1907 $10 Wire Rim Indian Head Ten Dollar, Plain Edge, Judd-...
After a visit to the Smithsonian Institution in 1905 where he viewed an exhibit of Greek coins, Roosevelt commissioned the New Hampshire sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the Eagle ($10 gold piece) and Double Eagle ($20 gold piece). For the obverse of the Eagle, Saint-Gaudens chose a head of Liberty that he had originally prepared for his Sherman Monument (which one can still see at the southern terminus of New York City's Central Park). Alice Butler posed as the model for this rendition of Liberty, which Saint-Gaudens based on a Hellenistic Wingless Liberty on the temple of Zeus Soter at Pergamon. Although the sculptor originally placed an olive wreath on Liberty's head, Roosevelt insisted that it be replaced by an Indian feathered war bonnet. The President also switched Saint-Gaudens' original reverse design for the Eagle with that for his Double Eagle, the former coin now displaying a majestic eagle striding left with a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its claws. Thirteen stars around the upper obverse periphery, the date below Liberty's portrait, and the usual statutory inscriptions on the reverse rounded out the design of what would become famous as the Indian Eagle. It should be noted that, at this juncture, the design did not include the motto IN GOD WE TRUST because Roosevelt felt the presence of a deity's name on coinage was, in the words of Walter Breen (1988), "a debasement amounting to blasphemy."
Among the first Indian Eagles produced were 500 Wire Rim examples. (The term "Wire Rim" was given to these coins because of the presence of a thin, knife-like rim outside the plain border. This rim resulted when metal was forced between the dies and collar during striking.) This mintage figure is thought to be correct, as it originated in a letter that Henry Chapman wrote to John Work Garrett in February 1908. David W. Akers (United States Gold Coins: An Analysis of Auction Records, 1980 and A Handbook of 20th-Century United States Gold Coins, 1988) believes that these coins should be classified as proofs. He bases this argument on the fact that these coins were prepared, not for circulation, but, rather, as patterns. We believe that Akers' classification of these coins as patterns is correct, and, indeed, the specimens in question are included in the standard books on U.S. patterns: United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces by Dr. J. Hewitt Judd, where they are listed as Judd-1774, and United States Pattern and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III, where they are attributed as Pollock-1995. We do not, however, believe that examples of Judd-1774 are proofs. Rather, it is our opinion that these coins are best classified as business strikes. The diagnostics are:
1. Numerous random striations swirl in the fields.
2. The strike is not particularly sharp with the most readily evident softness of detail seen in the centers.
3. Forty-six (46) stars encircle the edge.
NGC and PCGS apparently agree with this assessment because all examples of Judd-1774 submitted for certification are encapsulated as business strikes.
A quick glance at either the 1977 book Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins: 1722-1977 or the 1988 book Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins might lead one to question the business strike classification of all Judd-1774 examples expounded by, among others, Heritage, NGC, and PCGS. In these books, Walter Breen states that 50 pieces of the original 500-coin Wire Edge Indian Eagle delivery were proofs. Based upon his familiarity with proof production methods, Breen (1977) states that proof Wire Rim Eagles "should have a great deal more sharpness in central curls, central feathers of wings and breast, arrows, headdress feathers, etc." Unfortunately, Breen did not examine, nor could he confirm the existence of, virtually all of the "proofs" that he pedigrees in his 1977 Encyclopedia:
1. Col. Green supposedly owned [a 1907 Wire Rim Indian Eagle] in proof; not traced.
2. Wayte Raymond said he had seen one in satin finish proof, similar to the double eagle with Roman numerals; this may or may not be the same as following.
3. A satin finish proof was described as being G. H. Hall: 2223 (1945). I have not seen this piece and cannot verify it. Possibly the same as following.
4. A "satin finish proof" was offered with the S. A. Tananbaum collection, January 30, 1958: 381 at $625. The price makes me doubt the coin, though I did not see it...
5. In the cased St. Gaudens 1908 set.
Furthermore, the one supposed proof 1907 Wire Rim Indian Eagle of the Judd-1774 variety that Breen did see was the coin offered as lot 2934 in the February 1960 Schulman-Kreisberg sale, which was earlier thought to have been the property of F. C. C. Boyd. After examining this coin, Breen concluded that it was "regrettably no different from the other wire edge pieces commonly offered as unc." He references a letter that Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Frank Landis sent to Mint Director Frank Leach on September 25, 1907 in which the latter supposedly mentions 50 proof Wire Rim examples. If one were to read this letter for themselves (it is printed on page 316 of Don Taxay's 1966 book The U.S. Mint and Coinage: An Illustrated History from 1776 to the Present), they would quickly discover that Landis was referring to $500 in proof Rolled Edge Indian Eagles. It would seem that Breen's initial misinterpretation of Landis' letter in his 1977 Encyclopedia has led to the misconception that the Mint struck 1907 Wire Rim Eagles of the Judd-1774 variety in proof format. It now seems that there is no official documentation to support this belief.
This is not to say that the Mint did not strike any Wire Rim Indian Eagles in proof format. On the contrary, a solitary specimen is known, and it is distinguishable from the business strike Judd-1774 pieces by the following diagnostics:
1. The number of striations in the fields is minimal, with the most concentrated group located on the reverse before the eagle's neck.
2. The striking definition is sharp in all areas.
3. The edge is plain.
4. The surfaces are satiny in finish with very fine granularity that is evident under close inspection with a loupe.
Edgar H. Adams and William H. Woodin were not aware of this specimen's existence when they published their book on patterns in 1913. It was, however, featured in the books United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces by Dr. J. Hewitt Judd and United States Pattern and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III, where it is attributed, respectively, as Judd-1774A and Pollock-1996. The coin is also mentioned in Breen's 1988 Encyclopedia under the listing Breen-7095. (NGC ID# 268E, PCGS# 8890)
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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
two extraordinary collections: The Phillip H. Morse collection and the Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor collection.
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