The Roman Numerals “High Relief” gold twenty-dollar Double Eagle has to be the ultimate possession of any collector or investor of fine numismatic coins. The design on this coin is often referred to as the most beautiful of any of our nation’s coinage and those fortunate enough to have an opportunity, and the wherewithal, to acquire one quickly realize it. It is also remarkable that so much value could be stored in an object so liquid and so portable. Further, when one adds this to the treasures we all tend to acquire over our lifetimes, one realizes such an item is truly part of a living legacy that can be quietly and easily transferred to one’s own heirs.
There are two varieties of the 1907 High Relief double eagle: a Wire Rim and a Flat Rim. The presently offered coin is a Flat Rim. Many experts have stated this variety is five times more rare than the Wire Rim, and the PCGS certified population tend to support this claim, yet the price one can expect to pay is not even 10% over the Wire Rim. As a result, they remain an underrated and largely under-appreciated variant of the High Relief. Even though much of the original mintage was saved by collectors, after more than 100 years most are in the lower to middle Mint State grades or they show signs of circulation. Some were doubtless carried as pocket pieces.
In 1989, noted author and numismatist David Akers wrote: “There is no official mint record of the breakdown of the 11,250 High Relief Double Eagles minted into the number of Wire Rim pieces struck and the number of Flat Rim pieces minted. This is because it was not the mint’s intention to strike two different varieties. The varieties actually occurred by accident when the first pieces struck (the Wire Rim coins) were struck using a collar that either did not fit properly or was insufficiently tight. The pressure from the repeated blows required to bring up the design properly forced metal up where the edge of the coin meets the collar to form a thin wire rim. When the collar problem was discovered and corrected (after the majority of High Reliefs had been struck), this so-called Flat Rim variety resulted. In our opinion based upon the relative rarity of the two varieties, two-thirds to three-fourths of the 11,250 pieces minted were the Wire Rim variety, the balance the Flat Rim variety. Since, in the past, the two varieties have usually brought more or less the same price, it is obvious that the Flat Rim variety is really very underrated and underpriced in comparison to the Wire Rim variety.” The original mintage figure for both varieties has been revised to 12,367 pieces as a result of recent research, however, the division of Wire Rim and Flat Rim pieces still remains unknown today. Based on certification data, it is estimated that only about 1,800 Flat Rim coins were originally minted. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, in the second edition of their gold Encyclopedia (2008), note that the Flat Rim twenties are “much scarcer than the Wire Rim, by a margin of nearly five to one.” That estimate seems conservative, given the current NGC population data showing 1,403 submissions of Wire Rim coins versus 576 for the Flat Rims, a margin nearly two-and-a-half to one.
The present specimen is remarkably well preserved. It displays the usual satiny luster we expect on all High Relief twenties, but for this lofty grade of Mint State-64 the striking details are exceptionally bold. The Capitol building, stars, olive branch, and the Liberty and eagle motifs display excellent definition. The surfaces are immaculately preserved over both sides, exhibiting no signs of mishandling. The only reason we can see this isn’t a MS65 or finer is a couple of minor contact marks on Liberty’s midsection that are only visible under magnification and strong light.