On July 3, 1898, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, the now-famous “Rough Riders,” helped lead an American assault on San Juan Hill in one of the decisive battles of the Spanish-American War. Just seven years later, Roosevelt, now president of the United States, would lead an assault on our coinage that would culminate in several of the most beautiful coinage designs ever conceived, the most important – and perhaps most beautiful -- among them the MCMVII High Relief double eagle conceived and designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Roosevelt, a rough-and-tumble man of the world, a sportsman, and an activist who championed America from his “bully pulpit,” was not a great fan of the circulating coinage in America. In 1905 his interest in redesigning the entire spectrum of our coinage was sparked by an exhibition of ancient Greek coins. Roosevelt was completely taken with the beauty and craftsmanship of the Greek coins on display and decided that he would take up the cause for new coinage designs right here in America.
Enter Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens (the most famous and important sculptor of his time) had met casually once or twice before, but now their friendship would grow as these two giants of their time began the journey to redesign our coinage, a journey that would pit the two against Charles Barber and his Mint staff as well as bankers. The arduous journey, told numerous times in our own catalogs and stories, culminated in 1907 when the Saint-Gaudens High Relief double eagle made its public debut, sadly, after the passing of Saint-Gaudens in August of the year.
The beautiful MCMVII High Relief double eagle design -- many feel it is the single most beautiful of all regular-issue American coinage designs -- is an icon of American coinage. On the obverse, a bold and confident Liberty strides forward in the bright rays of the rising sun, an olive branch in her left hand and a torch in her right hand. The Capitol Building appears as if in the distance near the lower rim, while LIBERTY is boldly proclaimed at the upper rim and a halo of 46 stars surrounds the design (in 1912 and later, there are 48 small stars around, as two states were added to Old Glory in that year). The reverse features a majestic eagle flying left amidst a glory of rays with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS on two lines above the eagle. Interestingly enough, Saint-Gaudens considered Longacre’s Flying Eagle cent design of 1856 to 1858 to be the most beautiful of all American coinage designs prior to 1907.
The MCMVII High Relief double eagle in our upcoming New Orleans ANA Auction Sale in May of this year is graded MS-67 by PCGS and is in an “OGH” (Old Green Holder) with the addition of a CAC sticker. Its surfaces are satiny gold with rich orange-gold highlights and a strike that is superb. In short, this impressive Gem example of the issue is about as nice as you are apt to find for the grade. Great double eagle collections or gold type sets are judged by the inclusion -- or more often, the absence -- of the famous and desirable MCMVII High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle issue. If you mean to own an impressive and nearly flawless example of this important double eagle landmark, we hope you will bid on the beautiful Gem we offer with pride in May 2013 in historic New Orleans.