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    1907 Wire Rim Indian Eagle, Magnificent MS68
    The Finest Piece Ever Offered at Auction
    'Preserved as the Work of a Great American Artist'

    1907 $10 Wire Rim MS68 NGC. "The coin is a magnificent conception throughout, of a refined Greek character, simple in its aspect, but grand in its dignity, and will surely find a place in the front rank with the best coins of the age." -- ANA Secretary Howland Wood, The Numismatist, December 1907.

    Augustus Saint-Gaudens' gold eagle design captured the nobility of American liberty and peace in the grandeur of a high relief Liberty head and eagle, set in concave fields that curved up sharply to the edge of the coin. The sculptor sought to create a coin with powerful American symbolism in the high relief of ancient Greek coinage, modeling his Liberty head after a bust of Nike, which he had made as a study for the allegorical figure on his Sherman Monument. Adorning Liberty with an Indian headdress was originally the idea of President Roosevelt, who considered it "distinctly American, and very picturesque," although Saint-Gaudens liked the effect so much that he briefly petitioned the President to consider also using the design for the larger double eagle. In the December 1907 issue of The Numismatist, ANA Secretary Howland Wood wrote of the design:

    "The general pose of the head, its position on the coin, and the arrangement of the head-dress resembles very closely several of the old Greek coins. Symbolism occupied a prominent place on these ancient Greek pieces and evidences of it are marked on this, the position of the feathers and the stars suggest in their combination the stars and stripes in our flag."



    Saint-Gaudens' standing eagle was derived from that which he designed for the reverse of President Roosevelt's inaugural medal in 1905. Contemporary writers called it a defiant eagle, even while it clutched in its talons an olive branch of peace. Roosevelt considered Saint-Gaudens' work to be "as wonderful as any of the old Greek coins."

    However, the design ultimately used for mass coinage in late 1907 was somewhat refined from Saint-Gaudens' original vision. When the sculptor submitted his final models for the ten dollar coin in late June, there were concerns among Mint officials that the soft, sculpted details of the Liberty head and eagle could be easily counterfeited by casting methods, and that the lack of a defined rim would prevent the coins from properly stacking. When several pattern pieces were struck in mid-July, it also became apparent that the relief of the eagle was still too high, despite Saint-Gaudens' efforts to meet Chief Engraver Charles Barber's requirements for coinage. In a letter to Saint-Gaudens, Mint Director George Roberts wrote:

    "If you lay a straight edge across it you will see that the eagle comes clear up fully level with the edge and as there is a slight burr on the edge which will not be there in a perfect coin, the figure of the eagle will be slightly above the border."



    To fix the issue, the models would need to be worked down to a coin relief and a raised rim turned into the die. In a July 31 letter to the Treasury Secretary, Roberts wrote: "Mr. Saint Gaudens' work is essentially medal work and of a very high order but the end sought in coinage is distinctly different."

    Saint-Gaudens' last correspondence with the Mint regarding the ten dollar gold piece was on July 28. The sculptor died a few days later on August 3, bringing his artistic guidance on the coin to a close. In a July 29 letter to the Treasury Secretary, Roosevelt resigned to let the Mint work the design down to the mechanical requirements of mass coinage, but not without ordering a small press run of the high relief pieces to preserve Saint-Gaudens' original work:

    "Of course if the eagle stands too high as compared to the rim, the proportion between the two must be made all right by either raising the rim or reducing the eagle, whichever you think necessary.

    "As for the high relief coins, have several hundred struck and allow the collectors of the country to obtain specimens as you suggested, none to be issued until the new issue is out. They should be preserved as the work of a great American artist."



    Just 500 high relief coins were struck in late August 1907, plus an additional 42 coins later in the year. These were made on the medal press. The majority of the coins were sent to Washington for distribution through the Treasurer, but many ended up being transferred to the Mint Cabinet, and from there were sold to prominent coin dealers such as Henry Chapman and Thomas Elder. After 1915, 70 unsold coins were melted at the Mint, leaving a net mintage of the Wire Rim ten of 472 pieces. On February 28, 1908, in a letter to collector Robert Garrett, Henry Chapman emphasized the numismatic value of the high relief tens:

    "I wish to give you some information. If you will act quickly upon it I think we will secure for you a couple of coins which are worth large sums. In fact, I have paid $150 cash for one of them myself. The director of the Mint, Mr. Frank A. Leach, at Washington, has in his possession, and is distributing at face value, to collectors or public museums, to the latter he writes me more especially than to the former, special $10 pieces of the Saint-Gaudens design, 1907. ... Send him $20 in gold notes and 12c in postage stamps, and I think you will succeed. ... If you can bring to bear any influence of your senator or congressman, it might be well to do so, but I think that it is possible you will get them without bringing anyone else into the matter, which might cause delay. If you succeed in getting them, you are going to get two coins worth $400 ..."



    The wide acclaim of Saint-Gaudens' design, its artistic beauty, compounded by the scarcity of the coin and its low mintage, sparked an active numismatic market for the Wire Rim ten that grew from its infancy in 1908 to the point where the coin became one of the most sought-after of all 20th century gold issues. In 1944, B. Max Mehl noted that one coin had 10 different bidders in a single auction. Many of the finest pieces went into strong hands during this period and have since rarely reappeared.

    The Steinbrenner coin is set to make numismatic history as the sole finest 1907 Wire Rim eagle to ever be offered at public auction. Since the advent of third party grading in the late 1980s, only a handful of Superb Gem Wire Rim tens have made appearances. The finest of these was the MS67+ NGC coin in our August 2018 ANA Signature, lot 5286, which realized $312,000. The auction record for the issue was set more than a decade ago by an MS67 PCGS coin (Stack's, 6/2008), which realized $345,000. Yet both of those pieces fall short of the Steinbrenner specimen.

    The 1907 Wire Rim eagle Condition Census consists of five coins: an MS69, two MS68, and an MS67+ at NGC, plus an MS67+ at PCGS (6/19). Including the present piece, only two of these are known to have appeared at auction since the advent of third party grading, leaving room for the possibility of duplication in the most elite population figures. Even if the numbers are correct, though, the importance of the current offering is monumental.

    Due to the rarity of appearances for the finest examples, as well as the lack of ready pedigree markers on these pieces, previous provenance for the Steinbrenner coin is unknown. The coin visually glows in-hand, with delicate yellow-gold, peach, and lilac hues emerging at various angles. The full capacity of the design is brought up in the centers, ceding to subtle incompleteness around portions of the borders, perhaps only notably at the base of the date -- characteristic of all Wire Rim tens due to the basining of the fields. The shimmering surfaces are virtually flawless. Swirling die polish lines in the fields are diagnostic of the experimental Wire Rim die pair and provide for the satiny texture of the surfaces.

    Of the 472 Wire Rim Indian eagles distributed, many were poorly stored or otherwise mishandled. Only a few coins can claim to be virtually untouched. This magnificent example stands apart from its predecessors in quality and eye appeal. When Roosevelt commissioned Saint-Gaudens to redesign the United States' coinage in 1905, he sought to give the nation "a coinage that would have some beauty." In the 1907 Wire Rim eagle, that powerfully symbolic, Greek-inspired artistry was accomplished, and in the Steinbrenner coin, it is almost flawlessly preserved. In the 1908 Annual Report, Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou wrote: "The execution of the designs for these coins was the last effort of the great American sculptor and the crowning work of a notable career ..."
    From The Joan Zieg Steinbrenner Collection. (Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 26F2, PCGS# 8850)

    Weight: 16.72 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


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

    View all of [The Joan Zieg Steinbrenner Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    14th-18th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,598

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) 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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