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    MCMVII High Relief, Wire Rim Double Eagle
    MS67, Magnificent Surface Preservation
    The Most-Desired U.S. Gold Issue

    1907 $20 High Relief, Wire Rim MS67 PCGS. At the time Augustus Saint-Gaudens accepted the commission to refurbish the nation's gold coins, the $5,000 stipend was only a minor motivating factor. The sculptor was at the zenith of his popularity and had more commissions from wealthy patrons than he could ever hope to complete. Appreciation and a generous amount of flattery from President Theodore Roosevelt seem to have figured prominently into his acceptance and completion of the ten and twenty dollar gold designs.
    After Saint-Gaudens designed the unofficial inaugural medal for Roosevelt in July 1905, the president wrote: "I like the medals immensely; but that goes without saying: for the work is eminently characteristic of you." He added a complimentary flourish: "Thank heaven we have at last some artistic work of permanent worth, done for the government." Shortly afterward Saint-Gaudens accepted the task of redesigning the ten and twenty dollar gold pieces, no small feat for a man suffering from colon cancer. Accepting the coinage contract gave the sculptor a much wider circle of admirers than he could have ever achieved from his numerous public and private sculptural commissions.
    The designs used on the ten and twenty dollar coins were largely "borrowed" from previous works. The obverse of the ten dollar piece was a variant of the Liberty figure on the Sherman monument, situated still today at the entrance to New York City's Central Park. The eagle on the reverse differed only slightly from Adolph Weinman's eagle on the 1905 inaugural medal. Saint-Gaudens admitted that the reverse of the twenty dollar coin was modeled after the Flying Eagle cent, a coin that Saint-Gaudens wrote later he was so impressed with, "... that I thought if carried out with some modifications, nothing better could be done. It is by all odds the best design on any American coin." The obverse of the twenty is somewhat more problematic, but it is clearly based on the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre. The final design went through several modifications. The original plaster model showed Liberty with wings, which were soon omitted. All versions of the twenty dollar design were envisioned in high relief, a tribute to the high-relief coins of Ancient Greece.
    The Wire Rim High Relief coins are the closest collectible representations of the original Hellenistic coinage concept of Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens. The Ultra High Relief pieces were struck in minuscule amounts -- on the order of 20 specimens or so, of which 16 to 18 survive today -- and are out of reach of even most well-heeled collectors. The Wire Rim High Relief coins, especially in the higher Mint State grades, are far more available than the Flat Rim pieces, and as such they are perennially chased, bid up, coveted, and collected, a design that is certainly among the most popular of all U.S. coin designs.
    The High Relief Saint-Gaudens twenties are listed at number 25 among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth. As we wrote in the present MS67 PCGS specimen's recent appearance with us, "even the diminished artistry of the High Relief twenty makes it one of the most accomplished and important U.S. coinage designs, and in the eyes of many, the best the nation has ever had." This coin is a magnificently preserved survivor, displaying luminous yellow-gold coloration under a moderate layer of patina with subtle peach accents within the eagle's wings. This gorgeous piece is not merely a coin; transformed by time, it is a work of art. Population: 19 in 67, 4 finer (10/11).

    David Akers Comments:
    The 1907 Extremely High Relief (also called Ultra High Relief) double eagle was arguably the most beautiful coin ever struck by the U.S. Mint. It was the faithful implementation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens' original Standing Liberty design even though both Henry Hering, Saint-Gaudens' assistant, and Charles Barber, the Chief Engraver of the Mint, knew perfectly well that such a coin could never be minted for general circulation. Saint-Gaudens had been commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt to design a U.S. double eagle, which would match or exceed the beauty of the best Greek and Roman coins from 2,000 years earlier, many of which had very high relief portraits on deeply dished fields. Despite their concerns about the practicality of the design, Hering and Barber ordered some trial pieces to be struck, each of which took nine blows of the dies for the design to strike up fully. The resulting coins, technically patterns, were as beautiful as President Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens himself envisioned, but pressing demands for large quantities of the new coins required immediate revisions to the design.
    The next step in the process of bringing to reality the Saint-Gaudens design for general circulation was to reduce the relief to a more practical level while retaining as much of the original Greek type relief as possible. The result was this so-called High Relief issue. Unfortunately, this revision was just not enough because each coin required at least three blows from the dies to strike up properly. Furthermore, the coins had to be visually inspected by hand due to the high rate of rejection from a quality control standpoint. Obviously, this was an unacceptable situation when millions of coins were expected to be produced in a timely fashion. Only 12,367 pieces of the new High Relief design were minted until another decision was made to abandon the idea of ever having high relief devices on dished fields for a coin of which very high quantities would be needed.
    The majority of High Relief double eagles are this Wire Rim variety (perhaps as many as 75%-85% of the total mintage) and, because the coins were so beautiful and different from anything previously seen by the public, they were largely saved and cared for, meaning that many exist today that are of gem or superb uncirculated quality. This Duckor specimen is one of the very finest examples known. It is also a very early strike with many areas in the fields showing evidence of heavy die polishing and swirls. These characteristics are consistent with some other examples that have been called proofs, although there is no conclusive evidence or even consensus opinion that true proofs were actually struck. Pieces such as this certainly seem sufficiently different, however, that perhaps being recognized as "First Strike" or "Specimen" would be appropriate.
    From The Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection.
    Seller is donating a portion of their proceeds, and Heritage is donating the same portion of the Buyer's Premium, from the sale of this lot to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. See page 3 for details.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 26F2, PCGS# 9135)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    4th-8th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,650

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    15% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles as Illustrated by the Phillip H. Morse and Steven Duckor Collections
    Revised Edition by Roger Burdette, and edited by James L. Halperin and Mark Van Winkle

    Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles is an issue-by-issue examination of this 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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