Unique MCMVII Indian Head Double Eagle
Judd 1776: America’s Most Valuable Coin — “a national treasure”
- Provenance: Charles E. Barber (Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint), Waldo C. Newcomer, Fred C.C. Boyd, Numismatic Gallery (Abe Kosoff/Abner Kriesberg), King Farouk, Abe Kosoff, Dr. J.E. Wilkison, ParamountInternational(David Akers), Amark Financial, Julian Leidman, Hancock & Harwell(Jack Hancock/Bob Harwell), Private Collection
- Diameter: 34 millimeters
- Weight: 516 grains
- Obverse: Head of Liberty is facing left wearing a feathered Indian headdress, around the head are 13 small spaced stars. Below the bust in very large letters, is the word LIBERTY.
- Reverse: An Eagle is flying to the left across the rays of the rising sun. On the sun, in Roman Numerals, is the date, MCMVII. Above the eagle near the border is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Between the legend and the eagle is the denomination TWENTY DOLLARS. There are periods before and after every work of the legend and between the letters in the date.
Judd 1776 Teddy's Coin
As the most famous of all U.S. Pattern coins, the design for the obverse is similar to the design adopted for the Eagle ($10) Gold Coin designed by Saint Gaudens and was actually his personal choice for the Double Eagle ($20). This was noted in his letter to President Theodore Roosevelt dated March 12,1907.
“I like so much the head with the headdress (and by the way, I am very glad you suggested doing the head in that manner) that I should very much like to see it tried not only on the one cent piece but also on the twenty-dollar gold piece, instead of the figure of Liberty. I would like to have the mint make a die of the head for the gold coin also, and then a choice can be made between the two when completed. The only change necessary in the event of this being carried out will be the changing of the date from the Liberty side to the Eagle side of the coin.”
Roosevelt responded on the 14th and informed him that he had directed that the dies be “done at once.” (Actually this Unique specimen was just such a coin. In addition to the unique Indian Head Double Eagle the mint produced 16 Ultra High Relief's for presentation to the coinage committee.)
In a letter dated May 11, 1907 to the President, Saint Gaudens again expressed his preference for the Indian Head design.
“Indeed, as far as I am concerned, I should prefer seeing the head of Liberty in place of any figure of liberty on the Twenty Dollar coin as well as on the One cent. If the idea appeals to you, I would refine the modeling of the head now that I the seen it struck in the small, so as to bring it in scale with the eagle.” Roosevelt answered immediately, “I should be glad, if it is possible for you to do so if you would ‘refine’ the head of liberty; but I want to keep the figure of Liberty for at least one small issue of coins.” Saint Gaudens, in rapidly failing health (he died in August, 1907) wrote to the President for the final time on May 23, 1907. In that letter, he stated, “The majority of the people that I show the work to evidently prefer with you the figure of Liberty to the head of Liberty and that I shall not consider any further on the Twenty Dollar gold coin.” The Indian head motif was dropped at this point. (Taxay, U.S. Mint and Coinage, p. 313.)
From the correspondence it appears that the dies were prepared and the one gold specimen were prepared and the lone specimen was struck between March 14 and May 23,1907. The relief was similar to the 16 Specimens of the Ultra High Relief's struck for committee approval. The relief on the coins minted for actual circulation was significantly reduced because they required too many strikes to bring up the figures.
The ownership history of this unique coin begins with a letter found by Mr. Carl Carlson, Curator of the Johns Hopkins University collection from Edgar Adams dated September 11, 1933 offering the coin to renowned numismatist John Work Garrett for $10,000. He indicated that he was acting on the behalf of Waldo C. Newcomer, well-known Baltimore collector, who had obtained the piece directly from the estate of Charles E. Barber, the Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint when the piece was struck.
Garrett refused the offer, and the piece was then offered to and purchased by Fred C.C. Boyd, owner of Union News Company (which at one time operated newsstands in railroad stations and other locations). Boyd's wife sold the piece to Abe Kosoff and Abner Kreisberg (Numismatic Gallery) for $1,500 shortly after Kosoff and Kreisberg sold the rest of Boyd’s collection in 1944 and 1945.
They subsequently sold the coin to King Farouk of Egypt for slightly less than $10,000. After he was exiled in 1954, King Farouk's significant holdings of U.S. coins were sold by the Egyption government.
Abe Kosoff went to Cairo and bought the coin for the second time for 1,200 Egyptian Pounds or approximately $3,400. Kosoff sold the coin to Tennessee collector Dr. J.E. Wilkison in 1956 for $10,000.
Paramount International Coin Corporation (David Akers) purchased it along with many other gold patterns from Wilkison in 1973. Paramount then traded it to Amark Financial who sold it by private treaty to Maryland dealer Julian Leidman in 1979 for $500,000.
Hancock & Harwell Rare Coins purchased the coin in the ANA Auction in 1981 for a world’s record auction price of $475,000.
Several years later it was sold to a major North Eastern collector of Saint Gaudens coinage for a mid six figure price. It provided the foundation for what will some day be the finest complete collection of all gold coins of Saint Gaudens.
Apart from the rarity of the MCMVII Extremely High Relief “regular design” double eagle with the full figure of Liberty, the romance and desirability attached to the work of Augustus Saint Gaudens, who at the time was probably America’s best known sculptor, is legendary. This and other pieces were produced at the instigation of President Theodore Roosevelt, who earlier had viewed a collection of ancient coins and had been impressed by the beautiful designs and the sculpture appearing relief. He wrote to Saint Gaudens and asked him if he could prepare motifs for a beautiful United States coinage which would compare favorably with that of the ancients.
The eventual result was the MCMVII High Relief double eagle with the standing figure of Liberty and the related Indian head eagle. Renowned numismatist David Bowers adds,
“the desirability of any artistic object in this world increases when the item is not available. One can only wistfully contemplate owning the 1877 pattern $50 pieces struck in gold, the only pieces known which permanently repose in the Smithsonian Institution’s coin collection. Likewise, while one can enjoy the artistic treasures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the National Gallery, or one can admire the original Declaration of Independence in the National Archives, one can never expect to own them. This perhaps is as it should be, for the pieces are justifiably national treasures.”
The unique Indian Head Double Eagle acquired in 1981 by Hancock & Harwell and pictured above is likewise a national treasure. Clearly, for Bob Harwell and Jack Hancock it is one of the highlight of their numismatic careers.
Akers, David “United States Gold Patterns”
Bowers, David “Bowers and Ruddy Galleries Auction Catalog, ANA August 1981”
Taxay, Don “U.S.Mint and Coinage”