Among many noteworthy gold coins to be offered in our March 2023 Whitman Spring Expo Auction is a 1908-D Motto Saint-Gaudens double eagle certified Mint State 66 by PCGS.
Nearly 350,000 of these coins were struck, after the Congressionally mandated invocation of the deity (IN GOD WE TRUST) was added partway through the year, resulting in two major types for the year. The 1908-D With Motto $20 is a popular “first year of type” coin with collectors.
A century before a similar uproar was provoked by the omission of the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the edges of some 2007 Presidential dollars, Congress raised objections to the lack of a motto on the gold $10 and $20 coins that had been redesigned in 1907. President Roosevelt responded with a letter published in newspapers in which he argued that “there was no warrant for putting ‘In God We Trust’ on the coins” and that doing so “not only does no good, but does positive harm and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege.” Roosevelt elaborated that he had never heard of the motto evoking reverence in people using the coins and that its presence on coinage “tends to secure its being treated in a spirit of levity.” A more fitting place for a religious motto, in Roosevelt’s estimation, was on monuments, legislatures, courts, and military academies. Despite Roosevelt’s protests, the motto was restored to the coins in 1908.
Once thought very scarce, a large group of 1908-D Motto double eagles, including many Uncirculated examples, was found in Central America in 1983. Groups of the coins were also discovered in European banks in the 1980s. The issue is generally available in lower Mint State grades (MS-60 to MS-64), but it’s elusive in MS-66. On NGC Coin Explorer, Jeff Garrett describes the issue’s typical presentation: “Coins of the issue are well struck with green-gold colorations.” Dave Akers explained the updates to the hub, and he details the coin’s usual appearance on PCGS CoinFacts: “Since the detail on the master hub was strengthened at the time the motto was added, the 1908-D With Motto appears to be much sharper and more defined on the obverse than the 1908-D No Motto. The typical 1908-D With Motto is very sharply struck with frosty but slightly granular surfaces. Lustre is generally very good, but usually a bit less vibrant than on the typical 1908-D No Motto. Color is usually greenish gold or orange or, on occasion, light to medium orange gold.”
PCGS reports 34 grading events for 1908-D Motto double eagles in MS-66 with only eight finer, three of which are in MS-66+, five of which are in MS-67.
We sold another MS-66 1908-D Motto double eagle in our June 2022 Auction for $26,400. Any U.S. gold collector, or a collector interested in the history of the “In God We Trust” motto, would be proud to own this attractive example of a transitional issue.