High Relief Saints didn't typically circulate as currency,
but many people did keep them as pocket pieces, which wore down their highpoints. The High Relief pictured here,
graded EF-40 by ANACS, in all likelihood was kept as a pocket piece. PCGS's Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection
even describes PO-1 graded specimens, though it indicates that AG-3s and PO-1s are scarce.
Grading High Reliefs can be tricky. Because of their high relief and the softness of the gold, even uncirculated
grades are permitted friction on the highpoints--on Liberty's knee and breast and on the feathers at the top of
the eagle's left wing. Normal stacking can cause flat spots as well.
The uncirculated High Reliefs are most often seen with satin to frosty luster, though virtually all have broken
luster on their high points. The only High Reliefs that don't are the counterfeits, according to the PCGS guide.
As with all U.S. coins, High Relief Saints that have been harshly cleaned or previously used in jewelry are worth
less. The diagnostic for cleaned gold coins is the same with cleaned silver coins -- hairline scratches. But don't
confuse hairlines with evidence of die polish. Hairlines are tiny recessed lines, while die polish lines are tiny
Using a magnifier, hold the coin at an angle to your light source rather than directly below it. If the edge of
the lines closer to the light are illuminated (and the opposite side dark), the lines are raised and therefore
result from a polished die. If the reverse is true, they're hairlines. Also, die polish lines often seem to disappear
under the devices, sometimes "coming out" on the other side of the device, while hairlines often run
up over the top of the devices.
Most authentic High Reliefs have evidence of die polish. Counterfeits may not.
Though many people think of online auctions such as eBay as a haven for bargain hunters, high-end coins such as
High Reliefs are sold there too. You need to be careful, though, with sellers who use grading services that are
out of the mainstream, which may significantly overgrade coins, slab problem coins, or not mention a coin's problems
on the slab's label. Another unfortunate reality is that some sellers doctor photos to make their surfaces appear
smoother than they are in reality. Don't buy from anybody online who doesn't offer return privileges.
Producing High Reliefs was tricky as well because of their relief. Ultra High Reliefs required between nine and twelve
blows from a medal press and High Reliefs at least five, depending on who you read. The more recent American Eagle one-ounce platinum bullion coins reportedly require nine blows. Circulating coins typically require
one blow from a regular coin press, a considerably less expensive process.
Finally, using the High Reliefs was tricky. Because the coins weren't flat like other coins, they were difficult
to stack. Sit one on a tabletop and it rocks. This inability to stack evenly was a problem for bankers and merchants.
So beginning later in 1907 the Mint began producing Saints of lower