When the California Gold Rush made the United States a wealthy country almost overnight, the federal government realized that it could use its new resources to simplify huge transactions by minting gold coins in large denominations. Because pretty much everyone still distrusted paper money, large payments were usually made in coins, thanks to their inherent value as precious metal. The largest gold coin at the time was the eagle (worth $10), which could make big transactions cumbersome.

Thus, in February 1849, Congress passed the Gold Dollar Bill, which authorized the U.S. Mint to begin coining $20 gold coins. Because it was worth twice as much as the eagle, this new coin became known as the double eagle.

Double eagles were minted from 1850 to 1933. In this period, the coin appeared with two major designs: the Liberty Head design (1850 to 1907) and the Saint-Gaudens design (1907 to 1933).

James B. Longacre designed the Liberty Head double eagle coin. The obverse featured a profile of Lady Liberty wearing an elaborate coronet. On the reverse was the eagle, with a motto ribbon on each side.

This design underwent two major changes. In 1866, with religious sentiment riding high after the Civil War, “In God We Trust” was added within a circle of stars over the eagle’s head on the coin’s reverse. This motto had first appeared just two years earlier on two-cent coins and became increasingly common as the century progressed.

In 1877, the reverse of the coin was modified yet again. Previously, the coin’s denomination was indicated as “Twenty D.” beneath the eagle crest. In 1877, “Dollars” replaced the “D.” abbreviation.

Other small changes were made over the years, but one particularly notable version was the 1861 Paquet Reverse. The government hired Anthony Paquet to make a few small modificati...

As the most valuable regular-issue American coin ever minted, the double eagle posed an obvious attraction to counterfeiters. After the Civil War, one method was particularly popular—counterfeiters would slice the coin in half, take out the gold, replace it with platinum, and put it back together. Perhaps amateur in comparison to today’s methods, these counterfeits were quite convincing at the time, so much so that the director of the U.S. Mint recommended that the coin be discontinued. These platinum counterfeits, however, have become collectible in their own right.

In 1907, the government released a completely redesigned coin, created by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the request of Theodore Roosevelt. The obverse featured a Hellenistic-style portrait of Lady Liberty in a flowing gown, bearing an olive branch and a torch. Unlike the previous coin, this one portrayed Lady Liberty’s entire body, striding toward the viewer. On the reverse was an eagle flying over a rising sun. Some numismatists consider it the most beautiful American coin ever made.

The first pressings of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle featured an unusually high relief. Additionally, because Roosevelt thought that printing “In God We Trust” on a coin was sacrilegious, the coin appeared without this motto. It also featured Roman numerals for the year (MCMVII), rather than the usual Arabic numerals.

In 1908, Congress added “In God We Trust” over the rising sun on the reverse of the coin, changed the Roman numerals to Arabic numerals, and lowered the coin’s relief. Because it was changed so quickly, collectors treasure the 1907 coins, especially those with the distinctive high relief.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1924 Gold $20 St Gaudens Double Eagle Coin1904 $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms 63 Lustrous Beautiful Rare Coin1908 $20 Twenty Dollar Gold Piece St. Gaudens Coin Double Eagle United States1927 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Color!1884-s Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty ** Free Shipping!1916-s $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle (ms 64) Pcgs/cac1924 $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin - Ngc Ms631883-s $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle Gold Coin1924 Ngc Double Eagle, $20 Gold St Gaudens Ngc Ms 64 ** Free Shipping!1897 $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle Gold Pcgs Ms62 Coin Twenty Dollar *1908 Ngc Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty, No Motto, Ngc Ms 64 ** Free Shipping!1899-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Uncirculated No Reserve W Moto1873 $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1911-s $20 Saint Gaudens Pcgs Ms64 Pq Choice San Francisco Gold Double Eagle1924 $20 St. Gaudens Gold Coin Pcgs Ms 64 (no Reserve) E441883-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Certified Au58 By Pcgs!1904 $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Mint Uncirculated 1875 S Twenty D. $20 Liberty 1861-o $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle Vf Pcgs ~rare~ **cleaned** 17,741 Mintage1850 Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty, Great Date ** Free Shipping!1926 $20 Gold St Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms64 ~ Nice! Cac! Ogh No Reserve!1908 Nm $20 Dollar St Gaudens Gold Coin Wells Fargo Nevada Gold Pcgs Ms 661880-s $20 Gold Liberty Pcgs Au 58 Very Choice1928 $20 Gold Saint Pcgs Ms64 St Gaudens Double Eagle Coin €1927 $20 Gold Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms 66 Lustrous Certified Rare Coin(2) 1922 $20.00 Gold St Gaudens Ngc Ms 63 Winner Takes Both!! 1914-s $20 St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Ms-64 Ngc1913-d $20 Gold Double Eagle "saint" Pcgs-ms63 Ogh! Nr1908 $20 Gold St. Gaudens "no Motto" Pcgs-ms65 Gem NrRare 1906-d $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms-63 No ReserveNgc 1884-cc Liberty Double Eagle (older Holder) Xf-451908 St Gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold Coin Motto Ngc Ms62 No Reserve1914-s $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Ms 64 Pcgs & Cac.1924 $20 Gold St Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms64 ~ Nice! Cac! Ogh! No Reserve!1914 D $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Ms 63 Ngc Certified No Reserve!!!1910-s $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1873 $20 Indian Head Gold (ms-61) Open 3 Pcgs Scarce!!!!1914-s $20 Gold Saint Gaudens, Double Eagle Gold CoinUsa Rare 1911-d $20 Gold Saint Gauden Double Eagle Coin Graded Iccs Au-58Very Nice 1908 Saint-gaudens Gold Twenty Dollar Double Eagle G$20 Uz1391910-d $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1924 $20 St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagle - Ms-64 Ngc1892-s $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms-63 No Reserve1894-s $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms-621873 $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Open 3 Gold Coin Brilliant UncirculatedPcgs 1860 Liberty Double Eagle Au-55 1907-s $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms-63 No Reserve1875-s $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Ngc Ms-61 No Reserve1903-s $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms-63 No Reserve1900-s $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms-63 No Reserve1927 $20 St Gaudens Pcgs Ms 64 Cac Pq Philadelphia Gold Double Eagle Saint$20 1859 S Liberty Au1913 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. Ngc Ms 61.1894 Pcgs Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty Pcgs Ms 61 ** Free Shipping!1927 $20 Gold St Gaudens Item#98771 De1908 St.gaudens Gold Double Eagle Coin.no Motto1898 $20.00 Liberty Gold Coin Ngc Ms-62 No Reserve1924 $20 St. Gaudens Gold Coin Pcgs Ms 64 (no Reserve) E451892 S $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Ngc Ms 61 Lustrous Beautiful Rare Coin1873 $20.00 Open 3 Liberty Gold Coin Ngc Ms-61 No Reserve

Recent News: US Twenty Dollar Gold Coins

Source: Google News

Travel: Idaho Springs gives visitors a dose of mountain charm
Glenwood Springs Post Independent, October 20th

The Argo Mill — the largest of its kind in the world — was constructed to process the gold-bearing ore from these mines. Visitors can take a tour through the Double Eagle Mine at the top of the mill and learn about the history of the tunnel, the mine...Read more

Cider Mill Ridge offers options for every buyer
Kansas City Star, October 11th

As the Fall Parade of Homes comes to an end Sunday, Fivestar Lifestyles, the Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Kansas City Homes marketing team and builders Ashlar Homes, SAB Homes and Double Eagle Builders thank you for coming by and seeing what...Read more

AM #2: NY Rangers
Columbus Dispatch (blog), October 11th

A rookie, Wennberg hasn't played his cards yet to get them on Muirfield, Double-Eagle, Scioto or the like. "When I'm older, maybe," Wennberg said with a smile. -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault on the Blue Jackets: "They're, in my esitamation, a very...Read more

Six Coins That Broke World Records
KING5.com, October 11th

The 2,204-pound Gold Kangaroo coin from the Perth Mint in Australia holds that title by a wide margin. This massive coin beat out ... at the very beginning of the Gold Rush. You can find the first 1849 Double Eagle ever minted on display in the...Read more

NGC has certified Newman Part V, which includes many extraordinary Early ...
CoinWeek, October 9th

Also featured in Newman Part V are several superlative gold coins, including the finest known 1867 Double Eagle, graded NGC MS 66, and two dozen Territorial gold pieces. The first four parts of the Eric P. Newman Collection, all of which have been...Read more

Thousands of Gold Coins and Bars Found on Sunken Ship
JCK, September 25th

Among the best finds: a garment meant to be worn around someone's waist, which contained 134 Double Eagle coins. The recovered gold jewelry is often found to be made of large gold nuggets. The expedition also found a significant amount of “cultural ...Read more

Coin Collecting Strategies : How To Collect Type One Double Eagles
CoinWeek, September 25th

I had previously written on New Orleans double eagles in my book New Orleans Gold Coins: 1839-1909 (published in 1992 and revised in 2006). Prior to this, collectors had to rely on the Breen Encyclopedia and ... If you are taking the time to read this...Read more

By the Numbers: Inside Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
Washingtonian.com (blog), September 23rd

400: Seats in the gold-and-green-accented dining rooms (the theme of the colors rhymes with “honey”), spread over three floors. $160: Cost of surf-and-turf for two on executive chef Scott Kroener's menu. The dish is made up of a 16-ounce Chateaubriand...Read more