Coins, Currency, and Medals
The Museum possesses one of the largest numismatic collections in the world. The collections include over 1 million objects, comprising coins, medals, decorations, and pieces of paper money. Among the many great rarities here are some of the world’s oldest coins, created 2,700 years ago. But the collection also includes the latest innovations in electronic monetary exchange, as well as beads, wampum, and other commodities once used as money. A special strength lies in artifacts that illustrate the development of money and medals in the United States. The American section includes many rare and significant coins, such as two of three known examples of the world's most valuable coin, the 1933 double eagle $20 gold piece.
"Coins, Currency, and Medals - Overview" showing 1 items.
- 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.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- U.S. Mint, Philadelphia
- Barber, Charles
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center