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ModernCoinMart (MCM) offers an impressive selection of “Coins that Never Were.” These historic, officially authorized private issue gold and silver commemoratives bear the coin designs of numismatic legends of the past. This includes the work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Charles E. Barber, Christian Gobrecht, George T. Morgan, and James B. Longacre. The most exciting part of these issues, is that you can own them today!
Coin artists - including coin engravers, designers, and other related parties – have been plagued by many obstacles over the course of U.S. numismatic history. Whether it was technological constraints, economic hardship, legislation, nepotism, or even the personal preferences of those making final design choices, plenty of stunning designs have been scrapped or altered over the years. Fortunately for us, however, it is not all doom and gloom.
Thanks to the combined efforts of ModernCoinMart (MCM) and other interested parties, many designs that were never expected to be seen again have been finally struck in silver and gold! Advanced minting technologies of the 21st century have made many of these previously unobtainable designs possible. Additionally, MCM has been able to work with famous organizations such as the Smithsonian and the Nation Park Foundation to secure many of the original coin designs or patterns.
These masterpieces bear coin designs of the past that were never able to be minted with mass quantity, until now. They come in the form of privately issued, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) certified, silver and gold commemorative proofs. While these are not government issued or legal tender, official permissions have been obtained from relevant parties to produce these commemoratives in limited quantities.
Let’s look at a few of these missing masterpieces that have formed the “Coins that Never Were” selection offered by MCM:
Christian Gobrecht was the 3rd Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. His tenure ran from 1840 to 1844, and is well-known for creating a number of Classic American coin designs that were as beautiful as they were unique. Augustus Saint-Gaudens once commented in terms of Gobrecht’s work, saying "…if carried out with some modifications, nothing better could be done.”
Some of his greatest creations were the Seated Liberty and Coronet, or “Liberty Head,” designs. The Seated Liberty design was used on the U.S. Trade Dollar, as well as the first U.S. silver dollar produced by the Mint for circulation, the Gobrecht Dollar. The design was first used on the $10 Gold Liberty Head Eagle back in 1838, followed by a cent, a half cent, a quarter eagle, and them the famous Coronet Half Eagle.
Many U.S. coin collectors know the story of the 1885-CC Coronet Half Eagle. Despite the fact that the Carson City Mint struck over 300,000 Coronet Half Eagles between 1870 and 1884, production halted in 1885 due to a political decision by the new president, Grover Cleveland. His decision caused the US Mint to shut down in 1885 and not open it's doors again till 1890.Even though the 1885 Coronet Head Half Eagle was struck at both Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints, not a single coin was struck with the Carson City “CC” Mint mark. That is, until now.
In an effort to bridge this gap created over a century ago, MCM has had a number of 1885-CC Gold Coronet Head Half Eagle Commemoratives struck. These stunning commemoratives were actually minted at the Carson City Mint, using an old press with slightly modified dies! They were even struck using the same 90% gold composition at the same weight of a U.S. half eagle. Besides the lack of any inscription stating a face value, these commemoratives are identical to what the coins would have looked like had they been minted in 1885 at the Carson City Mint! While these are currently sold out, more will be coming soon.
James B. Longacre was the 4th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. He took over the position after the death of his predecessor, Christian Gobrecht; his tenure lasted from 1844 to 1869. Beyond conflicts at the Mint within his first year as chief engraver, the coin designs of Longacre were very well received and are very popular among collectors today. A few of his most popular designs are the Flying Eagle Cent, the Indian Head Cent, the Shield Nickel, and of course, the Liberty Head Double Eagle – the first double eagle ever struck by the U.S. Mint.
These first coins in 1849 were experimental issues not intended for circulation. They were a response to the huge influx of gold from the California Gold Rush of 1848. Longacre was selected to design this new Double Eagle, and worked from March through December of 1849 to complete a beautiful, high relief design.
Despite his hard work and the perfected design, the dies and presses used by the U.S. Mint were not up to the task of striking large, High Relief coins for mass production. By the end of December, the U.S. Mint had proven capable of minting only two examples of the new double eagle struck according to Longacre’s design.
This technological failure caused the U.S. Mint to scrap the high relief design, and to go with an altered, standard relief version. This left only the two High Relief examples struck in 1849, one of which was lost to time before the turn of the 20th century. J.P. Morgan himself offered to buy the remaining piece back in 1902 for $35,000 (or $850,000 today), but was declined and the piece instead made its way to the Smithsonian.
This coin is considered by many experts to be more desirable than even the legendary 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, that was bought by King Farouk of Egypt for $7,500,000 in 2002. According to gold coin specialist, Jeff Garrett – the valuations editor of the popular Redbook - the original pattern of the 1849 Double Eagle could be valued at as much as $20,000,000 if sold today! If accurate, this would make it the most expensive coin in history. This is the only coin in the Redbook with mintage of only 1!
Collectors will be excited to learn that the Smithsonian, in conjunction with MCM, has officially authorized commemoratives of their famous 1849 Double Eagle in the form of 1/10 oz. Gold commemoratives. Each piece comes sonically sealed and certified Gem Proof by NGC – the largest and most trusted third party coin grading service in the world today. A coffee table book, "1849 The Philadelphian Mint Strikes Gold," will be included for free with every coin. You can expect to see these on MCM before long!
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt started a project of redesigning U.S. coinage, which was permitted by the “Act of September 26, 1890.” This Act allowed U.S. coinage to feature new designs for the first time in 25 years. Teddy Roosevelt was particularly adamant about a new Double Eagle design, which he commissioned to his good friend, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Renowned American sculptor and teacher, Augustus Saint-Gaudens fully embraced the ideals of the “American Renaissance” – a period in U.S. history characterized by renewed national self-confidence. When creating his design for a new double eagle, he created a beautiful depiction of a winged Liberty, wearing a Native American headdress and holding a torch. He crafted this entire design in ultra high relief, creating one of the most beautiful designs ever seen.
Unfortunately, lack of technological advancement stood in the way of Saint-Gaudens design. Despite his hard work and stunning end result, test strikes showed that the current presses used by the U.S. Mint could not strike his design in the large quantities needed. Design revisions were made to make the design simpler, and what ended up in production in 1907 was a gold double eagle with Liberty stripped of her wings and Indian headdress – a 1907 $20 Double Eagle that was substantially different from the one Saint-Gaudens originally envisioned.
Even when the U.S. Mint struck the 2009 MMIX Ultra High Relief $20 gold coin, a noble attempt to pay tribute to the original $20 Saint-Gaudens design, it fell short. It did not honor his original design but the revised, simpler version. Despite these failures, Saint-Gaudens original design has been recovered, and brought to life on 1 oz. Proof Silver and Gold commemoratives!
MCM now also offers 2016 Winged Liberty Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Commemorative Proofs, with Saint-Gaudens original design struck in high relief. These exceptional medals were created using Saint-Gaudens original engraving which were obtained from the National Park Foundation. 12th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, John Mercanti, completed Saint-Gaudens work, and the commemoratives were struck by the esteemed Royal Mint in Great Britain!
Don’t be fooled by words, photos and images – these absolute gems of numismatic history look best when viewed in your own hand. I purchased one of the 2016 1 oz. High Relief Silver Saint-Gaudens Winged Liberty commemoratives when those first became available for sale at MCM. I was absolutely blown away by its beauty. To think that it took over 100 years to see this stunning design that August Saint-Gaudens originally envisioned struck into metal, is astounding!
Charles E. Barber was the 6th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. His tenure ran from 1879 to 1917, and his impressive track record includes the design and engraving of the Barber Dime, Quarter, and Half Dollar. He also created numerous other U.S. coins and patterns, including the 1906 Double Eagle Pattern. I covered this numismatic legend and his work in the previous article 1906 Barber Design Double Eagle.
When Theodore Roosevelt gave the task of creating new designs for American coinage to Saint-Gaudens, it was not thought well of by Barber and many other Mint officials. This commission should really have gone to Charles Barber, who was the current Chief Engraver at the U.S. Mint, but Roosevelt was adamant.
Barber would have nothing of it, and after delays and revisions affected Saint-Gaudens’ design, Barber took advantage of the situation to have his own 1906 Double Eagle pattern struck in gold. It was claimed that Barber was in an unusual hurry to finish his double eagle design, likely so that he could complete it before Saint-Gaudens completed his. Despite this, his magnificent design does not show any sign of hurried work.
Despite the obvious quality of the design, the single pattern struck by Barber was rejected by Roosevelt, in favor of Saint-Gaudens’ design that was completed shortly later. The one pattern that was struck was to be destroyed, but it somehow survived. It is currently held at the Smithsonian where it is one of the most valuable U.S. patterns ever struck that have survived until today!
ModernCoinMart has once again made an unobtainable numismatic treasure available to collectors. 1 oz. Proof Silver 1906 Barber Double Eagle Pattern Commemoratives have been authorized by the Smithsonian and graded by NGC. These special commemoratives of the 1906 Barber Double Eagle are certainly something to think about collecting. I plan to add one to my collection soon – it is one of my personal favorites.
George T. Morgan is considered by many to be the greatest American coin designer in the history of the U.S. Mint. During his tenure as the 7th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, he designed the most famous and widely used U.S. coin ever struck - the Morgan Dollar. This coin has been widely collected ever since its creation so long ago. 10 years ago, in 2006, designs for yet another beautiful coin created by George T. Morgan were discovered. Designs for a large, gold, $100 coin!
Dubbed the $100 Gold Union, this coin design dated 1876 was intended for use, not in everyday trade, but for banking and international commerce. This makes sense, considering that it was designed for a composition of just under 5 Troy oz. of gold! Unfortunately, this coin was never struck and remained a design in Morgan's sketchbook... until today!
Award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, Louis Golino, previously covered this $100 coin design in the article $100 Silver Union by George Morgan. Louis did a stellar job, so all I would like to add is that the George T. Morgan $100 Silver Union Commemorative currently available at MCM has just been joined by an exciting 1/10 oz. gold version!
These “Coins that Never Were” are making their way into the homes of collectors across the globe. Are you ready to embrace the work of numismatic giants of the past as they originally envisioned? Many of these commemoratives may be sold out already – act now to secure what you can!
Author Name: Paul Maritz
Paul Maritz is a self-employed webmaster who generates income through the direct and indirect selling of advertising space through a network of websites. Paul is proficient in all areas of numismatics and enjoy participating on various forums, including MCM's Modern Coin Forum.