Retired U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti revives early $20 designs

Medals feature Saint-Gaudens' double eagle concepts
By , Coin World
Published : 04/12/16
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Retired United States Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti gives wing to Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famous design on a new medal available from

Mercanti was commissioned by Asset Marketing Services to create a work featuring an original Saint-Gaudens’ Winged Liberty design that shows her also wearing a Native American headdress. 

Though Saint-Gaudens’ cooperation with President Theodore Roosevelt to redesign American coinage is well known, lesser known may be the fact that the design on the resulting gold $20 double eagle coin isn’t exactly as the artist initially envisioned it. His original Liberty figure sported wings and a Native American headdress; neither feature survived on the $20 coins.

In a press release, Henry J. Duffy, museum curator at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, said, “In this design we see the artist’s mind at work. It is a rare privilege to see his first idea realized."

Saint-Gaudens’ home and studio in Cornish, N.H., is a national historic site, and the National Park Foundation and the site have authorized these medals, according to Steve Wolff, director of creative services at GovMint. 

The medals are available in either 1-ounce .999 fine silver or 1-ounce .9999 fine gold versions.

A 1905 plaster sculptured by Saint-Gaudens was used to create the medals. To adapt the design for modern high relief minting, Mercanti hand sculptured new dies based on Saint-Gaudens’ original vision for his masterpiece. 

“It is an honor to have been asked to replicate this magnificent Saint-Gaudens piece, and I hope I’ve captured the genius of his design,” Mercanti said, in a press release.

The Royal Mint in Wales struck the medals for, employing its most up-to-date laser technology to strike pieces with the highest relief possible at the Royal Mint. 

A total of 10,000 silver medals and 1,000 gold medals were authorized and the pieces are being struck in batches. 

Each medal is encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. with a grading label insert bearing Mercanti’s signature. 

Silver medals certified as “Gem Proof” examples are offered for $129 each. NGC Proof 69 examples of the silver medal are $149. Pricing for Proof 70 examples is unavailable.  

The gold medal graded NGC “Gem Proof” retails for $3,995.

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