Artistic and U.S. coinage were two words that hardly ever appeared in the same sentence. It was an image President Theodore Roosevelt was determined to change with his sweeping coinage design legislation.
One of the first examples produced from this change was the $20 Double Eagle designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and produced from 1907 to 1933. The artistic impact of Saint-Gaudens' work was significant enough that the design was later re-used in 1986 as the obverse design for American Eagle gold bullion coins (all denominations) and is still used today.
The obverse design features a Lady Liberty in full view, facing forward with an olive branch in her left hand and a torch in her right hand while her left foot rests on a large rock with oak leaves in front. Behind Liberty is the sun with rays and a depiction of the U.S. Capitol building. Just above Lady Liberty is the word “LIBERTY” and on the outer periphery are 46 tiny six-point stars (48 stars from 1912 forward) that represented each state of the union during that time. Below the date are the designer's initials “ASG”. A mint mark for San Francisco (S) or Denver (D) are located above the date. Coins minted at the Philadelphia mint carried no mint marks.
The reverse design features an eagle in flight with sun and rays in the background. Above the design are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the denomination “TWENTY DOLLARS”.
The coin edge is one of the more interesting features of the design. Most U.S. coins have an edge that is smooth, reeded, or lettered but the Double Eagle coin featured 13 raised stars (representing the original 13 states) as well as the phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM”.
The first U.S. coin to use Roman numerals for the date (1907 issue only).
First U.S. gold coin to include the mint mark on the obverse.
Are They Collector Coins?
1907 Ultra High Relief - Technically this was the first strike of the series but the ultra high relief design gave it more of a medal look than a coin so subsequent coinage was produced with a high relief (eventually a low relief) making this a unique coin and impossible for collectors to obtain. Would you consider this a test, pattern, or circulation strike?
1933 Issues - The Philadelphia Mint produced 445,500 coins in 1933 but prior to release for circulation, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the United States off the gold standard and the Philadelphia Mint was ordered to destroy all 1933 pieces. A small amount of the pieces escaped the mint and since they were never officially marked as released for circulation they are deemed as illegal to own by the Secret Service. Only three known example are legal to own:
- 2 of the legal examples are owned by the U.S. National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute.
- The third example is commonly referred to as the King Farouk issue and is the only legal example to be held privately.
Since these coins were never authorized for distribution are they collector coins?
Variety 1 1907: Obverse with Roman Numerals for date
Variety 2 1907 - 1908: Reverse with no motto
Variety 3 1908 – 1933: Reverse with motto or with “IN GOD WE TRUST”
|Variety 2 No Motto||Variety 3 w/Motto|
General Market Notes
Excluding the 1907 High Relief and 1933 issues, the keys to the series are the 1920-S, 1921, 1927-D, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, and 1933 issues. It's important to note that coins from 1930 to 1932 have become rare due to melting activities of the U.S. Mint. The semi-keys are the 1907 (with Roman numeral date) and 1926-D issues.
For the value investor look for the 1913-S issue, with a mintage of only 34,000 it carries a small premium over more common issues.
Due to the high valuations of these coins it is not uncommon to discover fakes or counterfeits. It is highly recommended NOT to purchase a raw specimen but a certified coin from a reputable seller.