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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Illinois treasurer to hold online auction of valuablesDeKalb Daily Chronicle, November 27th
The auction will include items such as an Engelhard 10-ounce gold bar; a 1923D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold piece; a 1967 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card and a 1966 Sandy Koufax Topps baseball card. Auction items have been appraised by an ...Read more
Unclaimed property being auctionedJacksonville Journal Courier, November 25th
Items include an Engelhard 10-ounce gold bar, a 1923D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold piece, a 1967 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card and a 1966 Sandy Koufax Tops baseball card. Auction items have been appraised by an outside vendor. Auction ...Read more
The Liberty and Indian Princess Head Gold DollarsCoinWeek (blog), November 24th
I mention this because some of our most iconic designs seem to have came from such troubled relationships between artist and management at the Mint (the Morgan dollar and the Saint-Gaudens double eagle come immediately to mind). Type 1 is commonly ...Read more
Online Auction for Unclaimed Property: Online Auction November 30-December 4 ...RiverBender.com, November 24th
“If the property goes unclaimed for 10 years, the items are auctioned to make room for incoming unclaimed items.” Items include an Engelhard 10oz gold bar; a 1923D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold piece; a 1967 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card; and a ...Read more
Collecting Saint-Gaudens gold double eaglesCoin World, November 20th
As a double eagle contains 0.97 ounce of gold, forming a collection by date and Mint is an interesting pursuit, seemingly more intellectually challenging than accumulating bulk modern coins in quantity. Of course, the new bullion coins are a convenient...Read more
US Gold Coins – Unsurpassed Transitional Year 1907 Gold SetCoinWeek (blog), November 4th
AU Capital Management, LLC is proud to offer this 1907 U.S. Gold three-coin set comprised of the 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle graded PCGS MS-69 CAC, the 1907 Rolled Edge $10 Indian Eagle PCGS MS67 and the 1907 No Motto $10 ...Read more
Battle over ownership of rare gold "double eagles" again in courtPhilly.com, October 14th
On one side, the federal government argues that the 10 rare 1933 $20 "double eagle" gold coins were stolen from the U.S. Mint, and never put in circulation. On the other, the heirs of Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt say that the Treasury Department ...Read more
US must return rare double eagle gold coins to familyReuters, April 17th
By a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Joan Langbord and her sons Roy and David are the rightful owners of the double eagle $20 gold pieces, after the government ignored their claim to the coins and missed a deadline...Read more