1907 (MCMVII) High Relief $20 Proof 67 NGC
The 1907 High Relief double eagle is one of the most popular coins ever struck by the United States Mint. The coins are sculptural in appearance and are considered by many to be the most beautiful regular issue gold coin ever produced. Unfortunately, the design was also impractical and redesigned by Charles Barber later in the year to a much lower relief that was easier to strike with a single blow of the dies. The date is given in Roman numerals (MCMVII, the coin's nickname by some) and lacks the Motto, IN GOD WE TRUST. President Roosevelt believed that money could easily be used for ungodly pursuits such as gambling and thus the name of the Lord should not be used on coinage. Around the late 1960s or early 1970s, some experts began to recognize certain 1907 High Relief double eagles as Proofs. These coins are different than "normal" High Reliefs, but certainly not like the latter Matte Proof double eagles of the series.
In studying the reference book, Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1977, we find a section specifically devoted to the topic of Proof High Relief double eagles and part of it is herein reproduced as bullets:
● True proofs do exist and these appear to have received six or seven blows from the dies rather than the normal five.
● Inner borders sharp on both sides.
● Generally a satin finish
● Relief details fully brought up.
● All berries rounded.
● All Capitol pillars countable.
● All tail feathers with clear ends.
● Edge letters are much bolder than on normal strikings, with horizontal striations between them.
● Only a minor trace of knife-rim.
The existence of true satin Proof coins is controversial. NGC recognizes this High Relief Proof but PCGS does not. Listed below are the criteria used by NGC to distinguish Proof examples of the High Relief edition of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle from business strikes:
● Extreme sharpness in all details, both at the centers and toward the peripheries.
● The complete absence of die erosion or distortion.
● Numerous, raised die-polishing lines on both sides. These appear in a random, swirling pattern. While also evident on currency strikes, these are particularly bold on Proofs.
● Uniform satiny surfaces without any of the conventional radial flowlines that produce typical mint luster.
● A build-up of metal just inside both borders, though especially evident on the reverse. This appears as a slightly raised ridge forming a concentric circle with the coin's border which probably resulted from the extreme compression to which the Proofs were subjected by additional impressions on the hydraulic medal press.
There are no official mintage figures for Proofs and the origins of the coins are a mystery. As stated above, Proof examples have deep swirling die lines and exhibit a satiny surface similar to the (1909-1910) Roman finish Proof gold coins. NGC has graded over 250 Proof examples (including resubmissions) and the finest High Relief thus far graded is a Proof 69 that sold for $534,000 in 2005.
Many proofs look very much like their business-strike counterparts, and close examination is required to differentiate the two. This piece exhibits that wonderful as-made surface texture from special die polishing, rich, green-gold color, and the designs raised in exceptionally high relief (thus, the name). A masterwork in American coinage, the design of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is represented here in what must be very near his envisioned form. Amazingly struck up, free from all but the most-trivial abrasions, and exceptionally well preserved, this is a spectacular coin destined for a museum-quality collection.
This Proof 67 is one of only 18 coins so graded at NGC, with 10 finer: 5 Proof 67*; 1 Proof 67+, 2 Proof 68, 1 Proof 68*, and a single Proof 69. This makes this piece among the finest Proofs obtainable and an exceptionally appealing specimen. (PCGS 9138)