Rejected, couldn’t stack —Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin

Today, the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin remembers Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

On June 2, 1892 Saint-Gaudens became a life member of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society.

Years later in January 1908, the Proceedings of the American Numismatic Society for their Fiftieth Annual Meeting included a presentation of sample high-relief eagles to the American Numismatic Society.

The US Mint struck these sample coins from the test models developed by their late member, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.


Mr. George F. Kunz then addressed the Society as follows:

The members of The American Numismatic Society are all probably aware that, when the dies of the designs by our late member, Augustus Saint Gaudens, were prepared for the Eagle and the Double Eagle, and the models were submitted to the Director of the United States Mint, the Mint authorities found it impracticable to strike these coins in the relief in which they had been modeled by the sculptor, as they had no edges and did not stack.

However, dies were made from the models, and the latter were then returned to the sculptor, who executed a new model. A die was made from this second model, but it also was returned, and the gold eagle in circulation is from a third die.

The Director of the United States Mint caused two Eagles to be struck from each of the first two dies, on the condition that they should go to some Numismatic Society.

You are probably aware that the first Eagle was also in high relief.

I take great pleasure in showing these coins this evening, and this pleasure is greatly enhanced by my ability to inform you that, through the continued courtesy of our esteemed fellow member and Vice-President, Mr. J. Sanford Saltus, these coins are presented to the cabinet of The American Numismatic Society, and will remain in its custody except for the brief time during which they will be placed on view at the Augustus Saint Gaudens Exhibition, to be held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art from March 2 to April 2.

As I have remarked, the authorities of the Mint stated that the first Eagle and Double Eagle were of too high relief; they also lacked a proper stacking edge; that is, they could not be stacked with the ease that is necessary when large numbers of coins are to be handled in banking.

In addition to this, with our present system of minting, the cost of coining an Eagle is very great, and it is absolutely required that the coins shall not vary in weight, although they are cut from plates of metal rapidly rolled out The Eagle must always weigh 258 grains, 900 fine, and the allowance for waste is only one-thousandth, equaling one cent on each piece.

The actual waste in the coinage of the Philadelphia Mint during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1905, was only 6.97 per cent of this allowance. Hence we find there are difficulties in executing artistic coins in high relief, such as the ancient Greek had abundance of time to produce and ample time to admire.

It was moved and carried that the thanks of the Society be tendered to Mr. Saltus for his generous gift.


The Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin shows against a view of the historical site, circa 1930, of the Little Studio used by Saint-Gaudens in New Hampshire.

Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin