20 Dollars, United States, 1906

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt initiated a project to redesign American coinage and commissioned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create the new designs. While the two had admirable goals, they committed the unpardonable bureaucratic sin--they had not "gone through channels." The Mint already had an artist, Charles E. Barber, and it would have been his job to redesign coinage if that was what the president wanted. Barber was unhappy with the president's new project, complained to anyone who'd listen, and finally decided to do something about it. He would design his own double eagle, and he would get it done before Saint-Gaudens completed his.
Barber was in an unusual hurry. His single surviving pattern double eagle, shown here, is unusual in American numismatics, and one of the least successful artistically. For the obverse, Barber featured a Liberty head with a Phrygian cap and a laurel wreath, inspired by contemporary French artists. For his reverse, he recycled some of his own earlier work. Back in 1891, he had created a pattern half dollar, the obverse of which had featured Liberty with a sword and a Liberty cap on a pole. Liberty was guarding an eagle, the symbol of America. Now, this old design appeared on the reverse of the new coin. Thus Barber's proposal had two Liberties, one on each side. Roosevelt was unimpressed. Saint-Gaudens went on with his work, and Barber continued to fume.
Object Name
pattern coin
date made
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Barber, Charles
Physical Description
gilt/copper (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .3 cm x 3.45 cm; 1/8 in x 1 11/32 in
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
The Value of Money
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Mint
Publication title
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL
Additional Media

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