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.
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Give the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders the medal they are asking forCoin World, October 24th
While covering the U.S. Mint, Paul has reported many memorable stories including the record sale of the Farouk/Fenton 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle, the legal proceedings involving the Langbord 1933 double eagles, the aluminum 1974-D Lincoln cent...Read more
When does an object's value impact our experience with it?Coin World, October 24th
It is tough to think of a 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle and not think of the nearly $7.6 million that one brought at a 2002 auction. How does knowing an object's worth in the marketplace change our viewing experience of it (and does it even...Read more
Finest Known Type One Double Eagles Gold Coins: Part One, 1850-1858CoinWeek, October 24th
The best 1852 double eagle I have seen is the Crawford coin which is in a PCGS MS64 and which has superb color and surfaces. The next best is the Heritage 2012 ANA: 5408 coin ($82,250) which is ex Bowers and Merena 9/08: 822 ($35,650). It is also in a ...Read more
Heritage New York US Coins Auction Tops $11.1 MillionCoinNews.net, October 23rd
1870-CC Double Eagle, VF30. This 1870-CC Double Eagle, graded VF30, realized $188,000. Taking top honors was an 1870 Carson City Double Eagle. Graded VF30 by PCGS, the $20 gold piece sold for $188,000 and attracted "spirited bidding," according ...Read more
Heritage gold coins attract top bidsNumisMaster.com, October 23rd
A Carson City gold $20 led the pack at the Professional Numismatists Guild New York Invitational Signature Auction conducted Oct. 8-13 by Heritage. Graded VF-30 by the Professional Coin Grading Service, the 1870-CC double eagle fetched $188,000, ...Read more
Police reports: Downers Grove for week of Oct. 22Suburban Life Publications, October 23rd
Joseph V. Pellicciono, 19, 4618 Woodward Ave., Downers Grove, was charged at 3:11 p.m. Thursday with disorderly conduct and Mariano A. Ruffolo, 29, 6693 Double Eagle Drive, Woodridge, also was charged with disorderly conduct at Ogden Avenue and ...Read more
1870 Carson City Double Eagle brings $188000 at Heritage New York US Coins ...CoinWeek, October 21st
1870heritage 1870 Carson City Double Eagle brings $188,000 at Heritage New York US Coins auction “The 1870-CC double eagle is considered one of the keys to the entire Liberty double eagle series, and is by far the rarest double eagle struck in Carson...Read more
Thousands of Gold Coins and Bars Found on Sunken ShipJCK, 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