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    

1908 Nm $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms65 1875 Cc Double Eagle Lustrous Type 2 V. Scarce Carson City Issue 1877s Liberty Head..$20.00 Double Eagle ...1 Oz. Gold Coin1899-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1865-s Liberty Head $20 Gold -s.s. Brother Jonathan- Outstanding Uncirculated1925 Double Eagle, $20 Gold St. Gaudens1926 $20 Gold Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms 64 Lustrous Certified Rare Coin$20 Double Eagle U.s. Saint-gaudens Gold Coin 1908-d Pcgs Ms 64 With Motto1908-d No Motto $20 Gold * Pcgs Ms64 * St Gaudens Double Eagle * $2,700++ Bright1884-s Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty ** Free Shipping!1892 S $20 Gold Liberty Coin Ngc Au 58 Name Your Price !!1897-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1897-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1876-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1904-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms641876 S $20 Pcgs Ms 61 Old Green Holder Gold Liberty Double Eagle, Twenty Dollar1871 Liberty Head $20 Gold Average Uncirculated Extra Rare This Nice!1915-s $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1882 S $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Nice Unc++ Super Pq No Reserve!!1853 O Double Eagle Type 1 V. Scarce New Orleans Mint Issue 1926 $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms65 - Ogh1883-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1890-s Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty, ** Free Shipping!1903-s Liberty $20 Gold Coin Very Nice! #02-221908 $20 Gold St. Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms65 No Motto A Real Beauty!!!1882-s Pcgs Ms61 Uncirculated Liberty Head $20 Gold Double Eagle Us Coin1915-s $20 Saint-gaudens Double Eagle Rare1896-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms621928 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin Ms621894 Liberty Head Double Eagle $20 Gold Coin1927 Saint Gaudens $20 Gold Coin Very Nice! #45-551910 Double Eagle, $20 Gold St. Gaudens ** Free Shipping!1859-s Type 1 ~ $20 Twenty Dollar Gold ~ Au ~ Rare Date!1910-d $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1892-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms621923 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Pcgs Ms63 Coin Free Shipping &insurance1905-s $20 Twenty Dollar Double Eagle Us Gold Coin Rarer Date1900-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms621896 $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1925 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated ***beautiful 1911 Saint Gauden Double Eagle $20 Gold Coin Ngc Ms64***1911-s $20 Saint Gaudens Gold (ms 64) Pcgs/cac1925 Double Eagle, $20 Gold St Gaudens, ** Free Shipping!1908 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin (no Motto) Ms621911-d $20 Gold * Ngc Ms65 * Cac * St Gaudens Double Eagle * Gorgeous Bright Gem1883-s $20 Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin Gem Brilliant Uncirculated Pq++1873-s Liberty $20 Gold Coin Very Nice! #01-05Hi Grade Pcgs Ms63 1914 S St. Gaudens Double Eagle 90% Gold Coin- No Reserve 1904 $20 Liberty Gold Coin Ms63 Ngc Double Eagle 1911-d $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1902-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Ncg Ms621898-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms621908 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1908 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1924 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin Ms621904 $20 Pcgs Ms63 Liberty Double Eagle - Gold Coin - No Reserve!1911-d $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Mint Gem Brilliant Uncirculated 1907-d $20 Liberty Double Eagle Pcgs Ms621895-s $20 Liberty Double Eagle Ngc Ms621927 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin Ms62

Recent News: US Twenty Dollar Gold Coins

Source: Google News

Sunken 'Ship of Gold' Contains Bounty of Jewelry, Other Treasures
LiveScience.com, September 17th

At the time the ship sank, it was carrying numerous gold ingots and freshly minted Double Eagle coins, which were worth $20 apiece at the time. So much gold was lost that public confidence in the banks — already overstretched at the time — was...Read more

SSCA Salvage: 22 Double Eagles, No Ingots (OMEX)
Seeking Alpha (registration), September 16th

In total the inventory sheet is just 2 pages and includes only 22 double eagle coins and some misc other smaller coins and objects and no ingots (no "Army Gold"...). Based on the $10mm Fifth Third credit line collateral requirements - they should be...Read more

Arup Celebrates 10 Strong Years in Chicago
SYS-CON Media (press release), September 15th

CHICAGO, Sept. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, today celebrates the tenth anniversary of its Chicago office. Located downtown in the ...Read more

Saddle Ridge Hoard Coins and Cans at PNG New York Show
Coin Update News, September 12th

The $10 million Saddle Ridge Hoard of buried treasure gold coins will make its first public appearance in New York from October 9 – 11, 2014. More than 50 of the historic coins, including the finest known 1866-S No Motto Double Eagle valued at over $1 ...Read more

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House to open Sept. 19
Washington Post (blog), September 10th

It's apparent from the decor of the two-story restaurant, which boasts window views from every seat and a color scheme of white marble, gold ceiling fixtures and muted green banquettes. "The color of money," said Scott Gould, the restaurant group's...Read more

Odyssey Marine Releases Preliminary List of Numismatic Items Recovered from ...
CoinWeek, August 28th

As CoinWeek reported earlier, the April 15, 2014 reconnaissance dive turned up five gold ingots and two $20 double eagle gold coins. Recovery efforts were threatened after a legal claim filed on behalf of the Columbus-America Discovery Group. Odyssey ...Read more

CoinWeek Q&A with U.S. Gold Coin Expert Douglas Winter
CoinWeek, August 26th

As a buyer, you have to do your homework and stay vigilant. 1861 paquet CoinWeek Q&A with U.S. Gold Coin Expert Douglas Winter CM: Well one coin that I'm sure you did your homework on is the 1861 Paquet Reverse $20 Liberty Head double eagle that ...Read more

All Time Finest Collection of Saint Gaudens Double Eagles on Display at Long ...
Coin Update News, August 14th

The all-time finest collection of Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins will be displayed in public for the first time at the Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp & Sports Collectible Expo held from September 4 – 6, 2014. The finest known 1932 Saint...Read more