1907 Plain Edge Wire Rim Indian $10, PR62
1907 $10 Wire Rim, Plain Edge, Judd-1902, formerly Judd-1774A,
Pollock-1996, R.8, PR62 NGC. It is believed that this specimen
is the sole surviving representative of the plain edge 1907 Indian
eagle pattern, although a second example may still exist. The plain
edge coins were struck from newly created dies, before the
segmented collar was finished. In a July 28, 2008, Coin
World article, P. Scott Rubin compared this piece to the Ultra
High Relief double eagle: "It is so closely related to another
pattern that has always been collected with the regular U.S.
coinage that it is hard to separate the two. The other coin is the
1907 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle, or twenty dollar
Believed Unique With Plain Edge
Possibly the First Indian Eagle Ever Struck
Perhaps the Saint-Gaudens Specimen
The Only Saint-Gaudens Coin that Augustus Saint-Gaudens Ever Saw
The offering of this specimen in our January 2003 FUN sale was the first ever appearance of the plain edge pattern. No previous provenance exists for the coin. Roger W. Burdette remarked to Rubin that two plain edge patterns were struck in July 1907, with one sent to Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou and forwarded to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the other sent to Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Rubin remarked: "The latter information was startling to me and immediately made the 1907 plain edge eagle one of the most historically important numismatic items in history."
Although we are unable to say which of the two coins the present specimen is, it is highly likely that this is the exact coin that was sent to Saint-Gaudens. If it is the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens, then it has the special cachet of being the only actual coin of his design that the sculptor personally saw. All other Indian eagles and all of the Saint-Gaudens designed double eagles were struck after the artist died on August 3, 1907. On the other hand, if this is the example sent to Cortelyou and forwarded to Roosevelt, it is also historically important. In Renaissance of American Coinage, 1905-1908, Roger W. Burdette notes: "The experimental plain edge coin sent to the secretary [Cortelyou] was recorded as being returned to the mint on August 20; the Saint-Gaudens piece was still at Aspet."
The historical numismatic importance of this coin must be emphasized. Augustus Saint-Gaudens died of cancer on August 3, 1907, before any other coins of his designs were minted. Either this piece or the single other plain edge coin is the only example of any of his designs that Augustus Saint-Gaudens saw in person before his untimely death. According to Rubin, "Not only do we have the world-famous artist Saint-Gaudens possessing one of these coins, bet we have the other going to Roosevelt, who had taken such a personal interest in creating an artistic coinage that he was the person who prodded Saint-Gaudens to create the design. So even though we do not know the pedigree of the only known coin struck with a plain edge, we do know that the coin was either at one time in the possession of Saint-Gaudens or Roosevelt. Not a bad pedigree either way!"
After a visit to the Smithsonian Institution in 1905 where he viewed an exhibit of Greek coins, Roosevelt commissioned world-renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the eagle (ten dollar gold piece) and double eagle (twenty dollar 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 the Deity's name on coinage was, in the words of Walter Breen (1988), "a debasement amounting to blasphemy."
The surfaces have a fine-grain sandblast finish and, of course, are textured with a satiny finish. A few shallow luster grazes are faintly evident, but the only mark of any note is in the reverse field below the M in UNUM. The physical appearance of this plain edge piece is different from other Wire Rim Indian eagles. Rubin notes: "the other interesting thing about this coin is the appearance of the coin itself. It is quite different in appearance than all other 1907 Indian Head, Wire Rim eagles. For one thing the coin has a satin surface, not matte or the surface of a normal circulation strike. Secondly, after examining the photos of the only known example ... I noticed that the striking is very different than the rare 46 stars on edge variety. Most of the strike looks weaker on the plain edge coin. This is most apparent in the details of the Indian's headdress on the obverse and the eagle's feathers on the reverse. Yet, other parts of the strike look sharper on the plain edge issue, such as the Y in LIBERTY and the date"
Burdette has shown through his research that the standard Wire Rim eagles with stars on the edge, as well as the Rolled Rim pieces, were made for collectors on orders from President Roosevelt. That means that the two plain edge coins were not only the first Indian eagles ever minted, but that they are also the only true patterns of this issue, alongside four or five other examples that Burdette describes with "irregular stars" on the edge.
Few coins in American numismatic history are entitled to be called unique. This single 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle with its plain edge is arguably even more important than the Ultra High Relief double eagles, and it deserves a place of honor in an advanced collection of U.S. coin rarities.
Ex: 2003 FUN Auction (Heritage, 1/2003), lot 8914, where it brought $195,500; Stack's (7/2008), lot 4241, where it brought $322,000.
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