Bringing Aesthetic Beauty to Coinage

Augustus Saint Gaudens was an American sculptor tasked with redesigning American coinage in the early 20th century. He was specifically chosen for the role by President Theodore Roosevelt, after he had executed an inaugural medal for the presidency. Although the sculptor could not complete the full scope of his work due to his untimely passing, the designs he created were highly praised and began a renaissance in American coinage.

A new design was created for the ten dollar gold denomination. It would feature a portrait of Liberty wearing an Indian headdress. The convention had previously been seen on the one cent denomination. The reverse of the coin featured the image of a bald eagle with many similarities to the one appearing on the inaugural medal. This was one of the two designs created by Saint Gaudens. The series would last until 1933 when federal gold was recalled.

The double eagle or twenty dollar gold coin was the largest circulating denomination of the United States. It was viewed as a particularly important symbol due to its high value and prominence in export. The new design would be known as the Saint Gaudens Double Eagle.

The obverse of the design featured a stunning full figure of Liberty in a flowing gown. She held a lit torch and olive branch and was seen walking confidently forward to bring these fruits to the rest of the world. In the background was a small image of the Capitol building. The reverse featured a young eagle seen in flight against a backdrop of the sun rise.

In 1907, the first coins with this design were struck in ultra high relief. This was already after the passing of the artist who created the design. Due to striking problems, the relief of the design was eventually lowered.

These two design created by Augustus Saint Gaudens would be followed by fresh depictions of Liberty on the other circulating coinage of the United States. Each was prized for its beauty and the return to aesthetic beauty in American coinage.