1907 $20 High Relief, Wire Rim MS68 NGC. In the Ju...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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1907 High Relief Double Eagle, MS68
1907 $20 High Relief, Wire Rim MS68 NGC. In the June 1927
issue of The Mentor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens' son, Homer,
wrote what can be considered not only the theme sentence for the
magazine article but also the mission statement for the life of the
Wire Rim Example, One of the Finest Pieces Known
"To Augustus Saint-Gaudens an artist was an interpreter of beauty in the world. A work of art was the artist's vision of his subject, colored by the light of his imagination, and expressed in symbols which conveyed to his public what he had seen, in terms that would make others see and believe and revel in the vision in a like manner."
Saint-Gaudens was not a child prodigy or a "born artist." Being an artist and sculptor was rather a life-long goal, something he constantly trained for and worked toward. His childhood sketches were unremarkable, and it was not until he was 13 years old and apprenticed to the cameo cutter Avet that he began to show promise as an artist. When he was 19 years old he persuaded his father to book passage for him on a ship bound for France with the ultimate goal of the furtherance of his artistic education at the prestigious École des Beaux Arts. His enrollment in the academy was not a given, and he spent a year cutting more cameos in Paris while waiting to be admitted to the art school as a student of François Jouffrey. Once admitted, Saint-Gaudens' talents consistently increased - always a result of constant study and long hours of work -- until he left Paris as Prussian troops advanced on the city, arriving in Rome in 1871. Once in Rome, Saint-Gaudens returned to cameo cutting until he received his first monumental commission, "Hiawatha." After completion of "Hiawatha" he returned to America. Commissions were slow at first, but he began to make friends with influential artists such as John La Farge, Stanford White, and J.Q.A. Ward. Commissions began to come his way until he was years behind on their delivery. But learning was a life-long pursuit, and his son said Saint-Gaudens continued learning and re-connecting with the artistic community in Paris until 1899. Then his health began to decline and it was a struggle to keep up with his promises and commissions.
One of the promises he made was in early 1905 to President Theodore Roosevelt. The president believed American coins in circulation at that time to be of "atrocious hideousness." He and the sculptor both agreed the highest artistic achievement in coinage was accomplished in Hellenistic Greece with many of those coins struck in high relief. Roosevelt persuaded Saint-Gaudens that he could redesign American coinage, and he promised the sculptor no interference from Mint personnel (a problem he had experienced in the past). These ambitions were gradually scaled back to the ten and twenty dollar gold pieces, and both denominations were finally struck in 1907. Saint-Gaudens remained a believer in the concept of high relief on circulating coins, but because of his increasingly debilitating stomach cancer, his assistant, Henry Hering, was left to deal with Chief Engraver Charles Barber and resolve the inherent conflict between the artistic goal of high relief and the commercial needs of circulating coinage. Almost a month after Saint-Gaudens died, President Roosevelt directly intervened with Mint personnel and demanded his "pet crime" (the striking of the new ten and twenty dollar gold pieces) begin. For four months High Relief double eagles were produced, and at the end of the year only 12,367 examples had been struck. Still, it was enough to satisfy the president. An instant secondary market arose for the coins. Anyone with connections to a bank sought out at least one piece for their collection. The enduring collectibility of the High Relief double eagles is a testament to another statement made by his son, Homer, similar to the opening quote: "He believed his task in art was to arouse in others emotional enthusiasm and enjoyment through what he presented to their eyes." This particular High Relief certainly embodies the "emotional enthusiasm and enjoyment" the sculptor spent his life pursuing. The surfaces display uncommonly thick mint luster and each side is almost devoid of post-striking contact, certainly none is evident to the unaided eye. Rich reddish tinted patina covers the mint luster throughout. Exceptional quality combined with generations of curatorial preservation combine to make this one of the finest High Relief twenties known. (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.
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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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