The early 20th century was a time of experimentation in the United States Mint as far as proof gold coin production was concerned. When the novel dark matte finish employed in 1908 failed to meet with widespread acceptance among the contemporary public, the Mint adopted a brighter Roman Gold finish in 1909, the texture a blend of satin and semi reflective characteristics that give the coins a much brighter appearance than their 1908 predecessors. Using this appealing finish, the Philadelphia Mint struck a mere 67 proof Saint-Gaudens double eagles in 1909.
The Roman Gold 1909 is tied with the 1914 as the third rarest proof "Saint," and it is also the third rarest issue of the type in high grades (read: Proof-65 or finer). The current online version of The PCGS Population Report accounts for only 40-45 coins extant in all grades, and as a virtually pristine Superb Gem the specimen we offer here is solidly in the Condition Census. Free of even trivial distractions, with a razor sharp strike and gorgeous olive-orange color. Exquisite!
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
The Satin Finish Proofs, as I like to call them, or Roman Finish, as Walter Breen called them (but I am not aware of Romans ever using such a finish), have always been favorites of mine. In 1908 the Mint introduced the Sandblast Finish, by bombarding the surface of a carefully struck coin with tiny particles of sand. This gave a matte effect. This was widely criticized, complaints were made to the Mint, and the format was changed to the Satin Finish, as here. These particular coins, struck only in 1909 and 1910 are, in my opinion, of exceptional beauty. They also tend to be a very intense gold color. Some years ago I speculated that perhaps the surface of the planchets might have been 100% gold, without alloy, as was the case for certain of the MCMVII Ultra High Relief patterns. The Smithsonian Institution helped me with this, and had the National Bureau of Standards run a check, to find that the surface was indeed the standard 90% gold and 10% alloy. To this day, the exact process of Proof manufacture is not known. The double eagle is the epitome of the satin finish era, and the present piece, being in an ultra high grade, is especially beautiful and desirable. What a great coin this is!
Combined PCGS and NGC Population: just 5; with a mere three finer in NGC Proof-68.