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Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Steven Cochran
By Steven Cochran
Published August 23, 2019

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle was an American $20 gold coin produced between 1907 and 1933. Touted by many people as the most beautiful American coin ever made, the Saint-Gaudens coins were the last double eagles minted before the United States permanently removed gold coinage from circulation in 1933.

Saint Gaudens 20 gold

The initial high relief version of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle proved impossible to mint in large numbers with the technology of the time. These first Ultra High Relief trial pieces (called "patterns") are some of the most sought-after U.S. coins in history. The finest 1907 Ultra High Relief examples can sell for more than $2 million when they come to auction.

The first low relief "circulation strike" Saint-Gaudens double eagles were hoarded by the thousands when they were first released in 1907. Strong numismatic and investor interest since the coin's introduction over a century ago has not abated. High quality, uncommon date Saint-Gaudens double eagles continue to command prices far above that of other numismatic gold coins.

This doesn't mean that a Saint-Gaudens double eagle gold coin is out of your reach. A "Gem Uncirculated" business strike Saint-Gaudens double eagle can be had for around $2,000. Circulated versions are available for a modest premium over spot price.

The public's continued fascination with the Saint-Gaudens double eagle prompted the U.S. government to revive the design in 1986 for the American Gold Eagle, the first one troy ounce gold bullion coin issued by the United States.

The Origin of the $20 Double Eagle Coin

The invention of the $20 double eagle gold coin was a direct result of the 1849 California Gold Rush. In order to more efficiently process the unprecedented amount of gold coming from California, the American government authorized a new gold coin that was twice the weight of the largest gold coin at that time, the $10 gold eagle. This new "double eagle" allowed the U.S. Mint to convert twice as much gold into legal tender coins with one strike of a coin press.

The double eagle did not see heavy use in daily commerce. It was used instead as payment for large transactions such as real estate deals and imports from Europe. Double eagles were also used to back paper gold certificates from 1865 to 1933. These certificates could be presented for redemption in gold coins upon demand. After the removal of gold coins and gold certificates from circulation in the U.S. in 1933, gold was only used for transactions between the U.S. and foreign governments, until the right of private ownership of gold was restored in 1974.

The Liberty Head Double Eagle

The first $20 double eagle gold coin was the Liberty Head design by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver James Longacre. The Liberty Head double eagle was minted from 1850 through 1907. The Type 2 Liberty Head double eagle was created in 1866 by adding the motto "In God We Trust" inside the oval of 13 stars above the eagle's head. The last version of the gold Liberty Head double eagle coin was the Type 3, introduced in 1877. This coin changed the way the denomination was expressed on the reverse (back) of the coin. "Twenty D." was replaced by "Twenty Dollars."

liberty-double-eagle

Liberty Double Eagle

Nearly 4.5 million Liberty Head double eagles were minted in 1907 to meet demand while the U.S. Mint struggled to adapt the Saint-Gaudens double eagle design to work on high-speed presses. 1907 Liberty Head double eagles were struck at all three U.S. Mints -- Philadelphia (no mint mark), San Francisco (S mint mark), and Denver (D mint mark).


Liberty Head Double Eagle Types
1. No Motto - "Twenty D." (1850–1866)
2. With Motto - "Twenty D." (1866–1876)
3. With Motto - "Twenty Dollars" (1877–1907)


The Evolution of Saint-Gaudens's Double Eagle Design

One of the few coins to be known by the name of its creator, the $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle was designed by America's leading Beaux Arts sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. At the urging of President Theodore Roosevelt, Saint-Gaudens agreed to redesign the features of every U.S. coin. This plan was cut short by the sculptor's death from cancer in 1907. Only the double eagle and $10 gold eagle coin designs had been completed.

The development of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle was marred by mixed communication between the artist and the U.S. Mint, as well as the hostility of the mint's Chief Engraver, Charles Barber. Saint-Gaudens's designs of a new $20 double eagle and $10 gold eagle were the first collaboration between the U.S. Mint and an outside artist since the mint's inception in 1792.

Barber considered Theodore Roosevelt's decision to hire Saint-Gaudens in particular to design the new coins as a personal affront. Saint-Gaudens had been a vocal critic of Barber's talents for some time. That this opinion was a common one did not lessen the sting to the Chief Engraver's ego. Barber's sense of persecution was heightened by the president's declaration that the current American coins were an "atrocious hideousness," since most of them were his designs. This led Barber to obstruct the project at every opportunity while condemning Saint-Gaudens as incapable of designing coins.

Saint-Gaudens's First Double Eagle Designs

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle coin design went through several changes before the first models were sent to the U.S. Mint. Saint-Gaudens's first version, a full-figure winged Liberty facing the viewer, was designed in November 1905. Crowned with a Phrygian cap, the figure strode toward the viewer with open wings, her gown billowing in the breeze. She held aloft an oval American shield in her left hand, and a flaming torch in her right. Saint-Gaudens described the design to President Theodore Roosevelt in a November 11, 1905 letter, saying "My idea is to make it a living thing and typical of progress."

The second iteration of the design exchanged the shield for a laurel branch, but retained the wings. The Phrygian cap Liberty wore in the initial sketches gave way to an Indian headdress, at Roosevelt's suggestion. However, the front view of the headdress was too small to be recognizable, and was soon omitted. Removing the wings was the final major change that Saint-Gaudens made to his design. This opened up the field of the coin, and put more focus on the figure of Liberty herself.

Finalizing the Design of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

The figure of Liberty was finished at this point, other than a reworking of the folds of her gown. All that remained was the arrangement of the inscriptions that must appear on every U.S. coin.

Saint-Gaudens decided to design his double eagle with as much free space as possible, now that he had removed the wings from Liberty. The deletion of the Indian headdress allowed more room for the word LIBERTY across the top of the coin. He used 46 six-pointed stars, one for each state in the U.S., to make a decorative rim on the obverse. This arch of stars reached from the ground in the lower left of the scene, over Liberty, to the rock on the bottom right.

The reverse of the coin was dominated by an eagle flying before a rising sun. The sun took up the bottom of the coin, and the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS took up the space above the eagle. To avoid further crowding the design, Saint-Gaudens replaced the vertical grooves (reeding) on the edge of the coin with the required national motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and the 13 stars representing the original thirteen colonies of the United States.

Two final design decisions were not Saint-Gaudens's to make: First, he wished to express the date on the new gold double eagle in Roman numerals, in keeping with the classic look of the coin. He wrote Roosevelt in early 1906 asking if this was possible. The president replied that there was no law forbidding it. If Saint-Gaudens thought his coin looked better with Roman numerals, he was free to use them.


REQUIRED INSCRIPTIONS ON U.S. GOLD COINS IN 1907

Obverse (front):

  • LIBERTY

  • mint date

  • an image "emblematic of liberty"

Reverse (back):

  • denomination

  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

  • an image of an eagle

Either side, or edge:

  • E PLURIBUS UNUM

  • 13 stars for the original colonies

  • 46 stars, one for each state

NOT LEGALLY REQUIRED: The motto "IN GOD WE TRUST"


In God We Trust

The final design consideration for the Saint-Gaudens double eagle was whether to include the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Common thought was that the inclusion of this phrase was mandatory on U.S. coins large enough to display it. However, this mandate was changed in a little-observed clause in the Coinage Act of 1873, the same law that abolished the silver dollar.

Consistent with his desire to leave the field of the coin uncluttered, Saint-Gaudens wrote to Roosevelt for guidance. Roosevelt replied that he considered putting the Lord's name on money "akin to sacrilege." Saint-Gaudens was free to leave the phrase out of his design.

teddy roosevelt silver medal

Teddy Roosevelt silver medal

When the Saint-Gaudens $10 and $20 coins were released in late 1907, the public outrage was immediate. Roosevelt unsuccessfully defended his decision to the public, and Congress quickly moved to make “In God We Trust” mandatory on all gold and silver coins in early 1908.

The Struggles Of Turning The Saint-Gaudens Design Into a Coin

Augustus Saint-Gaudens fully expected the hostility that Charles Barber would display towards his ground-breaking high relief coin design, but he was wholly unprepared for the technical shortcomings of the mint.

An award-winning medallist, Saint-Gaudens was familiar with the production capabilities of private American medallist firms such as Tiffany or Gorham. He had also spent much of his artistic career in Paris, where for years he took for granted the talents of the many small engravers that turned sculptors' models into dies ready for striking (something he mentions to Roosevelt when discussing Barber's inability to execute his design). On the practical side, the abilities of the French Mint were on constant display during his stays in Paris, in the form of the coins in his pocket. Therefore, he expected no serious problems with the U.S. Mint striking his new double eagle design.

The Decision To Make The Saint-Gaudens The First High Relief Coin

From the start, Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens knew that mass-producing high relief coins resembling those of the ancient Greeks was impossible. Even with this caveat, the decision to make the Augustus Saint-Gaudens double eagle America's first high relief coin was the genesis of the famous struggles between the sculptor and the U.S. Mint.

Augustus Saint Gaudens

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

It was Roosevelt who first proposed making the new gold double eagle in high relief. He wrote Saint-Gaudens asking his opinion:

November 6, 1905

...I was looking at some gold coins of Alexander the Great today, and I was struck by their high relief. Would it not be well to have our coins in high relief, and also to have the rims raised? The point of having the rims raised would be, of course, to protect the figure on the coin, and if we have the figures in high relief, like the figures on the old Greek coins, they will surely last longer. What do you think of this?

Saint-Gaudens replied to the president on November 22, saying:

...I think that something between the high relief of the Greek coins and the extreme low relief of the modern work is possible, and as you suggest, I will make a model with that in view.

The mint's outdated equipment proved incapable of striking coins at the pressure necessary to bring out the details of the new high relief double eagle design. The problems with obtaining a full strike of the coin were compounded by Charles Barber, the Chief Engraver of the Mint. Barber lacked the die cutting skills possessed by the technically proficient engravers that Saint-Gaudens was accustomed to working with in New York and Paris.

On Barber's part, he had a vested interest in the failure of the coin. If the Saint-Gaudens double eagle was a success, it was likely that Barber would be excluded from the redesign of other coins. (He was correct.) Barber took every opportunity to emphasize Saint-Gaudens's ignorance of the design constraints necessary when creating a circulating coin. His stated purpose in striking the ultra high relief and high relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle designs was to prove that the coin couldn't be minted on a regular coin press.

Saint-Gaudens knew that his initial ultra high relief model could not be struck on a coining press. The purpose of sending this first model to the mint was to ascertain what their presses were capable of, and how many strikes it took to get certain features to transfer to the coin blank. He would then modify the design, and ask for another set of strikes.

This was customary practice when designing a medal or medallion. This was not how coins were made. It was necessary to keep the relief on coin designs as low as possible, in order to extend the life of the dies. Charles Barber had no known artistic training before being hired as a coin engraver by his father William, who was Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint at the time. Therefore, his entire career was focused on keeping designs as shallow as possible to avoid unnecessary work and expense.

Striking the First (Ultra High Relief) Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

With the two sides addressing the problem from completely opposite directions, the first trial strikes of Saint-Gaudens's ultra high relief coin dies commenced on February 7, 1907. Saint-Gaudens's assistant, the sculptor Henry Hering, was present to observe the results. Saint-Gaudens's cancer had advanced to where he could not stand or walk. As a result, he had entrusted the actual modeling work for the double eagle design to Hering.

Hering had been upfront with Barber that this first model was experimental. The goal was to assess how the design could be modified without losing details. Hering recalled, "..a circular disc of gold was placed in the die and by hydraulic pressure of 172 tons, I think it was, we had our first stamping and the impression showed little more than half the modeling. I had them make a cast of this for my guidance. The coin was again placed on the die for another strike and again it showed a little more of the modeling, and so it went on, until on the ninth strike, when the coin showed up in every detail."

This was not a matter of pressing a button nine times to get nine strikes. The coin blank had to be removed from the medal press after each strike and reheated glowing hot. It was then quenched in a solution of weak nitric acid before being reinserted in the press and struck again.

The first four Saint-Gaudens double eagles were struck between February 7 and 14, 1907. As this was an experimental design, Barber used the "collar" (edge die) from his 1906 pattern double eagle instead of making a custom one. It is interesting to note that Barber had come to the same design conclusion as Saint-Gaudens, but a year earlier -- Barber had also moved the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM to the edge in his 1906 experimental piece.

The procedure for striking a medal that required multiple blows was to use a plain collar until the last strike, when the lettered (or decorative) collar was used. The extremely high pressure with which these first-ever Saint-Gaudens double eagles were struck led to the reverse die cracking before the fourth coin could be struck the final time. That left this unique coin with a plain edge instead of a lettered edge.

The Second Minting of the Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Barber continued to experiment with the original Ultra High Relief design. After engraving a new reverse die to replace the cracked original, he had several Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles struck on the mint's medal presses between March and July of 1907. Sources vary, but there is believed to have been between 3 and 18 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles struck during this period, including two that were destroyed during testing of the results.

Unlike the original Ultra High Relief coins struck in February, these coins had a new collar. The sans-serif edge lettering had been replaced with a new serif font, and the thirteen stars were now arranged between the words, then in a long line to fill up the rest of the edge:

⁎E⁎PLURIBUS⁎UNUM⁎⁎⁎⁎⁎⁎⁎⁎⁎⁎

as compared to ⁎E⁎P⁎L⁎U⁎R⁎I⁎B⁎U⁎S⁎U⁎N⁎U⁎M in san serif.

The Last Three Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

While the mint was working around the clock in December to make enough High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles for public release (see below), the new Director of the Mint Leach asked Barber to make three last 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagles: one for himself, one for the new Secretary of the Treasury George Cortelyou, and one for the widow of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Federal law mandated that all coin dies be destroyed immediately after the new year, so time was short. Barber requisitioned one of the medal presses and its crew, and struck the three 1907 Saint-Gaudens Ultra High Relief double eagles on December 31st.

Affairs became more complicated when Roosevelt asked if there were any Ultra High Relief coins left, as he desired another one. Leach presented the president with the one earmarked for Mrs. Saint-Gaudens. It was supposed to be a secret that one last Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle had been struck for her, but word about the coin had reached her. The widow Saint-Gaudens was understandably upset that she would not be getting one of the coins that her husband had poured the last energies of his life into.

When Roosevelt got wind of the controversy, he commanded Leach to have Barber make new 1907 Ultra High Relief dies just to make one double eagle for the Saint-Gaudens family. Leach was able to forestall this drastic and possibly illegal measure by offering to send Mrs. Saint-Gaudens one of the two Ultra High Relief double eagles from the Mint Coin Cabinet (later known as the National Numismatic Collection).

The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Enters Production

After the experiments with the Ultra High Relief design, it would still be the end of the year before the public would see a Saint-Gaudens double eagle. Since the dozen or so surviving Ultra High Relief coins that are not in museums command many millions of dollars, the Type 1 High Relief Saint-Gaudens are the closest one can get to holding the gold coin that the famous sculptor envisioned.

1921 saint gaudens double eagle

1921 Saint-Gaudens double eagle

The High Relief Augustus Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

The High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle was the first version of the legendary coin to be released into circulation. As the first circulation design, the High Relief Saint-Gaudens is labeled Type 1. The previous Ultra High Relief coins are not considered Type 1, as they were experimental patterns, and unavailable to the public.

These high relief double eagles were struck from a second set of models that Saint-Gaudens sent to the mint in March 1907. The height of the features on this high relief model was not as extreme as the original ultra high relief design. Saint-Gaudens and Henry Hering both expected this version to work on a coin press, but this was not the case. It still took three strikes on a medal press to fully bring out the details of the coin. Later investigation by historians point to the likelihood that Saint-Gaudens had underestimated how weak the mint's coin presses were when compared to its medal presses.

Charles Barber had initially rejected these high relief models out of hand, but was forced by his new boss, Mint Director Frank A. Leach, to reverse this stance. Leach had been Superintendent of the San Francisco Mint during the 1906 earthquake, and his role in saving the mint there had led Roosevelt to name him to replace George Roberts as Director of the Mint. He had been summoned to the White House by an irate Roosevelt as soon as he arrived in Washington, where he received "some details of action of a drastic character for my guidance, which he was positive were necessary to be adopted before success could be had" with the Saint-Gaudens design. Many assume this suggestion was to fire Charles Barber. To mollify Roosevelt, the director agreed to have enough Saint-Gaudens double eagles struck for nationwide distribution in thirty days.

Leach forced Barber to cut dies from the models he had rejected. The Philadelphia Mint began production of the high relief coins using every medal press it possessed. By working extra shifts, 12,367 High Relief Saint Gaudens double eagles had been delivered to the U.S. Treasury by the 30-day deadline.

The need to strike each coin three times on medal presses exposed a defect in some of the lettered collars. The extreme pressure with which the hot coins were struck forced the collar apart just enough for some of the gold to squeeze into the gap. This led to a sharp, tiny ridge along the rim on both sides of the coin. Known as "Wire Rim High Relief" Saint-Gaudens double eagles, they instantly commanded premiums from excited collectors.

Barber corrected the "wire rim" defect late in the production run. The coins that resulted from Barber's modifications are known as Flat Rim High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles It is unknown how many Wire Rim versus Flat Rim High Relief double eagles were minted. The great majority of surviving High Relief samples are Wire Rim.

Few 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles saw circulation. They were snapped up as soon as they arrived at banks, both by collectors and speculators. Much to the chagrin of Roosevelt and mint officials alike, within days the new $20 coins were being hocked in the secondary market for $35 or more.


The Stacking Myth

It has long been believed that the comments from U.S. Mint officials that the High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles "would not stack" meant that the features protruded above the rim. This made little sense, as Saint-Gaudens was one of the best medallists in the world, and would not have made such an obvious mistake.

Archival research has revealed that the "stacking problem" had to do with the rims being raised enough on the High Relief coins that they would not wobble when stacked together. These raised rims cause the real "stacking problem": a stack of 20 High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles was as high as 21 Liberty Head double eagles. Since large businesses and banks stacked coins to count them quickly, it was impossible to release the Saint-Gaudens double eagles in large numbers until the height of the rims (and features) had been lowered.


The First Low Relief (Arabic Numerals) Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

Augustus Saint-Gaudens died from complications from cancer on August 3, 1907. Henry Hering, who had done the physical modeling of the eagle and double eagle designs, continued the struggle against Charles Barber and the inadequate presses at the U.S. Mint. Hering delivered a third set of double eagle models to Barber in late September, just prior to Frank Leach's arrival in Washington D.C. to take the Mint Director job.

As usual, Barber rejected the models without attempting to use them. With Saint-Gaudens dead and Roosevelt's attention taken by the worldwide Panic of 1907, Barber felt safe to ignore Hering and make his "own version" of the Saint-Gaudens design. The results were a coin that had lost most of its details, appearing weak even when fully struck. The most noticeable difference was the change from Roman numerals to Arabic numbers for the date on the coin. The MCMVII, while it may have been artistic, did nothing but confuse the public.

Barber's low relief dies were ready in December 1907. For the first time, the Saint-Gaudens double eagle was struck on high-speed coin presses, though the image bore a weak resemblance to the sculptor's original vision. 361,667 of the 1907 Type 2 "No Motto" Saint-Gaudens double eagles were struck in the last weeks of the year. Less commonly known as the Arabic Numerals No Motto version, this design would be replaced in 1908 with the Type 3 "With Motto" version.

Common practice in the numismatic community is to call the 1907 low relief coins "Saints." Many of these were saved, being the first widespread issue of the iconic coin. However, they did actually enter circulation to some extent. The previous High Relief Saint Gaudens double eagles had all quickly vanished into coin collections or held as historic mementos.


The 1908 No Motto "Wells Fargo" Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Hoard
The 1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagle was infamous for poor eye appeal. This changed in the 1990s, when 9,900 beautiful Mint State 1908 No Mottos were found in a Nevada bank vault. Famous as the "Wells Fargo Discovery,” bags containing thousands of pristine 1908 No Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagles had remained untouched since 1917.


The Type 3 "With Motto" Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Congress passed a law in May 1908 restoring the motto "In God We Trust" to all gold and silver U.S. coins. The new Saint-Gaudens double eagle coin hubs bearing the motto were a marked improvement over Barber's earlier attempt. The Type 3 "With Motto" double eagles would be the last major change to Saint-Gaudens's design. Two stars were added to the 46 on the obverse of the coin in 1912, mark the addition of New Mexico and Arizona as states. (The Saint-Gaudens double eagle, and all U.S. gold coins, were removed from circulation and melted long before Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states in 1959.)


Types of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

PATTERN = All Ultra High Relief coins, MCMVII No Motto (1907)
Mintage (1907): ~20

TYPE 1 = High Relief, MCMVII No Motto (1907)
Mintage (1907): 11,250

TYPE 2 = Low Relief Arabic Numerals No Motto (1907-1908)
Mintage (1907 "Saint"): 361,667
(1908): 4,271,551
(1908-D): 663,750

TYPE 3 = With Motto (1908–1933)


The Famous 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

The most famous coin of the series is the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle. None of these coins were supposed to have been released to the public before the 1933 order by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to pull all gold coins from circulation. However, several of them made it into the hands of prominent coin dealers and collectors under unknown circumstances. This had gone unnoticed by the government, until a newspaper reporter contacted the Treasury Department for background information ahead of an auction containing a 1933 double eagle. Until this time, the coins had been traded freely and openly.

1933 saint

The Secret Service began tracking down and confiscating every 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle it heard about. Several prominent collectors voluntarily surrendered the ones in their possession, despite the large financial loss in doing so. (The government only reimbursed the patriotic coin collectors the $20 face value of the rare coins.)

The King Farouk Double Eagle

The U.S. government has successfully impounded every 1933 double eagle that has appeared in public, except for the coin from King Farouk of Egypt's collection. This was the only 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle that the government knew about. Farouk had been visiting the U.S. in 1944, and his officials asked the State Department for an export license to take the newly-purchased 1933 double eagle back to Egypt. The State Department, of course, knew nothing about coin and issued the license.

When the government first learned that there were 1933 double eagles "in the wild," they asked Farouk to surrender the coin. As he was a king, he decided not to. Egypt was an important player in WWII and the immediate post-war geopolitical scene, and the U.S. government declined to press the matter. When Farouk was deposed in a military coup, his extravagant possessions, including his world-class coin collection, was put up for auction. The 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle appeared in a 1954 London auction catalog. When the government demanded that the coin be surrendered, it disappeared.

It was next seen in 1996, when British coin dealer Stephen Fenton attempted to sell the coin to an American buyer. The supposed buyer was a federal agent. Fenton was arrested, and the coin seized. After a 2001 court settlement between the U.S. government and Fenton, the Farouk double eagle became the only 1933 double eagle that is legal to own. It was sold at a special Sotheby's auction in 2002, where it broke the world record price for a coin, at $7.59 million, including buyer's premium. In accordance to the legal settlement, proceeds were split, with half going to the U.S. government, and half to the owner of the coin.

The Langbord 1933 Double Eagle Hoard

Aside from vague whispers of 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles trading surreptitiously between extremely wealthy collectors, all 1933 double eagles were thought to be accounted for.

However, in 2003, Joan and Roy Langbord, heirs of famous Philadelphia coin dealer Israel Switt, came forward with ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles. This was the year after the Farouk/Fenton case, and the Langbords were hoping to get the same 50/50 split of auction proceeds. Instead, they found themselves caught up in a 14-year battle with the government over the coins. When they submitted the coins to the U.S. Mint, asking if they could be authenticated, the mint replied that they were genuine, but were also stolen property. The government seized the ten double eagles and offered no compensation to the Langbords.

The government asserted that Switt had obtained the coins illegally with the help of a cashier at the Philadelphia Mint. The Langbords countered that Switt regularly went to the mint each year to exchange previous-date coins for new ones. They maintain that the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles found in one of Switt's safe deposit boxes in 2003 were purchased by him before Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 6102 that forced citizens to give up their gold.

The Langbords lost their lawsuit against the government in 2011, and appealed. The three-judge appeals panel ruled in favor of the Langbords, but the government appealed the verdict. The full court reversed the previous ruling, siding with the government. The Langbords appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who declined to hear the case.

The Timeless Beauty of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Gold Eagle Coin

American Gold Eagle Coin

Perhaps one of the greatest measures of the importance and appeal of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle is the fact that the U.S. government could find no more fitting design for America's official gold bullion coin than the Saint-Gaudens double eagle. Since 1986, the American Gold Eagle has been available in business strike and proof versions, from sizes ranging from 1 troy ounce to 1/10th troy ounce.

Whether you are looking for a flawless modern interpretation or an original Saint-Gaudens double eagle, you can find it at Gainesville Coins.

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Steven Cochran

Steven Cochran

Precious Metals Market Analyst | BS University of South Florida (2002)

A published writer, Steven's coverage of precious metals goes beyond the daily news to explain how ancillary factors affect the market.

Steven specializes in market analysis with an emphasis on stocks, corporate bonds, and government debt.