Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Coin Design

The Saint Gaudens Double Eagle is widely considered to have one of the most beautiful designs in the history of American coinage. The design came about through the efforts of President Theodore Roosevelt and renowned sculptor and artist Augustus Saint Gaudens.

The obverse of the coin features a full figure of Liberty striding confidently forward. In one hand she holds a lit torch and in the other an olive branch. The Capitol dome can be seen in the far background and rays of sun fill the fields. There are 46 stars surrounding, representing the current number of states in the Union at the time. The word LIBERTY appears above. The date was first expressed in Roman Numerals to present a classical look, but this was later changed to Arabic Numerals. The designer’s monogram “ASG” appears beneath the date.

The reverse design features an eagle in flight. The sun appears below with its rays extending upwards into the fields. The inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS appear above. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST did not originally appear, but was latter added between the sun and its rays. In addition to the design modifications noted, the Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle would go through several variations related to the relief of the coin before mass production for general circulation would take place. The first coins produced were the 1907 Ultra High Relief Double Eagles. Technically patterns, only a handful of the coins were struck. New dies were subsequently prepared in a slightly lower relief, known as High Relief. Charles Barber, the Chief Engraver of the US Mint, continually argued that the high relief was impractical. His concerns were temporarily overruled at the insistence of the President and production of high relief coins began. After producing approximately 12,000 pieces with the efforts of extra workmen and running presses day and night, new dies with lower relief were substituted. This relief was more practical for commercial expediency, but of course lacked the beauty and artistry of the higher relief versions.