The Saint-Gaudens double eagle is named for the designer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the premier sculptors in American history. Theodore Roosevelt imposed upon him in his last few years to redesign the nation's coinage at the beginning of the 20th century. St. Gaudens' work on the high-relief $20 gold piece is considered to be one of the most extraordinary pieces of art on any American coin. The mint eventually insisted on a low-relief version, as the high-relief coin took up to eleven strikes to bring up the details and didn't stack correctly for banking purposes. Only 12,367 of these coins were struck in 1907. These coins easily top the $10,000 price in circulated grades, but can reach nearly a half million dollars in the best states of preservation.
There were several changes in the early years of this design. The first coins issued in 1907 design featured a date in Roman numerals, but this was changed later that year to the more convenient Arabic numerals. The motto "In God We Trust" was omitted from the initial design, as Roosevelt felt that it was inappropriate to put the name of God on money. By act of Congress, the motto was added in mid-1908.
Double eagles were routinely minted through 1933, although few of the very last years' coinages were released before the gold recall legislation of that year. Accordingly, these issues bring very high prices.
The Saint-Gaudens obverse design was reused in the American Eagle gold bullion coins that were instituted in 1986. The early 1907 double eagles and the 1986-1991 gold American Eagles are the only instances of Roman numerals denoting the date on American coinage.
On January 22, 2009 the U.S. Mint released ultra high relief double eagles using the deep design that Saint-Gaudens envisioned. It is one ounce of .9999 fine gold. Because of their higher gold content, and greater striking pressure, the coins were 27 mm wide and 4 mm deep (the same diameter as a gold eagle), rather than the 34 by 2 usual for double eagles and bullion coins. The initial selling price was $1239. With the rising price of gold by June it had climbed to $1339, and by December to $1489. There was no limit on the coinage of these one time uncirculated issues, which bear the date "MMIX". In September the one coin per person ordering restriction was removed. The final mintage was 115,178.