20 Dollars, United States, 1908 (Matte Proof)

Description (Brief):

One (1) 20 dollar coin, matte proof

Description (Brief)

United States, 1908

Description (Brief)

Obverse Image: Full-length Liberty holding a torch in her right hand and olive branch in left. Capitol Dome in lower left; rays of sun in background; stars around rim.

Description (Brief)

Obverse Text: LIBERTY / 1908

Description (Brief)

Reverse Image: Eagle flying through rays of sun.

Description (Brief)


Description (Brief)

Edge: E PLURIBUS UNUM divided by stars.

In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to lead an effort to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens developed a design that many consider the most beautiful American coin ever conceived. The Mint's Chief Engraver, Charles E. Barber, opposed the project, but ultimately developed a low-relief version of the Saint-Gaudens design that became the standard American $20 coin.

Barber was not averse to experimentation. He simply believed it had to be kept within fairly close bounds, and under the Mint's control. It would also help if there was profit involved. Instead of experimenting with relief, Barber tried modifying the finish of the Saint-Gaudens coin design. In one test, a "Roman Gold" finish was devised, imparting a glowing, golden surface to coins that would otherwise have a slight reddish sheen about them, from the copper added to the mixture to make the coins wear better.

No records of how this special finish was applied have survived; but a good guess would be that a light layer of pure gold dust was applied to both surfaces of the coin blank before striking. The force of the press would bond the dust to the blank as the blank was coined. In another test that yielded the coin shown here, Barber developed a "Matte" finish. In this case, the coin was likely struck first (more than once, in order to fully bring up what relief there was), and then "pickled," or etched in dilute acid.

The result was a coin of a vaguely medallic appearance, without all the work entailed in multiple striking. In addition to testing a concept, this experiment was directed at producing a few specialized coins that could be sold to collectors at inflated prices.

Date Made: 1908

Mint: U.S. Mint, PhiladelphiaDesigner: Saint-Gaudens, Augustus

Location: Currently not on view

Place Of Issue: United StatesPlace Made: United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

See more items in: Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection, Coins, Numismatics, United States Double Eagle, Coins, Currency and Medals, Legendary Coins


Exhibition Location:

Related Web Publication: http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm

Related Publication: Zoomable Image and Details, Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms

Credit Line: U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Mint

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1985.0441.1285Catalog Number: 1985.0441.1285Accession Number: 1985.0441

Object Name: coin

Physical Description: gold (overall metal)0 (overall die axis)0 (overall die axis measurement)struck (overall production method)Measurements: overall: 3.4 cm; 1 11/32 in

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ab-2cff-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1088356

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