United States, 20 Dollars, 1907 (Ultra High Relief Pattern)
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .4 cm x 3.4 cm; 5/32 in x 1 11/32 in
Coins, Currency and Medals
United States Double Eagle
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Estate of Josiah K. Lilly
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign American coinage. As Saint-Gaudens began work on the project, there was never any possibility that he would restrict himself to well-traveled artistic paths. Playing it safe was against his nature and that of the president for whom he toiled.
As a result of Saint-Gaudens's vision and Roosevelt's persistence, Americans got their most beautiful double eagle, one of the most artistic pieces of money ever struck. Instead of a head or a static, seated goddess, Saint-Gaudens's Lady Liberty strides towards us, the dawn at her back. She represents the morning of the Republic, full of possibilities and hope.
She bears a torch in her right hand, an olive branch in her left: offerings of freedom and peace. The law said that Saint-Gaudens had to use an eagle for his reverse design, and so he did. But what an eagle! Nothing like it had ever been seen before. The naturalistic bird, in such high relief that it threatens to soar out of the circular space that seeks to enclose it, is all movement and grace.
Saint-Gaudens and his patron surely knew that this coin was impossible to make in mass quantities. The high relief came at a high price: it took nine blows from the hydraulic coining press to strike each one. Charles E. Barber, the Mint's chief engraver, strenuously objected out of jealousy, but he had a point.
This is no way to make money for mass circulation. But to Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens, the chief engraver and other critics lacked vision. This ultra-high relief double eagle was intended to show what artistry and technology could do when afforded the chance. Fewer than two dozen of the ultra-high relief coins were minted, in February and March of 1907.
The 1854-O double eagle is one of the great classics of the Liberty Head series. Today, there are probably fewer than 35 examples known in all grades. Most of the 1854-O double eagles seen have graded just Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The 1854-O double eagle has always been in great demand, but with the recent interest in the field of double eagles, the 1854-O issue has become nearly priceless. Probably the finest example known was found in the wreckage of the S.S. Republic. The coin has been certified as grading AU-58.
United States Mint, Philadelphia. Production of gold coinage was halted early in 1933 as the United States continued to move away from the gold standard. All double eagles struck in 1933 were not issued or authorized to be released to the public. Instead, they were supposed to be melted down and conveyed as bullion to Fort Knox. But all of the coins were not melted down. A handful were spirited away and kept in hiding for decades. One double eagle dated 1933 surfaced recently, and a complicated arrangement monetized it so that it could be sold at auction for millions of dollars.
This coin and another 1933 double eagle transferred from the U.S. Mint to the Smithsonian were the only legally owned with that date until recently.
The 1933 double eagle marks the end of the era in which the U.S. Congress authorized circulating gold coinage.
The year 1854 was the first time that gold coins were produced at the San Francisco Mint. The 1854-S quarter eagle and half eagle are extremely rare. Most of the production for the year focused on double eagles. The issue was widely distributed and many of the coins seen today are rather heavily worn. A large group of 1854-S double eagles were found in the wreckage of the S.S. Yankee Blade. The treasure was undocumented, but it is believed that around 200 to 300 coins were discovered. Most of the coins were high-grade examples with surfaces that are lightly etched from exposure to seawater. A Proof example of the 1854-S double eagle resides in the Smithsonian Collection.