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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Seafood towers scale the heightsChicago Tribune, April 1st
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse. The Gold Coast location of this steakhouse chain is gorgeous, highlighted by the multistory glass wine tower in the center of the restaurant. The shellfish platter ($79.50 and $153) arrives on a large glass plate...Read more
Brief History of the National Numismatic CollectionCoin Update News, March 27th
Making a list of all of the important coins given to the Smithsonian in 1923 would take pages and pages. Just a few of the more famous coins include the 1849 Double Eagle, an 1804 Silver Dollar, an 1822 Half Eagle, both 1877 Gold Unions, Multiple 1907 ...Read more
Leon Bridges is the music man of the momentBellingham Herald, March 26th
After all, a year ago, he was working shifts as a busboy at Del Frisco's Double Eagle in downtown Fort Worth, picking up gigs here and there - all but unknown outside Fort Worth music circles. Seated on a banquette at Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar on...Read more
Alcott, Fleisher, Pressel: Don't Pass Over Jewish GolfersGolf.com, March 25th
With Passover, Easter, the Masters and the old Dinah Shore tournament coming up quickly, this is as good a time as any to report on something that doesn't garner much attention, and with good reason: Jewish accomplishment in professional golf...Read more
Ken Conaway of Ohio Wins 1907 $20 Double EagleCoinNews.net, March 25th
Ken Conaway, a U.S. ingot collector from Ohio, won a Mint State 1907 $20 High Relief Double Eagle as the Grand Prize in Heritage Auctions' annual numismatic survey. Around seven years ago, Conaway started collecting U.S. Government silver ingots...Read more
2015-W Proof American Gold Eagles ReleasedCoinNews.net, March 12th
American Gold Eagles have kept the same obverse and reverse imagery. Obverses bear Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Liberty design as first seen on the 1907 to 1933 $20 double eagle. An allegorical figure of Liberty has a lit torch in one hand and an olive ...Read more
First Read: The 1822 Gold Half Eagle: Story of a Rarity and Treasures from the ...CoinWeek, March 9th
A partnership with New York luxury auction house Sotheby's reminds us of Stack's handling of the only legal-to-own 1933 double eagle, which it sold through Sotheby's in 2002 for a record price of $7.6 million. That sale drew major national attention...Read more
Rare 'double eagle' gold coin could fetch $1.5 millionUSA TODAY, December 15th
A rare 1907 double eagle $20 coin designed by famed American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens could sell for as much as $1.5 million at auction Tuesday. The lustrous gold piece is one of four experimental relief $20 coins that were minted in...Read more