The obverse has a full-length figure of Liberty striding forward, an olive branch in her left hand, a torch in her right, and her left foot atop a rocky outcrop. Forty-six stars are arrayed along the edge, the U.S. Capitol building is at the lower left, and the Roman numeral date MCMVII is at the lower right. The designer’s initials are below the date. The sun’s rays are behind the other devices. An eagle in flight dominates the reverse. A rising sun is at the bottom with its rays streaking upward. Above the eagle are the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination TWENTY DOLLARS. The edge of the coin is inscribed in relief E PLURIBUS UNUM with the words being separated by 13 stars.
When President Theodore Roosevelt took office, one of his goals was to have our nation’s coinage reflect the strength and vitality of America. Roosevelt referred to this undertaking as his “pet crime”. He was so appalled by our coinage he termed them “atrociously hideous”. Aware that Mint engravers were not up to the creative challenge, Roosevelt persuaded his friend and renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to fashion new designs, starting with the eagle and double eagle. Saint-Gaudens’ double eagle creation is considered to be the zenith of American coin design. His stunning high-relief double eagle had the tremendous relief Roosevelt so admired on ancient Greek and Roman coinage. Unfortunately, the design proved impractical, and the relief had to be lowered. Two major problems led to the demise of this beauty. Firstly, the relief was so great it took multiple strikes from the coin press to bring up the design. Mass production of coins requires speed, which is certainly lost if the coin must be struck more than once. Secondly, in this era banks and businesses counted their money by making stacks of coins. The relief was such that the coins would not stack properly. Expediency trumped art, and after a mintage of just over 12,000 coins, minting of High-Relief Double Eagles came to a halt.
These works of art are always in demand. Virtually every coin collector, regardless of specialty, wants a High-Relief in his or her collection. There is simply never a lack of eager buyers for America’s most beautiful coin.
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