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Home > Gold > Pre-1933 US Gold Coins > $20 Saint-Gaudens Gold Coins

$20 Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagles

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$20 Saint-Gaudens Gold MS64 Obverse maginfier
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Buying $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

The Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle is one of the most beautiful, popular, and widely recognized of all gold coins. The last $20 gold piece struck by the U.S. government for regular issue, it will forever remain a symbol of the emerging greatness of the United States in the 20th Century.

$20 Saint-Gaudens gold coins are a perennial favorite for gold coin collections and investment portfolios because of their stunning design, genuine scarcity, and worldwide popularity. Especially in the higher Mint State grades like MS64 and MS65, they have the proven ability to appreciate at times in a rising gold market much faster than gold bullion because of their severely limited numbers and constant collector demand.

In addition, like all pre-1933 US gold coins, $20 Saint-Gaudens gold double eagles are exempt from broker reporting requirements to the IRS due to their status as collectibles.

"High Relief" $20 Gold Saint-Gaudens Coins

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt summoned his friend, famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and confided what he called his "pet crime": his desire to redesign the country's coinage in the likeness of the coins of ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy. Although in failing health, Saint-Gaudens rose to what would become his last challenge, producing a stunning design that many consider to be the most beautiful coin ever produced.

Offered several choices by Saint-Gaudens, Teddy Roosevelt personally selected the so-called "High Relief" design for the new double eagle. The obverse features the image of Miss Liberty striving gloriously into the future; the reverse features the majestic Flying Eagle. It is called "high-relief" because the devices are raised to an unusual height above the fields, which are excessively concave. During March and April of 1907, some 24 Proof specimens were struck of this Saint-Gaudens High Relief design. Each coin required an amazing nine blows of the dies into the gold blank to strike up the design in full detail. Sadly, Saint-Gaudens died on August 3, 1907, without seeing his magnificent gold coin enter circulation.

In November of 1907, production of regular issue High Relief $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coins began. Some 11,250 coins were struck, but with great difficulty, for each coin required five blows from the press to raise the design into acceptable relief. In addition, bankers complained that these new coins, when placed in traditional bankers' stacks of twenty, wobbled and fell over! So practicality won out over aesthetics. The Saint Gaudens design was altered by Charles Barber into a "flat relief" version, and coin production resumed in earnest. The first Barber-redesigned Saints were struck with 1907 and 1908 dates. As one would expect, the original 1907 High Relief $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coins immediately became prized as collector's items.

$20 Saints-Gaudens Gold Double Eagles "No Motto"

In 1866, Congress had passed a law requiring the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to appear on all U.S. coinage large enough to accommodate it. Roosevelt, however, believed it was sacrilegious to have the word "God" appear on money, which could be gambled with, or thrown on the ground, or used for immoral transactions. He therefore ordered the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle to omit the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles struck in 1907 are therefore without motto, as are some struck in 1908.

$20 Saints-Gaudens Gold Double Eagles "With Motto"

In 1908, Congress over-ruled Roosevelt, upholding the "with motto" law. The issue became a political hot potato for Roosevelt. Ironically, he had to be careful about being portrayed as an atheist for supporting the motto's omission! Production of Saints, now with motto, resumed in 1908 and continued until 1933, interrupted only in 1917, 1918, and 1919 because of World War I. Struck mostly in Philadelphia, $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coins were also produced in limited quantities during some years at the Denver and San Francisco mints.

1933 $20 Saints -- Forbidden Fruit

In 1933, during the height of the Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt outlawed private ownership of gold by U.S. citizens. Gold coins were recalled from circulation, and the production of new U.S. gold coins was ended. While Saints dated 1933 were minted, they were never officially released. Mysteriously, a handful of the banned 1933 Saints were somehow removed from guarded mint bags and replaced by earlier dated coins. As you might expect, these 1933 Saints are now worth a fortune. But before you run out and buy one for your collection, remember this: it remains against the law to possess these contraband 1933 $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, subject to confiscation and prosecution! Forbidden fruit indeed!

Special Issue $20 Saint-Gaudens

In addition to business strikes, which were coins intended for use as currency, the magnificent $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles were also struck as presentation pieces in Proof condition, as had become the normal course of operations by the U.S. mint since the late 1850s. Intended to be given to foreign dignitaries and government officials, or to be sold to collectors, proof coins are by definition struck at least twice on specially polished dies, using specially prepared and polished blanks. Proof coins feature razor sharp strikes, often with especially frosty devices and highly polished, mirrored fields. Proof gold coins usually have very small mintage figures, normally from 25 to 125 pieces for a given year. Saint-Gaudens $20 proof coins were only issued from 1908 to 1915, and very few proof survive today in any condition. They are exceedingly rare overall, especially in higher states of preservation.

What is unusual about Saint-Gaudens proof coins is that they were not struck as "brilliant proofs," like the $20 Liberty proof gold minted up until 1907. The new Saint-Gaudens proof issues were struck instead in "matte proof." Rather than polishing the dies for these proof coins, as was the procedure for brilliant proofs, the mint decided to sandblast the dies instead, creating a coin with what has become known as a matte finish, or sandblast proof.

In addition to matte proofs, the mint also manufactured Saint-Gaudens gold coins as satin finish proofs. Also called Roman finish, these unique coins were a hybrid between a brilliant proof surface and a matte surface. Roman finish proof gold coins were struck by the US. mint in 1909 and 1910, although a few examples exist in other years. Many collectors consider satin or Roman finish proofs to be the most beautiful of all proof coins!

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