beautiful. Roosevelt likely felt he had little choice: the purpose of coinage is commercial first, anything else second. And so one can imagine him being upset, but accepting low relief to facilitate an increase in production.
The first of the redesigned coins was struck in December 1907. It was easily distinguished from earlier versions: not only was there a radical difference in the coins' relief, but even the date had been altered. Saint-Gaudens's ultra high relief and Hering's high relief coins bore the date in Roman numerals (MCMVII). Barber's version featured Arabic numerals (1907). Thus amended, the new double eagles would continue to be struck through the beginning of 1933.
Currently not on view
Related Publication:
Zoomable Image and Details
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Related Web Publication:
Credit Line:
Transfer: US Mint
ID Number:
Catalog number:
Accession number:
See more items in:
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
United States Double Eagle
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source:
National Museum of American History