The $20 Saint-Gaudens is one of the most beautiful and most sought-after coins in the world. It’s named after its designer, American Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who also designed the $10 Indian Head Coin.
The $20 Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt as part of an attempt to beautify American coinage. He handpicked Saint-Gaudens, who was the president’s friend, and he accepted the task. But because of the coin’s intricate design and Saint-Gaudens’ failing health, there were many production delays. Before the design was finalized, Saint-Gaudens died in 1907. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber changed the design slightly, making the coin easier to produce. Finally, the coins were struck and released.
The obverse shows the figure of Lady liberty, torch in one hand and olive branch in the other, striding forward, with a radiant sun behind her. The coin’s date is positioned in the lower right, with a portion of 1907-minted coins using Roman numerals. The word “LIBERTY” arches across the top and you can glimpse the top of the U.S. Capitol building to the left of the striding figure, next to the folds of her dress. The design is encircled by 46 stars, representing the number of states in the union at the time. Two stars were added in 1912.
The reverse shows a majestic eagle flying above the sun and over the words “IN GOD WE TRUST”. “IN GOD WE TRUST” was added to the coin in mid-1908 after an outcry from the public. President Roosevelt felt having that motto on a coin that would find its way into bars, gambling houses and brothels was blasphemous. On the top of the coin you will find “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” with “TWENTY DOLLARS” placed directly underneath.
Up to approximately 22 pre-circulation $20 Saint-Gaudens coin specimens were produced. These “samples” were not intended for circulation and had a much higher relief design, which made the coin look more like a medal. One of these samples later became one of the highest value coins ever sold. The coin was released in 1907 after being struck in flat relief.