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    1908 With Motto Twenty, PR67
    First-Year Matte Proof

    1908 $20 Motto PR67 NGC. Adoption of Augustus Saint-Gaudens' new designs for the ten and twenty dollar gold pieces required the rethinking of proof gold production as it had been practiced prior to 1908. Because of the radically different design compared to the previous Coronet Head coinage, it was impossible to produce proofs in the pre-1908 style, with polished fields. The reason was die curvature and texture of the field, known in Mint parlance as "ground." While it has been asserted in the past that the Mint adopted the sandblast or "matte" technique of proofing coins for collectors because it was popular in Europe, the fact is the design of the coins themselves required a different technique. In fact, sandblast proofing was not new to the United States, but its use had previously been restricted to medals. And it was medals that all four gold denominations in 1908 were modeled after.
    Sandblast proofs give the finished coin a dull, non-reflective surface. Proofs were struck on a hydraulic press from new, carefully impressed dies (as with the previous brilliant method). While the dies and planchets were not polished, as they were on brilliant finish proofs, the planchets were carefully selected for smooth surfaces. An interesting passage in Roger Burdette's 1905-1908 volume of the Renaissance trilogy states:

    "Correctly called sandblast proof since this describes how the pieces were made. Surface very delicate and easily marred. Sandblasting tends to exaggerate the color of the gold, particularly the greenish specimens (caused by excess silver in the alloy)."

    History repeated itself in 1908 with the Mint overestimating the popularity of the new sandblast proofs, just as James Ross Snowden had overestimated the reception by the collecting public to the widespread availability of proof coinage in 1858. Five hundred gold proof sets were struck in 1908, but only 101 twenties were reportedly sold (the remainder melted at year's end). Of that number somewhere between 45 and 60 examples are believed known today as recognizable proof strikings.
    The color and texture of the surfaces of 1908 sandblast proofs are noticeably different from later years. Proofs from this year have distinctly deeper color, usually khaki-green, but some are olive-gold or even mustard-gold. The individual grains are much coarser than seen on later sandblast proofs. These two attributes--color and texture--are usually enough to identify a 1908 sandblast proof with the date covered. This particular coin has a subtle green-gold cast, but it is not nearly as deep as many proofs from this year. The surfaces are nearly perfect, with only the most minute contact evident with a strong magnifier.
    From The Ralph P. Muller Collection.(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.

    View all of [The Ralph P. Muller Collection ]

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2010
    6th-10th Wednesday-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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