The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Coin

One of the most beautiful coins in the world is the double eagle, produced 1907-1933.

As we’ve discussed in another article, President Theodore Roosevelt considered American coins to be ugly; he wanted to beautify them. A sculptor named Saint-Gauden played a key role in the process with his double eagle design.

He designed the figure of Liberty, representing victory, on the inspiration of the sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace.

His high relief design created some problems for coin production. There were simply too many elements to keep track of on the coin. But Saint-Gaudens himself said of the continual redesign, “I will stick at it, even unto death.”

The coins obverse.

The coin’s obverse.

Saint-Gauden got sick starting in 1906 and sent assistants in place of himself to work out the details on the coin. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1907 before he saw his design reach production.

600px-Specimen1Obv

But finally the design did see production, though with a low relief interpretation (save a few select high relief coins).

Upon the coin’s release, controversy stirred: the obverse lacked the words “In God We Trust”. Roosevelt had requested the phrase’s omission from coins from the opinion that some coins are spent to further criminal activities, thus debasing God’s name. However, the outcry at the omission led to the addition of the phrase by Congress.

589px-1908_Saint-Gaudens_double_eagle_no_motto_reverse

A coin with no “In God We Trust” on the bottom.

Despite the difficulties behind the design, President Roosevelt was greatly pleased with the resulting coin. He wrote to a friend, “…It is the best coin that has been struck for two thousand years, and that no matter what is its temporary fate, it will serve as a model for future coin makers…”

Today, the Saint-Gaudens double eagle is considered to be one of the most beautiful coins in existence. A double eagle with the omitted “In God We Trust” is an incredibly rare find.

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