The History

 

 

The story behind this noble coin is as interesting as the coin itself. President Theodore Roosevelt was disenchanted with American coins at the turn of the twentieth century, feeling they were "artistically of atrocious hideousness."

Teddy asked Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the most renowned American sculptor at the time, to do better. Roosevelt admired the coins of ancient Greece, particularly the gold staters of Alexander the Great. He was also said to have carried an Athenian "Owl" silver tetradrachm in his pocket. In response to the President's wishes, Saint-Gaudens created new designs for the double eagle, eagle, and cent (the cent was the only one of the three that didn't reach production).

Over the years a number of theories have been proposed regarding Saint-Gaudens' inspiration for the Saint obverse, which is reminiscent of the Victory figure that's part his 1903 memorial sculpture to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.

One of the more intriguing theories, put forth by Harlan J. Berk in a 1993 article in The Celator, was that Saint-Gaudens was inspired by the work of Paionios of Mende, a Greek sculptor of the fifth century B.C. Paionios' sculpture of Nike, goddess of victory, was excavated in Greece in 1875, an event Saint-Gaudens, being a classicist, must have been aware of. Like the Saint-Gaudens Liberty, the Paionios Nike features a buxom, partially draped female form striding forward, left arm raised, left leg leading the right. You can view pictures of it at the
Ancient Greek Cities Web site.

We know with greater assurance that Saint-Gaudens borrowed the Saint reverse design from the obverse of the Flying Eagle cents of 1856 to 1858. The reverse design was actually criticized for its lack of originality when Saints were first released, according to a 1917 book by Frank A. Leach, director of the U.S. Mint from 1907 to 1909. The Saint reverse, however, features a more majestic, less angular eagle than the Flying Eagle large cent as well as the addition of a partially eclipsed sun and its rays.

Whatever the inspiration for its design, Saint-Gaudens' Ultra High Relief and High Relief double eagles, minted only in 1907, are the most classical of U.S. coins, with the sculptural relief common among ancient Greek coins and with Roman numerals for their date. The coins' devices are raised high above the fields, which are concave. The Ultra High Reliefs, of slightly higher relief, were experimental pieces, but 11,250 High Reliefs were struck.

The coin below is a mint state High Relief from the Ed Trompeter Collection graded MS-69 by PCGS, the Professional Coin Grading Service. It's the highest graded High Relief Saint by PCGS. In some ways the High Reliefs are even more attractive than the Ultra High Reliefs, when you consider the
differences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saints

Glomming

Money

The Appeal

History

Differences

Circulation

Flat Reliefs

Legacy

Eagles

Imitations

More Info

Other glomworthy coins:

Oldest Coins

 Athenian Owls

Alexander the Great Coins

Medusa Coins

Thracian Tetradrachms

House of Constantine

Draped Bust Coins

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

Coin sites:
Coin Collecting: Consumer Protection Guide
Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins
Pre-coins

© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.