Mountains, monuments & money: Victory becomes Liberty
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, designer of what is widely regarded as the most beautiful United States coin ever minted — the $20 double eagle of 1907 to 1933 — also created numerous monuments, including a massive gilded bronze statue of Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
The monument in Grand Army Plaza at the southeast corner of New York’s Central Park, features a mounted Sherman led by Victory. The statue of Victory, cast in 1902, is often cited as the inspiration for Liberty on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle.
Besides the double eagle, Saint-Gaudens also designed the stunning Indian $10 gold piece of 1907 to 1933. Saint-Gaudens, unfortunately, died before the coins were released into circulation. Both designs remained in production until the end of circulating gold coins in 1933. The 1933 double eagle has a checkered past. Only one is legal to own. It sold for $7,590,020 in 2002.
The obverse of Saint-Gaudens’ $20 gold piece was reprised in 1986 for the Mint’s American Eagle gold bullion pieces, which are still in production. In 2009, the Mint made an ultra-high-relief, one-ounce version of the coin for sale to collectors. That tour de force harkened back to the coin’s inception when the coin’s original high-relief concept proved too difficult to produce for circulation.
NEXT: From Ticonderoga to the Panama Canal