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While Charles Barber may have been the source for the 1909 and 1910 matte proofs that are known today, there are other suspects as well. The widow of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Augusta, could have been the recipient of experimental coins. Another possible source is Henry Hering, Saint-Gaudens' assistant, and representative of the sculptor's interests during his life and after his death in August 1907. It is also not out of the realm of possibilities that they could have come from Saint-Gaudens' son, Homer. However, it seems most likely to us that the person who had the greatest influence (aside from the president) with mint officials was William Woodin.
Woodin had varied interests and was well connected in government circles. He is primarily known as a pattern collector and co-author with Edgar Adams of United States Pattern, Trial and Experimental Pieces in 1913. Woodin also purchased two unique $50 gold patterns of 1877 from the mysterious collection of William Idler for a reported $10,000. These pieces had allegedly been melted years before. He transferred these two patterns to the Mint Collection in exchange for several crates of duplicate patterns from the mint. In later years, after he wrote a musical composition entitled the 'Franklin D. Roosevelt March,' he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury and served a brief but memorable term. He was Secretary during the bank holiday when Roosevelt closed the banks and ended production of gold coins for circulation. (Much of the preceding information on Woodin was taken from Pete Smith's indispensable American Numismatic Biographies).
Even if William Woodin was not the source for the matte proof gold pieces from 1910, he certainly was influential in their striking. In a letter from Woodin to Assistant Treasury Secretary A. Piatt Andrew dated August 25, 1910, Woodin wrote:
'I certainly understand your position in regard to proof coin matters, but it seems to me that the difference between the dull proofs and the proofs that are now issued is so great and so obviously in favor of the dull proof coins, that I should think the Mint Dept. would be justified in making them, as certainly the most artistic results are desired for coins of this class that go into the hands of collectors.'
The Garrett-Guth Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins states that the 1910 matte proof quarter eagle 'is part of the unique 1910 matte Proof gold set. The set was discovered by the author, Jeff Garrett, several years ago at a North Carolina convention.'
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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