INVEST / COINS / $20 Gold Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Coins

$20 Gold Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Coins

Intended to be a work of art when minted in 1907, this beauty featuring Lady Liberty now sells for $US2000.

Are $20 Gold Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins a good investment?

Learn more about the value and history of this rare and beautiful historic coin.

The Story
A Work of Art Worth Its Weight

When it was first minted in 1907, this coin didn’t just say it was worth $US20, it was actually worth $US20. Today it takes nearly $US2,000 to buy one of these coins. That is an object lesson in how far the mighty dollar has fallen. 

But far from being just a monetary instrument or a truth-teller about value, the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coin was intended to be a work of art. In that goal, it succeeded wildly. Many collectors believe its sculptor created one of the most beautiful coins ever minted.

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The History
A Product of the 1985 Liberty Act

“Double Eagle” is a confusing name for a coin that has only one eagle on it. You have to know the whole story for it to make sense. 

Shortly after the nation’s founding, Congress authorized gold coins in three values: $10, $5, and $2.50. They all featured eagles on their reverse sides, but only the $10 coin took the name “eagle.” The $5 coin was therefore called a half eagle and the $2.50 coin, a quarter eagle.

When President Theodore Roosevelt saw a display of historical coins in a display at the Smithsonian Institute, he determined to create a worthy equal in a U.S. coin. He commissioned famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to come up with a design for the coin, which resulted in the famed Lady of Liberty on the coin’s obverse (front) side and the beautiful eagle in flight on the reverse side.

The Saint-Gaudens coin was issued with a value of $20, which, by the logic of existing coins, made it a double eagle. 

Saint-Gaudens’ original design had such high relief that the coins would not stack properly and abraded quickly on the sculpture’s high points. A low relief version was therefore used, which retains much of the design’s beauty but also aids in the coin’s usability and durability.

The Design
Art as Money—Not a New Concept, Just a New Level

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty in flowing robes steps up onto a rock outcropping, holding aloft the torch of freedom and the olive branch of peace. The Capitol building can be seen in the lower left background. The date to the right of Lady Liberty was initially in Roman numerals, but later the same year of introduction was changed to Arabic numerals. The word “LIBERTY” is written in an arc at the top.

Eagle in Flight

The reverse of the coin features a beautiful stylized eagle in flight—another Saint-Gaudens design. The words, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and, below that, “TWENTY DOLLARS” are written in an arc at the top, while “IN GOD WE TRUST” is written in a smaller arc above the earth at the bottom of the coin.

Design Updates
Practicality, Faith, and Updated Numbers

As mentioned above, the date was changed from Roman numerals to Arabic numerals in 1907, the year the coin was first minted. 

The words, “IN GOD WE TRUST” were added in 1908.

The original high-relief design was scrapped in 1907, with only 12,367 coins minted. A low-relief design replaced it, and has remained in place since (including on modern American Eagle coins).

Two stars were added to the circle of stars around the rim of the obverse side when Arizona and New Mexico were added to the Union in 1912. That brought the total from 46 to 48 stars.

As An Investment
Historical Art on a Precious Canvas

From the start, Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins were intended to be extraordinary. President Roosevelt commissioned the best sculptor living at the time, and this project was one of Saint-Gaudens’ last. Public acclaim has certified the success of that goal, as has the decision to reuse Saint-Gaudens’ design on the modern American Eagle coins. 

In consequence, when you buy a Saint-Gaudens Double-Eagle gold coin, you not only buy a very winsome piece of American history, you buy an object of art with few equals. It’s a sculpture by the master, struck in one of the most valuable substances known to man. If that appeals to you … well, that’s a good thing. You’re certainly not alone.

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