The St. Gaudens Double Eagle is twenty dollar gold coin, or Double Eagle, produced by the United States Mint from 1907–1933. The St. Gaudens is named after its designer, the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens, who designed the obverse and reverse. St. Gaudens' mark appears on the obverse of the coin under the date.
At the turn of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to start an effort to beautify American coinage. He hired Augustus St. Gaudens to overhaul American designs. St. Gaudens only lived to finish the double eagle and the Indian Eagle. These two designs are considered by some to be the best designs of their denominations and some of the best of any American coin ever. The double eagle design was voted the best American gold coin design and is currently used on American gold bullion coinage.
The original coinage of 1907 had an ultra high relief as the artist intended. However, when the Mint struck some coins, they required repeated striking by the presses, and had more the appearance of medals than coins. One alternative explored by the mint was reducing the diameter of the coin to that of a checker and making it thicker in an attempt to keep the ultra high relief. Some trials were struck, but most were destroyed (except two which were retained in the Mint collection) when it was discovered that consent of Congress was required to change the diameter of any coin. St. Gaudens redesigned the coin for a lower relief, but when some of these "high relief" coins were struck, they would not stack well, and the design was flattened again by St. Gaudens for circulating coins. Some of the high relief coins, though, found their way into circulation. The coins were minted continuously until 1933, except for 1917-19, when no coins were struck.
The mintmark appears above the date between the second and third numbers.
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the United States off the gold standard in 1933, many coins of the last four years of the series were melted. Nearly all the 1933 coins were melted (with perhaps 20-30 escaping), but one ended up in the collection of King Farouk of Egypt. When Farouk's collection was auctioned off, the coin disappeared, probably because it was illegal to own. In 2002 this coin sold at auction by Sotheby's in New York City for $7,590,020. This makes the 1933 St. Gaudens Double Eagle the most valuable coin in the world.
The sale followed an agreement between the then-owner and the US Government to allow this one specimen to remain privately owned. Over the years, several specimens had been confiscated by the Secret Service on the grounds that the government deemed them to have not been legitimately issued.
The auction price for that specimen included a $20 payment to the Treasury to give the coin legal tender status.
In this series there are only two varieties/errors to mention:
In the series, besides the 1933, there are nine dates that are rare and command higher prices. Most are from the last four years of production that were never released in large numbers before President Roosevelt ordered existing stocks of gold coins melted.
The coin was the first gold coin to include the mintmark on the obverse (the mintmark had been briefly included on some of the Bust coins in the 1830s)