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The Saint-Gaudens double eagle

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle is a twenty-dollar gold coin, produced by the United States Mint from 1907 to 1933. The coin is named after its designer, the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who designed the obverse and reverse. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful of U.S. coins.

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt sought to beautify American coinage and proposed Saint-Gaudens as an artist capable of the task. Although the sculptor had poor experiences with the Mint and its chief engraver, Charles E. Barber, Saint-Gaudens accepted Roosevelt’s call. The work was subject to considerable delays, due to Saint-Gaudens’s declining health and difficulties because of the high relief of his design. Saint-Gaudens died in 1907, after designing the eagle and double eagle, but before the designs were finalized for production.

Executive Order 6102 is a United States presidential executive order signed on April 5, 1933, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt “forbidding the Hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States”. The order was made under the authority of the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, as amended by the Emergency Banking Act the previous month.

Executive Order 6102 required all persons to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, all but a small amount of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates owned by them to the Federal Reserve, in exchange for $20.67 (Approx. $400 today) per troy ounce. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, as amended by the recently passed Emergency Banking Act of March 9, 1933, violation of the order was punishable by fine up to $10,000 (Approx. $195,000 today) or up to ten years in prison, or both.

Executive Order 6102 also led to the extreme rarity of the 1933 Double Eagle gold coin. The order caused all gold coin production to cease and all 1933 minted coins to be destroyed. About 20 illegal coins were stolen, leading to a standing United States Secret Service warrant for arrest and confiscation of the coin. A legalized surviving coin sold for over $7.5 million in 2002, making it one of the most valuable coins in the world.

Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985:

  • Directed the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue gold coins in $50, $25, $10, and $5 denominations
  • Mandated that the specified gold coins be issued in quantities enough to meet public demand
  • Required the gold for such coins to be mined from natural deposits in the U.S. or in a U.S territory, within one year after the month in which the ore was mined
  • Prohibited the Secretary from paying more than the average world price for gold
  • Allowed gold to be used from U.S. reserves in the absence of available supplies of such mined gold at the average world price
  • Required any profit from the sale of such coins to be deposited in the Treasury and applied towards reducing the national debt

This legislation offered support to American miners, eventually leading to the establishment of the American Eagle Gold Bullion Program in 1986. Production began on one of the world’s most popular gold bullion coins: The Gold American Eagle.

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