Shrinking to the size of a coin was the first difficult step. The development of the manufacturing process was a technical feat. The double eagle in Ultra High Relief required seven strikings in the hydraulic press. Between two strikings, the piece was annealed and then washed in nitric acid to maintain the highest possible purity of the gold surface. The result was superb from the viewpoint of the color and brilliance of gold.
In the first trial in February 1907, one of the dies broke during the manufacture of the fourth unit, providing the argument to demonstrate that mass production was impossible.
The story did not stop there, simply because it was so tempting to repeat the feat. Twelve or thirteen additional coins were minted between March and July 1907, and three more on 31 December 1907 just before the yearly destruction of the outdated tools.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens had died on August 3, 1907. The informal promise to provide a sample to the Saint-Gaudens estate had not been met. When the widow claimed, the Mint chose to part with one of the pieces kept in its cabinet rather than recreating the tools.
The widow had marked the ASG initials on the edge of her coin before presenting it in long-term loan to the American Numismatic Society. Withdrawn many years later from ANS by the Saint-Gaudens estate, it is now resurfacing. In an almost perfect condition like many other units from this pattern model, it is graded PR68 by NGC and PCGS.
It will be sold with no reserve by Heritage in Orlando on January 7, lot 4412. Two weeks before the sale, the bidding is at $ 1.3 million before fees. The only specimen graded PR69 (by PCGS) was sold for $ 2,76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012.