Special Edmund Moy signed label!
The MMIX Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle was inspired by the high relief experimental pieces struck in 1907. Mint Director Edmund Moy commented that he wanted the U.S. Mint to change the wrong done to Saint-Gaudens’ design in 1907. He wanted to make this beautiful design available to coin collectors in all its original glory. The design itself was first shown to President Theodore Roosevelt in December 1906. At the time, Roosevelt ordered the mint to produce experimental examples exactly following the artist’s models. Mint engraver Charles Barber took his job seriously, and although he and Saint-Gaudens despised one another personally, Barber had considerable respect for the sculptor’s artistic talent and reputation. To a remarkable extent, this was accomplished by Barber during the first week of January 1907, with considerable assistance from Henri Weil. The two not only prepared hubs for a normal 32-millimeter diameter Double Eagle, but another set for the 27-millimeter specimen – the size of the current $10 Gold Eagle.
Experimental pieces in both diameters were intended to determine how many blows it took to fully express Saint-Gaudens’ high relief design. Everyone, including Saint-Gaudens, knew that a coin with such high relief could not be struck with one blow from a normal press, but no one knew how many it would take. Barber hoped that the small-diameter pieces would allow more of the force from the press to concentrate and result in fully struck coins with fewer blows. During the second week of February, small-diameter pieces were struck, although we do not know how many blows it took. Each coin was 27 millimeters in diameter but contained the same Gold as a $20 coin. The result was a small, very thick coin with a decided “lump-like” feel. As was common, mint Director George Roberts took a couple of specimens of normal and small diameter experimental pieces back to Washington. He gave one pair to mint Auditor (and former Director) Robert Preston, and kept one pair for himself after showing the pieces to the president. About a year later, new mint Director Frank Leach learned about the EHR experimental small-diameter pieces from mint collection curator T. Louis Comparette. The curator, who had no expertise in experimental coinage or law, convinced Leach that the small-diameter $20 pieces were illegal. This information led Leach to demand the return and destruction of all fifteen pieces. The last one to be returned was reluctantly surrendered by Charles Barber! (Barber had eight EHR Double Eagles in his personal collection when he died.) With all 15 accounted for, Leach permitted two examples to be kept for the mint collection; the rest were melted.
When Moy requested Treasury Department permission to strike the modern Ultra High Reliefs in .999-fine Gold, he focused on the small-diameter piece. That piece was the one coin from the Saint-Gaudens and Roosevelt collaboration that had never been available to private collectors. Moy felt this would be a fitting conclusion to both the Saint-Gaudens designs, and to the modern reuse of coin designs from the “Renaissance of American Coinage” era. U.S. Mint management and the Philadelphia Mint engraving department used the research book, “Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1909,” as a historical guide to what was accomplished in 1907 and how some of the work was performed. The author had the honor and privilege of discussing some of these matters with Chief Engraver John Mercanti. Many numismatists were pleased to see the research used in such a positive and meaningful manner, and or it to have made some small contribution to the modern version of this beautiful coin.
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