Augustus Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle– During his time as president at the dawn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt took a special interest in the artistic merit of our nation's money – particularly gold coin pieces. He voiced his opinion in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Leslie Mortier Shaw on December 27, 1904. Roosevelt wrote, "I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness. Would it be possible, without asking permission of Congress, to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage that would have some beauty?"His reference to Saint-Gaudens, of course, meant Augustus Saint-Gaudens – an acclaimed sculptor who came with his family to the United States from Ireland as an infant. After serving as an apprentice to a cameo cutter in New York City and attending classes at the National Academy of Design, Saint-Gaudens dedicated his life to sculpted art, often working from his Cornish, NH estate. It was in 1901 that then-Vice President Roosevelt first commended Saint-Gaudens' work as a medalist.
The most beautiful U.S. gold coin design
Taking his inspiration from the female Victory, designed by Saihate hant-Gaudens for New York City's Sherman Victory Monument, the
Saint Gaudens gold coin
features a bold depiction of Liberty holding an olive branch and lit torch, striding confidently forward, with the U.S. Capitol building and the rays of the sun behind her. On the reverse, this Saint Gaudens gold coin displays a majestic flying eagle with the sun's rays beaming up behind it. The original gold coin design of 1907-1908 did not display the motto in god we trust on the reverse. This motto was added to the Saint Gaudens gold coin reverse design in 1908, between the sun and its rays, where it remained until the series ended in 1933.
On his original gold coin design, Augustus Saint-Gaudens crafted a masterpiece intended to be struck in Ultra High Relief. However, due to striking problems (and quite possibly, tension from within the U.S. Mint), the relief was lowered after the first year.
Why is it called a double eagle?
When the first U.S. coins were authorized in 1792, gold coinage was approved in denominations of $10 (eagle), $5 (half eagle) and $2.50 (quarter eagle). Then, following the discovery of gold in California and the rush of Forty-Niners, in 1849 two new gold coin denominations were authorized – the dollar and the $20 double eagle. Its gold content was twice that of the $10 eagle!
FDR & the Gold Recall Order
Though it was 26th president Theodore Roosevelt who helped create the beautiful $20 Saint Gaudens gold coin, it was his distant cousin – 32nd president Franklin D. Roosevelt – who brought this gold coin series to its end. Following the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression, inflation forced FDR to abandon the gold standard and issue the Gold Recall Order of 1933. It deemed that paper money would no longer be redeemable for gold, and all gold certificates, gold bullion and most gold coins were required to be turned in to the U.S. Treasury for redemption.Restrictions on holding gold coin – like the Saint Gaudens $20 gold pieces – were lifted by the 1970s. Today, those pieces that remain as survivors of that tumultuous time are sought after by collectors! In fact, some of the scarce and rare issues in the series command top prices when they come across the auction block. Read More... Read Less...