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All Posts Tagged With: "Plain Edge Indian Eagle"

The Most Important Coin I’ve Ever Handled

By Mark Borckardt

During 30 years as a full time professional numismatist, I have had the opportunity to examine and handle many of the most important rarities in the American series, including two Brasher doubloons, all five 1913 Liberty nickels, two 1894-S dimes, and four 1804 silver dollars. I have handled 80 of the 100 greatest U.S. coins according to the study published by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.

Last week I had the pleasure of examining and researching a coin that I believe carries more numismatic and historical importance than any of those coins mentioned above, or any other coin that I have ever handled. It is the 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle with a plain edge. Only two plain edge specimens were struck, and they were the first Indian eagles ever created, to fulfill the wish of a dying man.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was near death in the middle of July 1907. Dies for the Indian eagles had already been created, but the collar containing 46 stars was not completed. For that reason, the two plain edge coins were minted, one was sent to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens. The sculptor passed away a couple weeks later on August 3.

Roger W. Burdette has traced the issue in his reference Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (Seneca Mill Press, LLC, 2006), and Michael F. Moran has also examined the issue in his 2008 reference Striking Change — The Great Collaboration of Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In a July 28, 2008 Coin World article, P. Scott Rubin writes: “I received an important e-mail from Roger W. Burdette … that this coin was ‘…one of two plain edge pattern pieces struck in July 1907.’ Just as important, he informed me that one of the specimens went to Secretary of the Treasury Cortelyou and the other went to Augustus Saint-Gaudens… I learned that this was the only coin similar to those issued to the public designed by Saint-Gaudens that the artist saw before his death.” While we are unable to say with certainty that the present piece was the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens, it almost certainly is. The coin that went to Cortelyou was forwarded to President Roosevelt who returned it to the Mint. In all likelihood, the Cortelyou-Roosevelt coin was melted, as it does not appear among coins at the Smithsonian Institution.

It is thought that President Roosevelt returned the coin he received, and it is also believed that the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens was retained by the artist. It is my belief that the coin I handled is the exact coin that Saint-Gaudens received. Since all other Indian eagles and all double eagles of his design were minted after his death, this single coin seems to be the only coin of his own design that Saint-Gaudens ever saw in person.

This plain edge 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle will be offered for sale as lot 3561 in the Platinum Night session of Heritage’s 2010 ANA auction in Boston. The Platinum Night session is scheduled for 6:00 PM EST on Wednesday, August 11. I hope to see many of you there, and hope that those unable to attend will be watching this historic offering on HA.com/live.