1907 Ultra-High Relief Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Theodore Roosevelt was a U.S. president whose ardent pursuit of excellence encompassed the nation’s coinage.

He personally selected Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the most famous American sculptor at the turn of the 20th century, to create a series of U.S. coin designs based on their mutual admiration of the high-relief coinage of ancient Greece.

The first coin slated for redesign was the Double Eagle, or $20 gold piece. Prior to the start of regular production in 1907, the Mint made about two dozen breathtaking proof specimens with extremely high—or “ultra-high” relief, acting under direct orders from President Roosevelt. The edges are roughly twice as thick as those on the standard specimens eventually produced for circulation, and the fields are unusually concave, connecting directly with the edges without a border. The coins possess astonishing detail—the consequence of receiving nine blows apiece from the dies at a pressure of 172 tons. The late Walter Breen, a renowned numismatic scholar, observed that “only these faithfully represent Saint-Gaudens’ conception, cherished as the stunning climax of American coin design.”

The pictured coin, from the National Numismatic Collection, was the personal coin of President Theodore Roosevelt.