Resident Steven L. Contursi, a coin collector and dealer, paid $2.8 million at a public auction in Baltimore, Md., for one of the best 1907-dated $20 gold pieces considered one of the nation’s most beautiful coins.
The coin was designed by acclaimed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt, and only about 20 examples are known today of this particular “ultra high relief” variety, according to a statement by Contursi’s publicist.
“The price was just too good to pass it up, so I took advantage of the opportunity,” said Contursi, president of Irvine’s Rare Coin Wholesalers, who placed the winning bid by phone from a restaurant near the auction at a rare coin convention in Baltimore.
Contursi purchased the coin in partnership with Tiburon, Calif., dealer Donald Kagin. They plan to exhibit the coin at the World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia next month and at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo in September.
“It’s an historic coin and people should have the opportunity to see it in person,” said Contursi. “This coin combines all the elements of rarity, desirability, artistic design and historical importance. President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to emulate the beautiful high relief designs of classic, ancient Greek coins and brought in world renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to achieve just that.”
The seller was Irvine’s Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a currency dealer and auction house.
The coin was certified genuine by Santa Ana-based Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT). PCGS graded the coin a near perfect proof 69 on the standard numismatic grading scale of 1 to 70.
The front of the coin portrays the symbolic representation of “Miss Liberty” striding forward while holding a torch and palm branch. The date is written in Roman numerals, MCMVII. The tail’s side depicts an eagle soaring in flight.
“It’s known as an ‘ultra high relief’ because the design extends up so far from the coin’s surface that the coins could not be stacked one on top of the other. The design was quickly modified by the Mint to lower the relief so the gold pieces could circulate,” Contursi explained.
Saint-Gaudens’ design was used on the $20 gold pieces, known as “Double Eagles,” from 1907 to 1933. The design was recreated by the U.S. Mint in 1986 for the front of the American Eagle gold bullion coins that are still made today.