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    Description

    1907 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle, PR68
    Saint-Gaudens' Numismatic Masterpiece
    Landmark Gold Rarity, Ex: Norweb

    1907 $20 Ultra High Relief, Normal Edge Lettering, PR68 NGC. JD-3, Low R.7. Ex: The Paramount Collection. The 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagles are among the rarest and most valuable coins in the U.S. series, but their classic beauty and artistic appeal set them apart from all other numismatic treasures. Sponsored by that most American of presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, the coins were designed by perhaps America's greatest sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In the words of Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, "Perhaps no other U.S. coin, or world coin for that matter, has the visual appeal of the Ultra High Relief." Approximately 20 examples are known to collectors today, but six of those coins are impounded in institutional collections at the Smithsonian Institution, the American Numismatic Society, the Harry Bass Core Collection at the ANA, and the Connecticut State Library. Heritage Auctions is privileged to present this spectacular PR68 example from the fabled Norweb Collection in this important offering.

    Origin of the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle

    Though justly famous as an avid outdoorsman, President Theodore Roosevelt pursued art and history with equal fervor. He became acquainted with gifted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens at an early date and, after viewing some ancient Greek coinage in the Smithsonian Institution, he became determined to overhaul the U.S. coinage system, which was dominated at the time by the uninspiring, but practical, designs of Chief Engraver Charles Barber. In a December 27, 1904-dated letter to Secretary of the Treasury Leslie Mortimer Shaw, Roosevelt famously noted, "I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness. Would it be possible to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage that would have some beauty?" Assured that some suitable arrangement could be made, Roosevelt broached the subject of coin design with Saint-Gaudens at a White House dinner on January 12, 1905. Saint-Gaudens shared the president's high regard for the beautiful high relief coinage of the ancient Greeks and was understandably flattered by Roosevelt's offer to put him in charge of the project. He had some important reservations, however. Saint-Gaudens had along history of bad relations with Barber, and he was leery of working with him. He was also quite busy with other projects and his health was declining, due to stomach cancer. After assurances from Roosevelt that he would run interference with Mint personnel and brook no obstruction from Barber, Saint-Gaudens agreed to undertake the redesign of the American coinage system.

    Unfortunately, Saint-Gaudens' health was worse than anyone realized at the time and his understanding of coin production was limited. Accordingly, progress on the new designs was slow. Saint-Gaudens settled on a striding figure of Liberty for the obverse of the double eagle, adapted from the figure in his Sherman monument, combined with the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre. The reverse was inspired by Christian Gobrecht's old Flying Eagle design. In a classical touch, the date was expressed in Roman numerals. The design elements were modelled in high relief, like their ancient Greek counterparts. Despite the artistic appeal of his design, Saint-Gaudens spent two years modifying it with various additions like wings and a headdress for Liberty, before settling on the final version. By May of 1906, the design of the double eagle was far enough along for Saint-Gaudens to hand off much of the work on it to his talented assistant, Henry Hering. After many trials and tribulations, the first plaster models for the double eagle design were delivered to the White House on December 15, 1906. In his typical outspoken fashion, Roosevelt called the designs "simply immense" and ordered dies made for production as soon as possible.

    Although Saint-Gaudens and Roosevelt believed the design was finished, both Hering and Barber knew the high relief of the design was completely unsuited for high-speed modern coinage. Much work with new equipment, like the Janvier reducing lathe, and modification of the relief of the design was required before any practical business-strike coinage could be achieved. Saint-Gaudens died in August of 1907, while things were still in a formative state. Hering and Barber soldiered on, amidst much infighting and production delays, until a final solution was achieved. The resulting circulation strikes are definitely handsome coins and they served well for their intended purpose, but aesthetically they are just pale shadows of Saint-Gaudens' Ultra High Relief masterpieces.

    The majestic Ultra High Reliefs were actually experimental coins that taught their designers important facts they could use to adjust the design to suit the Mint's requirements. The Ultra High Reliefs are listed in the standard pattern reference, but they have always been collected as an integral part of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series, as well.

    Striking the Coins

    The Ultra High Relief double eagles were struck in three different striking periods and four different edge treatments are known. The first striking period commenced on February 7, 1907, after Chief Engraver Charles Barber finished the working dies. Each coin required seven blows from the medal press, at a pressure of 150 tons, to bring up all the details of the design. The planchets had to be annealed and cooled in a nitric acid dip between each blow from the medal press. The first six blows were administered using a plain edge collar and the edge lettering was imparted with the seventh blow, using a tripartite segmented collar. The collar used in the first striking period was previously used on a pattern double eagle from 1906 (Judd-1773). The raised letters spelled out E PLURIBUS UNUM, with a star between each letter. The letters had no serifs and the lettering was properly read with the obverse of the coin facing up. This collar is known as the "Sans Serif" or "Gothic" collar and the unnatural orientation of the edge lettering is known as "Inverted Edge Lettering" in the nomenclature. Records indicate four Ultra High Reliefs were struck in the first striking period (2/7/1907-2/14/1907), but the reverse die broke after the fourth coin had received only six blows from the medal press. As a result, that coin never received the seventh blow, with the Gothic collar, and it has a plain edge. John Dannreuther has suggested this piece might more properly be called the "Omitted Collar" Ultra High Relief. Of the four coins struck in the first striking period, only the Plain Edge example and two specimens with Inverted Edge Lettering can be positively traced today.

    Production was suspended until a new reverse die could be prepared. A new collar was also produced, with serifs on the letters of E PLURIBUS UNUM and a different arrangement of the stars. Another group of 12 or 13 coins was struck between March and July of 1907 (the second striking period), and a third group of three coins was requested by Mint Director Frank Leach, and struck on December 31, 1907 (the third striking period). At least four of the coins struck in the second and third striking period have Inverted Edge Lettering and 12 examples have Normal Edge Lettering that reads properly with the obverse of the coin facing down. We have not been able to observe one of the coins in the Smithsonian and cannot confirm the style of edge lettering used on that piece (see roster below for details). Since the coins struck in the first striking period had Inverted Edge Lettering, we suspect the four pieces produced with the new collar that have the edge lettering inverted were the first coins struck in the second striking period, and the coins with Normal Edge Lettering were produced later, after the collar orientation was changed for some reason, but that cannot be positively confirmed.

    Of course, this complicated striking procedure was totally unsuited for high-speed modern coinage and the relief of the design was lowered several times to enable Mint personnel to strike the limited mintage High Relief coins and, finally, the regular issue double eagles for circulation.

    The Coins Are Dispersed

    No mintage figures for the Ultra High Relief double eagle were recorded, but it seems likely that the 20 coins in the roster below represent the net mintage for the issue, after two examples were destroyed in the Mint in 1907. None of the coins were released to the general public, and even prominent collectors and coin dealers had a difficult time obtaining an example in the early days. Research by Roger Burdette indicates Mint Directors George Roberts, Robert Preston, and Frank Leach were all original owners. President Theodore Roosevelt initially received two coins. Secretary of the Treasury George Courtelyou received one of the coins from the third striking period. Two coins were originally placed in the Mint Cabinet, but one of those pieces was later given to Saint-Gaudens' widow, Augusta. Chief Engraver Charles Barber acquired a number of specimens at the time of striking and an inventory of his collection after his death in 1916 revealed there were still eight specimens in his holdings. A few examples were reportedly offered by Mint or Treasury officials immediately after striking for prices up to $500. Baltimore numismatist Waldo Newcomer acquired a specimen in this manner and it is possible the present coin has a similar origin.

    The first public offering of an Ultra High Relief was in lot 1755b of the Mathieu, Townsend and Others Collections (Thomas Elder, 11/1920), 13 years after the coins were struck. Elder noted in his description that retail sales of the issue had reached $1,100, a tremendous price at the time. Public offerings have always been scarce and prices have risen astronomically over the years. Recent sales include the PR68 PCGS coin in lot 4412 of the FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2015), which realized $2,115,000.

    The Present Coin

    Prominent businessman and numismatist Albert Holden acquired this piece in 1907, shortly after he began collecting coins in earnest. Details of the transaction are not known, as Holden's records were lost and only partially reconstituted by his daughter in the 1930s. Holden's daughter, Emery May Holden Norweb, maintained and greatly expanded his collection in later years, becoming one of the greatest female collectors of all time. She married the Honorable R. Henry Norweb, a career diplomat, in 1917, and the two became ardent collectors in later years, bidding enthusiastically at auctions and purchasing rarities privately on a large scale from the mid-1930s through the 1960s. The Norwebs were part of the small contingent of American collectors that attended the Farouk sale in Egypt in 1954, where they acquired a 1913 Liberty nickel, through Abe Kosoff and Sol Kaplan. The main body of the Norweb Collection was sold by their heirs through a series of auctions held by Bowers and Merena in 1987-1988. However, the family felt a special connection to this coin and it was retained until 1997, when it was finally offered in lot 353 of the Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/1997), where it realized $660,000, a staggering price at the time. It has appeared in two Goldberg auctions since then, realizing more than $1 million both times. It has not been publicly offered since 2003.

    This magnificent PR68 specimen is a stunning work of art, with three-dimensional sculptural design elements that show razor-sharp definition in all areas. Repeated annealing and cooling in nitric acid during the striking process removed the copper alloy from the surface of the coin, leaving a thin layer of pure gold. This unadulterated gold surface gives the coin a classic hammered-gold appearance, unlike any other modern gold coin. The orange-gold surfaces are virtually flawless. Numerous swirling die polish lines are evident in the fields and both sides radiate vibrant mint luster, with terrific eye appeal. This coin possesses a combination of almost perfect technical quality, tremendous visual appeal, and intense historic interest. It has been more than five years since any example of the 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagle has been publicly offered and it may be many more years before a comparable specimen becomes available. This lot represents an important opportunity for the advanced collector. The 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagle is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Census: 5 in 68, 0 finer (1/21).

    Roster of MCMVII Ultra High Relief Double Eagles.
    The coins were produced in three different striking periods, with four different edge treatments (the Plain Edge specimen would have exhibited the Sans Serif Edge Lettering of the other coins from the first striking period, but the reverse die broke while striking this piece and the edge lettering, which was usually impressed during the final blow from the coining press, was never applied). Grades are per the last auction appearance, unless a subsequent certification event is known, or Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, in the case of the Smithsonian coins. It is likely that some coins have been submitted, or resubmitted, to the grading services since their last auction appearance. This roster, compiled by David Stone and Mark Borckardt, would not be possible without the assistance and cooperation of Roger Burdette, John Dannreuther, Ellen Feingold, Jeff Garrett, Ron Guth, David Hill, Saul Teichman, and Ute Wartenberg-Kagan.

    First Striking Period (February 7-14, 1907)
    Judd-1907, Pollock-2001, JD-2
    Edge Lettered E*P*L*U*R*I*B*U*S*U*N*U*M*
    1. Philadelphia Signature Specimen, PR58 PCGS.
    New York Sale (Sotheby's, 12/1992), lot 837, realized $143,000; Morrison/Licht Collection (Stack's, 3/2005), lot 1538, realized $488,750; Southern Collection; Samuel Berngard/S.S. New York Collection (Stack's, 7/2008), lot 4242; 74th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 11/2009), lot 1983; Philadelphia Signature (Heritage, 8/2012), lot 5434, realized $1,057,500; Coin and Medals Auction (Bonhams, 12/2014), lot 1508. Edge lettering inverted, discovery coin with Sans Serif style of 1906.
    2. Sotheby's June Specimen, Impaired Proof, AU (uncertified).
    United States and Foreign Coins (Sotheby's, 6/1995), lot 485. Edge lettering inverted, Sans Serif style of 1906.

    Judd-1908, Pollock-2000, JD-1 - Plain Edge
    3. Captain North Specimen, Proof.
    Possibly Chief Engraver Charles Barber; Captain Andrew North cased set; Stack's exhibited the case at the 1956 ANA convention; private collection; Stack's again offered the set in 1980; set purchased by NERCG for $1,000,000; double eagle purchased by John Dannreuther at the 1981 ANA Convention for $215,000; private treaty sale to United States Coin Exchange (Pat Brewer) for $235,000; on consignment to JDRC (John Dannreuther) at $300,000 in 1984; Jim Jelinski, private treaty sale, circa 1983-1984, at $310,000; private collection. Unique specimen with Plain Edge.
    USPatterns.com notes
    : "Research by Roger Burdette in the Mint Archives has noted that, at the time the reverse die cracked, 3 complete gold, 1 complete lead and at least 3 partially struck pieces in addition to this virtually complete piece had been struck. This specific piece is actually a mint error as opposed to being a deliberate pattern. The ultra-high relief required 7 strikings from the die to bring up the detail. The early strikings for each piece were done using a plain edge collar. The lettered edge collar was only employed on the very last striking. This example never received that last striking with the lettered edge collar probably due to the reverse die breaking. Electrotypes showing the increased detail after each striking are in the American Numismatic Society and can be seen in later editions of Judd through the 7th edition."

    Second Striking Period (March-July, 1907) and Third Striking Period (December 31, 1907)
    Judd-1909, Pollock-2002 (Formerly Judd-1778), JD-3 - Normal Edge Lettering
    Edge Lettered E*PLURIBUS*UNUM***********
    4. Wilkison Specimen, PR69 PCGS.
    ANA Convention Auction (Jim Kelly, 8/1956), lot 1773; Dr. John E. Wilkison; Paramount; A-Mark; Auction '80 (Paramount, 8/1980), lot 977; Ed Trompeter; Trompeter estate; Heritage Auctions private sale in 1999; Phillip Morse Collection (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6522, realized $2,990,000; Madison Collection; private collector; Baltimore Sale (Stack's Bowers, 6/2012), lot 6522, realized $2,760,000 to Steve Contursi and Don Kagin; Rarities Auction (Stack's Bowers, 5/2015), lot 93, did not sell.
    5.
    Norweb Specimen, PR68 NGC. Albert Holden, circa 1907-1911; Emery May Holden Norweb; R. Henry Norweb, Jr.; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/1997), lot 353, realized $660,000; Dwight Manley; Ariagno Collection (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 5/1999), lot 885, realized $1,210,000; Tangible Assets, Inc.; Benson Collection, Part III (Goldberg's, 2/2003), lot 2178, realized $1,150,000; Ira and Larry Goldberg; Canadian collector; the Paramount Collection; the present coin.
    6. Bell Specimen, PR68 PCGS.
    Possibly "Col." E.H.R. Green; offered to J.F. Bell (Jacob Shapiro) at $1,500 on 1/4/1944 by B.G. Johnson; J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 867A; C.T. Weihman; Frank J. Hein; Hein Family Collection, offered at the 2000 ANA convention by sealed bid, unsold; Monex Rare Coins; Ira and Larry Goldberg; West Coast collector; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3258, realized $1,840,000; Simpson Collection.
    7. Eliasberg Specimen, Gem Brilliant Proof 67 (uncertified).
    Mathieu, Townsend, et al. Collections (Thomas Elder, 11/1920), lot 1755b; John H. Clapp; Clapp estate; Louis Eliasberg, Sr. in 1942, via Stack's; Eliasberg estate; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 1021, realized $242,000; Mike Brownlee; Harry Bass, Jr.; Harry Bass, Jr. Research Foundation.
    8. Mint Cabinet Specimen, PR67 (uncertified)
    . Mint Cabinet in 1907; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution. Grade per Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth. Note: The edge lettering on this specimen has not been confirmed. It might possibly have inverted edge lettering.
    9. Roosevelt Specimen, PR66 (uncertified).
    Theodore Roosevelt, Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution in 1962. Grade per Garrett and Guth.
    10.
    Lilly Specimen, PR65 (uncertified). Robert Schermerhorn; Stack's; Josiah K. Lilly; Lilly estate; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution in 1968. Grade per Garrett and Guth.
    11. Yale University Specimen,
    Gem Proof (uncertified). Yale University; Empire Coin Company in 1960; Abner Kreisberg; Lichtenfels/Linder Collections (Kreisberg/Schulman, 2/1961), lot 1417, realized $18,250; Primary Bartle Collection (Stack's, 10/1985), lot 822.
    12. Browning Specimen, Gem Proof (uncertified).
    H. Jeff Browning; Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's/Stack's, 10/2001), lot 50, realized $690,000; Spectrum Numismatics; John Albanese; private collector. Possibly a later appearance of the Ullmer coin in number 13 below.
    13. Ullmer Specimen, Proof (uncertified).
    Theodore Roosevelt; Daniel J. Terra; Theodore Ullmer Collection (Stack's, 5/1974), lot 546, realized $200,000; Manfra, Tordella and Brookes.
    14. ANS Specimen, Proof (uncertified).
    Chief Engraver Charles Barber; Arthur J. Fecht; American Numismatic Society (on loan since 1945, but did not become the property of the ANS until after the death of Fecht's sister in 1979). ANS accession number 1980.109.2119.
    15. Mitchelson Specimen, Proof (uncertified).
    Joseph Mitchelson; Connecticut State Library in 1913.
    16. Stack's June Specimen,
    Proof (uncertified). Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 6/1979), lot 781; realized $225,000; Kagin's.

    Judd-1909, Pollock-2003 (Formerly Judd-1778), JD-4 - Inverted Edge Lettering
    Edge Lettered E*PLURIBUS*UNUM***********
    USPatterns.com notes:
    "Research by Roger Burdette (page 252 in his book) has determined that 4 pieces were requested by director Leach and were struck by Barber on December 31, 1907. The 4 pieces listed below are either among the first ones struck or were those struck per this request. As those struck with the 1906 edge read with the obverse up, we suspect that these were actually the first ones struck."
    17. Saint-Gaudens Family Specimen, PR68 PCGS.
    Mint Cabinet in 1907; presented to Augusta Saint-Gaudens in 1908, by order of President Theodore Roosevelt; loaned to the American Numismatic Society on December 1, 1910; exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; withdrawn by Homer Saint-Gaudens in 1950; private family collection; sold to another private collector circa 1976; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 4412, realized $2,115,000.
    18. Bloomfield Specimen, PR68 PCGS.
    A-Mark (Steve Markoff); Bowers and Ruddy Galleries; Abe Kosoff; Sam Bloomfield; Sam and Rie Bloomfield Foundation Collection (Sotheby's, 12/1996), lot 60, realized $825,000; Dwight Manley; Southern Collection; John Albanese; Midwest collector.
    19. Barber Specimen, Proof 65+ (uncertified)
    . Chief Engraver Charles Barber; Captain Andrew North cased set; exhibited by Stack's at 1956 ANA Convention; private collection; Stack's again in 1980 FPL; set purchased by NERCG for $1 million; Boston Jubilee (New England Rare Coin Galleries, 7/1980), lot 323; Julian Leidman; Hugh Sconyers; Auction '85 (Superior, 7/1985), lot 983, realized $286,000; Ira Einhorn; purchased by Warren Trepp in 1990 for $1.5 million; Kevin Lipton; Blanchard & Co.; private collection.
    20. Farouk Specimen, PR65 (uncertified).
    Colonel E.H.R. Green; Stack's; King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 296; Abe Kosoff; Abe Kosoff Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1985), lot 848, realized $264,000.

    Other Appearances
    A.
    A specimen in the possession of Mint Director George E. Roberts in 1907. Sans Serif Edge Lettering, possibly the coin in number 1 or 2 above.
    B.
    A specimen in the possession of former Mint Director Robert Preston in 1907. Sans Serif Edge Lettering, possibly the coin in number 1 or 2 above.
    C.
    A coin examined by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and returned to President Roosevelt on March 13, 1907. Sans Serif Edge Lettering, possibly the coin in number 1 or 2 above.
    D.
    A specimen in the possession of Mint Director Frank Leach in December 1907. E. A specimen in the possession of Secretary of the Treasury George Courtelyou in December 1907.
    F.
    Jerome Kern Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 626, realized $3,800.
    G.
    According to F.C.C. Boyd's inventory of his collection, Colonel E.H.R. Green owned at least two more specimens, aside from the coins specifically attributed to him above. On 1/3/1944, B.G. Johnson simultaneously offered three of Green's Ultra High Reliefs, all for a price of $1,250, to the Brandts, B. Max Mehl, and Jim Kelly.
    H.
    According to the inventory of his collection, taken in late 1916, Chief Engraver Charles Barber owned another five specimens in addition to the three coins specifically attributed to him above.
    I.
    According to Wayte Raymond's appraisal of the Newcomer pattern collection, Waldo Newcomer owned two examples at the time of his death.
    From The Paramount Collection. (Registry values: N1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 26EX, PCGS# 9131)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


    View all of [The Paramount Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

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    Auction Dates
    February, 2021
    23rd-25th Tuesday-Thursday
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    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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