Magnificent 1908 Double Eagle
1908 $20 Motto PR66 NGC. No proofs of Augustus
Saint-Gaudens' beautiful double eagle design were made for sale to
the public until after the debate about the motto IN GOD WE TRUST
had been settled. President Theodore Roosevelt felt it was
blasphemous to use God's name on tawdry, secular objects like
money, and directed that the motto be omitted on the new designs.
However, the public was overwhelmingly opposed to the removal of
the motto. In deference to public outcry, the motto was restored on
coins struck after August 1, 1908. The first proofs made for sale
to the general public were of the With-Motto design, struck after
All proof examples of the 1908 double eagle were produced with a controversial Matte, or Sandblast, finish. This finish proved unpopular with the public, and few pieces were sold. The April 1909 issue of The Numismatist had this to say about the new proofs:
"The types of the gold coins now being issued at the United States Mint do not permit the making of bright finish or brilliant Proof specimens. The face of the die touches almost every part of the planchet, dulling the surface of even a polished blank. Proof coins of the present gold series, so far as issued, have a very dull appearance, the finish being what is known as 'sandblast,' and are far less pleasing to the eye than the coinage for circulation, which is brighter and of lighter color."
"Less than 100 gold Proof sets were struck dated 1908. All are of the new types, the $10 and $20 with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Few things are more beautiful than a brilliant Proof gold coin. The absence of this condition in the new series is to be regretted."
Today, collectors appreciate the Sandblast proofs of this era as sophisticated works of art. Examples of this production process are rare, with David Akers and Jeff Ambio estimating a surviving population of 65-80 pieces in all grades.
The present coin is a superior representative of this coveted issue. The dark, matte-textured surfaces give the coin a medallic quality. The strike is extraordinary, with crisp detail showing on all the devices. Overall eye appeal is outstanding. Census: 28 in 66, 12 finer (11/08).(Registry values: N10218) (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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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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