Collectors and bullion investors alike are drawn to the beauty of the 2009 Ultra-High Relief Double Eagle, a faithful reproduction of the first Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle patterns minted in 1907 as patterns. The 2009 $20 Ultra-High Relief gold coins bring back to life these extremely rare patterns that number just two, both examples of which reside securely in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The original 1907 patterns weigh the same as the standard Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles that eventually came along, though they are about 20% narrower in diameter (27 millimeters versus 34 millimeters) and around double the thickness of ordinary double eagles. This extra thickness provided for the incredible relief on these coins and the deep-dish strike that set them miles apart from virtually anything else the United States Mint was striking in those days.
While collectors are unable to own the original patterns for any price, they can enjoy the exquisite technological accomplishment of this numismatic artwork as Augustus Saint-Gaudens envisioned when he designed the coin back in 1907. Among the very few differences between the 2009 strikes and the original 1907 patterns that inspired them is the lack of a sharp, knife-like rim, which is more flattened on the modern incarnation of the coins. The originals were also struck in a brilliant proof format, whereas the modern productions boast a satiny finish.
The United States Mint struck the 2009 Ultra-High Relief coins as business strikes that were largely intended to sell as bullion coins. However, in the literature that accompanied these coins when they were sold by the U.S. Mint, there is at least one reference to “Proofs,” causing some degree of confusion. However, the coins are classified as business strikes, or “Mint State,” and are given the option of Prooflike or Deep Mirror Prooflike for qualifying specimens graded by PCGS.
Given the modern coin’s quasi-status as a bullion piece, many examples were melted for their gold content during a period of rising precious-metals prices around 2011 and 2012. However, this practice has largely stopped in more recent years as more and more people in the hobby recognize the importance and beauty of this modern coin. Today, the 2009 Ultra-High Relief Double Eagle can be obtained for a notable premium above its spot value, owing to the numismatic significance and collectibility of this popular gold gem.