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    

1904 Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty, Lustrous Choice Bu++ Gold Coin, ** Free S/h1876-s Gold Liberty Head Twenty $20 Dollar Double Eagle Au+/unc Nice Coin!1861 S $20 Gold Piece Liberty Double Eagle Type 1 Au 100% Original Civil War1908 Double Eagle, $20 Gold St Gaudens, Choice Bu Gold Coin, ** Free Shipping!1873-s Liberty Head $20 Gold Double Eagle - Closed 3 - Icg Au50 1864 P $20 Gold Piece Liberty Double Eagle Au Details Type 1 Civil War Era Gold1904 $20 Liberty Gold Coin .. Gem Bu1927 $20 Ngc Ms 65 Gold St. Gaudens Double Eagle Twenty Dollar Gem Uncirc Saint1888-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 53 No Reserve 1888-s Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty ** Free Shipping!1925 $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin Pcgs Ms 62 Old Green Holder1923-d $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Ngc Ms62 1899 $20 Pcgs Ms 62 Gold Liberty Double Eagle, Ogh, Twenty Dollar Uncirculated1908 Icg Ms-63 No Motto Saint Gaudens Gold Twenty $20 Dollar Double Eagle1857-s $20 Gold Double Eagle Pcgs Ms61 S.s. Central America. 20e Broken A.1888-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms 60 Better Date In Uncirculated No Reserve1927 Saint Gaudens $20 Gold Ngc Graded Ms-651924 $20 Saint Gaudens Pcgs Ms66 Gem Uncirculated Philadelphia Gold Double Eagle1924 $20 Ngc Ms 65 Gold St. Gaudens Double Eagle Twenty Dollar Gem Uncirc Saint1890-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Ms 61 This Is Very Proof Like No Reserve 1924 Double Eagle $20 St. Gaudens Gold Coin /ungraded/33g/pa Estate1910 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Item#t33981904 $20 Liberty Double Eagle Gold Ngc Graded Ms-651877-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 53 1st Year Of The Type 3 No Reserve1874-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin A Couple Rim Bumps No Reserve1924 Special Saint Gaudens Double Eagle *pcgs* Ms-66 Unreal Quality !!! Pq+1927 $20 Gold Double Eagle - Pcgs Ms 65 - Lustrous Gem - Ships Free!1914-d $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms62 Ogh1904 $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle Coin Uncirculated Pcgs Ms 62 No Reserve1925 Double Eagle, $20 Gold St Gaudens, Super Lustrous Gem Bu++ Beauty!1902-s $20 Twenty Dollar Liberty Double Eagle Gold Coin / Free Priority Shipping1925 Ngc Ms64 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Item#t33961927 $20 Gold St. Gaudens Pcgs Ms641895-s $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle Ms-62 Pcgs1904 $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle Coin Uncirculated Pcgs Ms 63 No Reserve1910-d $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms62 Ogh1909/8 $20 St. Gaudens Pcgs Au Details Graded Gold Double Eagle1889-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 58 Semi Prooflike No Reserve 1882 S $20 Liberty Double Eagle Item#t33971906 Mintmark D Usa Gold Liberty Head $10 Gold Graded Pcgs Ms61 1899 $20 Ngc Ms 64 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Twenty Dollar Near Gem Uncirculated1927 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Pcgs Ms 64 Cac 1927 $20 St Gaudens Gold Double Eagle1927 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Coin Pcgs Ms 64 No Reserve1881-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 50 Early "s" Mint No Reserve 1924 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Coin.. Ch/gem Bu1911-d $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms62 Ogh1878-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 55 Early "s" Mint No Reserve 1876 -s Gold $ 20 Liberty Head Double Eagle Coin With Motto1904 1oz Gold $20 Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle Ms62 Ngc No Reserve1885-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 58 "s" Mint Better Date No Reserve 1884-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin | Au-ms | No Reserve | Beautiful Luster | 3185 |1922-p $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Ngc Ms62 1884-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 53 Better Date No Reserve 1880-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 50 Early "s" Mint No Reserve 1908 $20 St Gaudens Gold Coin No Motto 1858 S . Gold Liberty Head, Double Eagle # 1951882-s $20 Liberty Gold Coin Pcgs Au 58 Early "s" Mint No Reserve 1924 $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle Gold Coin Ngc Ms 611873 Open 3 Liberty $20 Gold Coin Pcgs Ms61 Certified1908 $20 Saint Gaudens No Motto Gold Double Eagle Coin Pcgs Ms 63 No Reserve

Recent News: US Twenty Dollar Gold Coins

Source: Google News

Colorado Springs area nonprofit community events starting Feb. 7, 2016
Colorado Springs Gazette, February 7th

Victorian Masque Ball - 6-11 p.m. March 6, to benefit the Gold Camp Victorian Society, Double Eagle Hotel Casino, 442 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek. Reservations: Hedy, 689-3700, goldcampvictoriansociety.org. Recipe for Hope - Noon-1 p.m. March 10, ...Read more

The List
Colorado Springs Independent, February 3rd

Tonight, the Gold Camp Victorian Society is hosting their annual Victorian Masque Ball, so we're talking waltzing. The music will be provided by The 4th Artillery Quadrille Ensemble and Shelby Evanoika, known for playing classic tunes at all sorts of ...Read more

The Coin Analyst – The Trio of 2016 Liberty Centennial Gold Coins Likely to ...
CoinWeek (blog), January 28th

The best comparison is not with the 2014 JFK gold coin but with the 2009 Ultra High Relief double eagle, another modern gold issue that reused an iconic and beloved classic coin design. That coin, which has a mintage of almost 115,000, turned out to be...Read more

Counterfeit Coin Detection – 1891 Double Eagle US Gold Coin
CoinWeek (blog), January 21st

NGC graders identified an 1891-S Double Eagle with a removed mintmark. Because most alterations involve added, not removed, mintmarks, this coin might easily fool unsuspecting collectors. The California Gold Rush created an immediate need for a mint to ...Read more

2015 US Coin Sales Top $439 Million at Major Public Auctions
CoinNews.net, January 12th

"As gold and silver prices dropped during the year and significant money was being spent on prized, big ticket numismatic rarities, there was weakness in the market for 'average' grade, commonly available coins," said PNG President Dana Samuelson...Read more

Top 10 Stories of 2015: 1933 double eagle case continues
Coin World, December 26th

In 2015's primary numismatic legal story, the Langbord family moved closer in its quest to keep 10 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles that it allegedly discovered in a family safe deposit more than a decade ago. Joan Langbord, the daughter of...Read more

Battle over ownership of rare gold "double eagles" again in court
Philly.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 family
Reuters, 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