The American Eagle Silver and Gold Bullion coins are considered by many collectors to be one of the most beautiful coin designs. The front image was designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. While his design exists on more than 22 million ounces of gold and over 500 million ounces of silver, few people know much about the designer.

American Eagle 1oz Silver | BU | 2019
Source: Banknote World 

Augustus was a classic mid-19th century American ‘renaissance man’ but he was actually born in Ireland.  He studies art, history and philosophy in the US and Europe.  He became famous after the American Civil War when he produced several iconic monuments.  These monuments include The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in, a monument of Civil War Admiral David Farragut in New York’s Madison Square and Abraham Lincoln: The Head of State in Chicago’s Grant Park.  Few people who walk by these monuments also know that the sculptor designed coins.  The American Eagle is not the only authentic currency Augustus designed.  He designed the $10 Indian Head Gold coin produced from 1907 to 1933. 

Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum

What makes the American Eagle so iconic and so beautiful? First it was minted as a result of the Gold Rush. President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned it. Saint-Gaudens was chosen to design it over all of the in-house engravers. These three facts give the origin some mystique.    But the most interesting part is that the relief; that is the depth of the engraving, is much greater than any coin struck before that. In fact, the original design had to be modified to reduce the relief to make it manufacturable. The combination of a high relieve robed woman on a background of radial lines gives a three-dimensional effect where it seems that Lady Liberty is jumping off the coin itself. The radial lines also give the impression of sunrise bathing Liberty from behind.  It is truly one of the most beautiful precious metal coins ever struck. Until the UK Queen’s Beast Collection- but that is for another day.

American Eagle 1oz Gold | BU | 2019
Source: Banknote World 

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