The 1907 Saint-Gaudens high relief double eagle is considered one of America’s most beautiful coins. The striking design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens prominently displays Lady Liberty pushing forth. In her right hand she holds a torch aloft (representing enlightenment) and in her other she grasps an olive branch (peace). With rays of sun and the U.S. Capitol behind her, she places her left foot on a mountainous rock and symbolizes Victory.
The reverse side of the coin also depicts rays of sun. These highlight an eagle flying high and free. The coin captures the values of the country and illustrates them brilliantly. Theodore Roosevelt deserves much of the credit for their creation. As 26th President, Roosevelt strove to enhance the artistic quality of America’s coinage. With the help of Saint-Gaudens, he achieved his goal and the Saint-Gaudens’ double eagles are greatly admired today for their fine detail.
The initial processes (for minting the now collectible gold coins), produced a few different relief types. During the first trials, some double eagles were struck with presses multiple times to achieve the excellent design desired. Those which were struck six to nine times are called Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles. The minting for theses coins was halted, and the relief was lowered, when the mint realized the large number of blows to the coin was not feasible for production. It is believed only around twenty of these first coins exist.
The next trial created High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles. Although this minting only required 3-5 blows to produce, the relief would need to be lowered once again. The process of issuing an abundance of coins demands a design which can be achieved with just one strike. And so after minting approximately twelve thousand High Reliefs, the minting was stopped, and the final design for one strike was eventually realized. Nonetheless, all share the original vision for the twenty dollar gold coin.
The beauty of the coin seems to have attracted more than just collectors, though. Although the rich detail and collectability of the double eagle would seem to have deterred the counterfeiting of these gold coins, it didn’t. It may have been just the challenge an extremely talented counterfeiter was looking for.
In the early 1970’s, suspicion arose after the sudden appearance of many 1907 high relief Saint-Gaudens gold coins began circulating. After close inspection of the coins, a mysterious mark was noticed. On some of the coins, the Greek letter of Omega was found hidden within the claw of the eagle. Amazingly, these cleverly crafted coins passed for authentic double eagles (upon initial glance). Only by the sly counterfeiter’s sign were they noticed to be forged. This Omega symbol was then later realized to have been placed on other gold coins, as well. It would seem the 1882 three dollar gold coins attracted the ‘Omega Man’s’ attention too. On this coin, within the R of the word Liberty, is the same Omega symbol.
The identity of the ‘Omega Man’ continues to remain unknown. However, his skill is not. This has created yet another type of collectible double eagles. Even though the coins are counterfeit, they have been so magnificently made, that they too display the beauty of the coin and are sought after by collectors.
No matter which Saint-Gaudens double eagle coin a person chooses to collect, what he will have is a treasure. Not only of value, but of images which illustrate the founding ideals of this country.
Travers, Scott, The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual, reviewed February 2013
1907 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle, reviewed February 2013