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    1908 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, PR65
    Possibly Unique Roman Finish Proof
    Ex: Bigelow, Morse

    1908 $20 Motto PR65 NGC. Roman Finish Proof. Ex: Ferrari Collection. Both 1907 and 1908 issues of double eagles saw variants in both design and finishes. The 1908 coins are most notable for the No Motto and With Motto designs. All proofs from that year are With Motto coins. These pieces characteristically are found with deep khaki-green coloration and pronounced matte surfaces. However, of the 101 proofs struck, at least one "Satin" or "Roman Gold" proof is known. The coin offered here shows razor-sharp definition on Liberty's fingers, sandal, and toes, as well as the stars and torch, with broad squared off rims. It was clearly struck on a medal press as a proof. However, the surfaces are bright, orange-gold with a semireflective sheen in the fields, much different from the dark, granular surfaces of the matte proofs. In short, this coin is a "Roman Gold" proof.

    One would think that this piece was struck late in the year as a prototype for the "Roman Gold" finish used in 1909 and 1910. However, research done by the staff at Sotheby's in 1997 indicates that this piece was actually presented to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts by William Sturgis Bigelow on June 11, 1908. The museum's catalog card for the coin states: "One of the first coins struck after this legend was restored." This information was supplied to the museum by Frank Leach, Mint Director at the time of the coin's striking.

    This piece first appeared at public auction after it was deaccessioned by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the 1976 ANA catalog (Stack's). Both a double eagle and an eagle with a Roman Finish were consigned to that sale, and both brought surprisingly high prices for the time: $7,500 for the ten dollar and $10,000 for the double eagle. Close examination of the plate in the 1976 ANA catalog and the 1997 Sotheby's catalog show that this is the same coin. There are a couple of "shiny spots" that show on the photos that are also present on this coin.

    The real question is whether there is only one coin. Until recently that was the consensus of opinion among experts like David Akers and Walter Breen, but Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth suggest as many as four examples may be extant. When one looks at the population data from PCGS and NGC, the answer would appear to be a resounding 'no.' NGC shows that six coins have been certified (three in PR65), while PCGS shows none, although this coin was certified as PR64 PCGS at the time of the Phillip Morse Collection sale in November of 2005. Do others actually exist? Is this a case of multiple resubmissions of the same coin? We are not in a position to answer these questions, but they are provocative. Nevertheless, this is the Boston Museum of Fine Arts coin and the one piece that has been consistently recognized in the literature as a Roman Finish proof. An exceptional opportunity for the specialist to acquire what is possibly a unique example of the Roman Finish from 1908. Census: 3 in 65, 0 finer (12/14).
    Ex: Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow (from Theodore Roosevelt?) after May 18, 1908; Bigelow to The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, June 11, 1908; 1976 ANA Sale (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 3302, where it brought $10,000, and was purchased by Jim Halperin/NERCA; 1987 GNA Sale (Mid-American, 5/1987), lot 1115, where it realized $69,300; Sotheby's (12/1997), lot 268, where it realized $253,000; Phillip H. Morse Collection (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 6557, realized $276,000.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 26GV, PCGS# 9205)

    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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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Jan-Feb, 2015
    29th-1st Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
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    The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens as Illustrated by the Morse and Duckor Collections
    Revised Edition by James L. Halperin, Mark R. Borckardt, Mark Van Winkle, Jon Amato, and Gregory J. Rohan, with special contributor David W. Akers

    The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is an issue-by-issue examination of these two 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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