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Coins / USA, 20, 1907 High Relief, Wire Edge MS61 PCGS

Lot 45
USA, $20, 1907 High Relief, Wire Edge MS61 PCGS
27 June 2022, 13:00 PDT
Los Angeles

Sold for US$14,400 inc. premium

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USA, $20, 1907 High Relief, Wire Edge MS61 PCGS

A premium quality example of this classic 20th century gold issue, this lustrous coin has the appearance of a finer grade. The texture is a delightful blend of satiny and softly frosted, and both sides are enhanced by traces of vivid original golden-apricot color. Fully struck and worthy of the strongest bids.

The 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle is widely considered to be the high water mark in American numismatic artistry. Never a man to shrink from a challenge or get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape, President Theodore Roosevelt engaged sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to replace what Roosevelt referred to as the "atrocious hideousness" of the coin designs then in use. He and Saint-Gaudens bypassed Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber's numerous committees, and Congress to create some of the most inspired coin designs in America's history. The obverse was modeled after Saint-Gaudens' Winged Nike figure on the General William Tecumseh Sherman Memorial in New York City's Central Park and is paired with an elegant, if not entirely realistic rendition of a flying eagle on the reverse.

In order to bring up the three dimensional nature of the design, each coin required at a minimum three to five strikes as well as inspection after each impression. As a result, only 12,367 coins were struck for circulation in the High Relief format. Of those, at least two-thirds are of the Wire Rim variety - (this coin). The Wire Rim was actually not intended as part of the overall design but rather was an artifact of the striking process. During striking, if the collar was not sufficiently tightened, metal would be pushed to where the coin's edge and collar meet. Even the slightest misalignment of the obverse and reverse dies would force metal into the gap, forming the fin (as the Mint referred to this feature). A second collar was employed that largely eliminated the Wire Rim, but the slow nature of the minting process eventually necessitated a reworking of the entire design to reduce the relief.

Fortunately for numismatists today, the MCMVII was a sensation when examples were first released into circulation in December 1907. Bank tellers and others saved all they could find, and soon they sold at a premium, $25 and then $30. Years later, as the passion faded, many were turned in and spent, including in the 1930s when the government called in all gold coins. We estimate that perhaps 6,000 are known, or about half the mintage. Over a long period of years various surveys in the numismatic field have ranked this as the most beautiful of all circulating coinage designs, and Mint State survivors, such as this, never fail to attract attention when they appear at auction. (9135)

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