Unique Proof 1907 Small Edge Letters Twenty1907 $20 Small Edge Lettering PR64 NGC. 1907 $20 Large Edge Lettering PR64 NGC. Arabic Numerals. The year 1907 was one of great experimentation in the Mint. Great diversity is seen in the double eagle series. In that single year, the Mint struck coins as MCMVII Ultra High Reliefs; proof MCMVII High Reliefs; regular MCMVII High Reliefs with a wire rim; regular MCMVII High Reliefs with a flat rim; lowered relief Arabic Numerals proofs from both Collar I (Large Edge Letters) and Collar II (Small Edge Letters; and low relief Arabic Numerals business strikes.
This coin is apparently unique, but it is neither an MCMVII Ultra High Relief nor an MCMVII High Relief coin. It is an Arabic Numerals matte proof in the low relief business strike style, one struck with the same edge-lettering collar used for the standard High Relief double eagles.
The Barber-modified 1907 twenty dollar Saint-Gaudens gold coins were issued in proof format with Large Edge Letters (the High Relief edge) and with Small Edge Letters (the standard edge). NGC has obligingly encapsulated this unique matte proof in a special plastic slab that holds the coin by four tabs, enabling the viewer to see the edge lettering details around the circumference of the coin.
The standard High Relief double eagles were produced in a lettered edge collar, a three-part innovation that enabled the Mint to do two things simultaneously. First and foremost, it imparted the desired edge lettering and devices to the "third side" of the coin. Second, and most ingeniously, it enabled this to be done while the other two sides were being struck. After the three sides were stamped, the collar "broke apart" into three segment, enabling the struck coin to be removed without damaging the lettering on the edge. In the two edge diagrams that follow, a vertical line (actually visible on the edge of the coin) shows where the break occurred.
Interestingly, as of this writing, the Mint has begun producing the first regular-issue coinage with edge lettering since the Saint-Gaudens coinage with edge lettering. We qualify the statement with "regular-issue" because the 1992-D Olympic silver dollars with a baseball pitcher on the obverse have the phrase XXV OLYMPIAD impressed four times around the edge, alternately inverted and on a reeded background.
Along with the Small Letters, Arabic Numerals low relief proofs, the Large Letters, Arabic Numerals twenty matte proof is technically a pattern, although unrecognized as such in the literature. There is no record of production of any 1907 proof double eagles with the low relief design. This is an extremely powerful statement in support of these coins as pattern issues, for it was required that all standard coinage production quantities had to be recorded. In the early and mid-19th century, production of proof coinage was unrecorded, but beginning in 1858 all silver and gold proof coinages were recorded annually.
The Ultra High Reliefs had the largest edge lettering in the series, followed by the regular issue High Reliefs with Collars I and II. Collar I was either used in error or experimentally on this matte proof and only one coin was produced. Coins with the Large Edge Letters Collar I read: | * * * * * * * E * | P L U R I B U S | * U N U M * * * *. The coins struck from Collar II, the Small Edge Letters collar, read | * * * * * * * E * | P L U R I B U S * | U N U M * * * * *. Note that the Large Edge Letters variant has only the word PLURIBUS on a single section, and one star before and four stars after UNUM, while the Small Edge Letters variant has a single star on the segment with PLURIBUS, and five stars after UNUM, none before.
A passage from Roger W. Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 shows the difficulties that mint personnel faced in producing the High Relief coins with edge letters:
The mint had three hydraulic medal presses capable of producing up to three hundred tons of pressure per square inch. The presses were designed to "squeeze" the planchet between the dies rather than "strike" it with a very quick blow as on the automatic production coin presses. Typical tempered steel coinage dies of the era could withstand little more than one hundred fifty tons of pressure before they would collapse or crack. The coiner wanted to use the minimum pressure necessary to bring up the design since this would reduce wear on the dies and make them last longer.
High relief double eagles presented unusual problems for the mint's mechanics. The coins had high relief obverse and reverse designs, plus an edge with raised lettering instead of the normal vertical reeding. (Plain edge examples are probably production errors.) The relief took three blows of the press to bring up the obverse and reverse designs, but the edge lettering of the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM could only be imparted by an edge collar with recessed lettering. When the coin was struck, the metal flowed into the face designs as well as the raised edge lettering. Obviously, the collar had to be able to open or the newly struck coin would be locked inside the collar.
For the first five hundred high relief coins made in August and September 1907, a plain retaining collar was placed in the press and the planchet given two blows with the coin removed and annealed between blows. The plain collar was then replaced with the lettered edge collar consisting of three segments. This was surrounded by a second, solid retaining collar. The planchet was placed back on the press, aligned with the anvil die, and given one or two more blows with the edge collar in place. After striking, the mechanic running the press had to lift off the retaining collar and pull the segmented collar away from the coin. This process was slow and resulted in much lower productivity than was achieved beginning in November. It was also partially responsible for a pronounced die fin on many of the coins. The first batch of five hundred double eagles took 105 hours (about twelve minutes each) to make; by late November the medal presses were turning out approximately four hundred eighty coins per day. Productivity continued to improve until 995 high relief double eagles were made during the day's work on December 30. The improvement was due to experience gained in striking the earlier batch of coins, and from a change in the way the segmented collar was used.
Further distinguishing this coin from its Small Letters sibling, the Collar I coins show the bases of M in UNUM level, but on Collar II coins they are slanted. We believe this unique Large Letters Arabic Numerals proof was produced after the Small Letters proof striking(s). We base this belief on the presence of an area of die polishing seen around 9 o'clock on the obverse rim. Such an area of die polish would surely have been present and visible on an earlier striking, and it is for this reason that we conclude that this piece was struck after the Small Letters proof(s). Also, this piece shows complete definition on the Capitol building, indicating mint personnel had a better grasp of how many tons of pressure to apply to strike this coin than the Small Letters piece, which displays obvious softness on the Capitol. This particular coin is most easily identifiable by a shallow, horizontal planchet flake to the left of the branch stem held in Liberty's right (facing) hand. There are minor planchet imperfections around the eagle's beak. The coin is lightly hairlined in the fields, but it is quite pleasing, with brighter surfaces than seen on matte proofs struck the following year, more closely resembling the "Roman Gold" finish of 1909-1910 in overall appearance. Medium orange-gold coloration is seen over each side of this impressive and unique proof striking.
Ex: The Captain North cased set; New England Rare Coin Galleries; Ken Goldman; Hatie Collection (Bowers), lot 2855; Trompeter Collection; Heritage private sale, 1999; The Phillip H. Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens Coinage (Heritage, 11/05), lot 392, which realized $230,000.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 26GT, PCGS# 9198)
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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