MCMVII PR63 High Relief Twenty
1907 $20 High Relief PR63 NGC. The MCMVII Ultra High Relief
proofs and the High Relief twenties that came after were not our
nation's first high-relief coinage. In an exchange in the
E-Sylum in 2007, John Dannreuther discusses the first gold
dollars that debuted in 1849:
A Specially Struck Example of This Rare and Popular Type
"Our first high relief coinage was for our most diminutive gold coin--the gold dollar. In 1849, [Mint Chief Engraver James B.] Longacre used concave fields (convex dies) for the obverse for the first gold dollars (the reverse dies were normal, flat field types). (The 1849 gold dollar is also the first US regular issue coin to have the date in the master die.) The original high relief, concave fields 1849 gold dollars (the No 'L' and the first 'L' variety had concave fields) were abandoned because of reverse die breakage. The stress on the reverse (anvil) dies required a change to flat fields for both sides."
The Saint-Gaudens twenties also were designed with deep concave fields (convex dies), making it nearly impossible to fully strike them up without multiple blows of the press. They were also virtually impossible to produce as polished brilliant proofs, as Roger Burdette discusses in detail in his reference on the 1905-08 coinage.
The High Relief proofs were struck in a finish that Breen describes thusly in his Proof Encyclopedia:
"--Numerous, raised die-polishing lines on both sides. These appear in a random, swirling pattern. While also evident on currency strikes, these are particularly bold on Proofs.
"--Uniformly satiny surfaces, without any of the radial flowlines that produce conventional Mint luster."
Numerous other criteria are given by Breen (and repeated by Dr. Robert Loewinger in his proof gold reference), which NGC presumably uses among its attributes for determination of proof status. While most of the NGC-certified proofs are of the Wire Rim (or Knife Rim) variety (a rather artificial distinction at any rate), a couple of pieces certified by NGC have been the Flat Rim variant.
Despite the many impracticalities involved in producing the High Relief coinage, either as proofs or business strikes, fortunately for collectors today, President Roosevelt's insistence on his "pet crime" ensured that eventually 12,367 circulation strikes were produced, plus a small quantity of proofs that were subjected to extra blows of the press.
The special attention to striking is certainly apparent on this piece. The strike is complete in all areas with fully articulated columns on the Capitol building and full separation between the letters and rim on the upper reverse. A couple of unfortunate rim knocks on each side are the primary reason for the grade. Otherwise, the surfaces are bright and satiny (as always) and there is just the slightest tinge of reddish patina on each side. A wonderful opportunity to acquire this specially struck High Relief twenty. (NGC ID# 28AX, PCGS# 9132)
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Revised Edition by James L. Halperin, Mark R. Borckardt, Mark Van Winkle, Jon Amato, and Gregory J. Rohan, with special contributor David W. Akers
The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is an issue-by-issue examination of these two artistically inspired series of gold coins.
Each date and mintmark is reviewed with up-to-date information, much of which has never been previously published. The book is based on
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