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    

1907 $20 Pcgs Ms 65 St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagle, Scarce Gem Unc. Saint Ogh1925 $20 Gold St Gaudens Double Eagle Ogh Rattler (pcgs Ms 63 Ms63) Us Coin 93501852 Us Gold Coin $20 Twenty Dollar Double Eagle Liberty – High Grade1923 Gold $20 St Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms 62 - Green Label - Great Luster1927 $20 Gold St Gaudens Double Eagle Ogh Rattler (pcgs Ms 63 Ms63) Us Coin 935120 Gold Dollar 1910-d Ms 65+20 Gold Dollar 1912 Ms 64+20 Gold Dollar 1922-s Ms 64Us 1896-s $20 Double Eagle Liberty Head American Gold Coin20 Gold Dollar 1907 Ms 651914 Saint Gaudens $20 Twenty Dollar Gold Coin Pendant, 36.60 Grams -no Reserve 20 Gold Dollar 1925 Ms 65Us 1861 $20 Liberty Gold Coin, Certified Ngc Xf45, Early Civil War Date1862-s $20 Double Gold Eagle - Liberty Head - No Reserve!20 Gold Dollar 1908-d Ms 651923 Uncirculated $20 Saint-gaudens Gold Double Eagle Coin Ms-63 Pcgs20 Gold Dollar 1911-d Ms 641897 $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle Ms-62 Ngc1924-p $20 Double Gold Eagle - Beauty - No Reserve!Lot Of 5 Pcgs Gold $20 Double Eagles Including Low Mintage 1914-d Saint Gauden1900 Gold $20 Double Eagle (lustrous Unc) See Hi-res Image No Reserve1907 $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle Ms-61 Pcgs.20 Gold Dollar 1923 Ms 651904-s $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle Ms-62 Ngc1889 S $20 Liberty Head Gold Coin Au1859-s $20.00 Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle Pcgs Genuine Type One!!au Details.1849 Liberty Head $20 Gold Double Eagle Coin1894-s United States $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Ngc Au 58 - Nicer!1889 S $20 Gold Double Eagle Us Coin Great Condition *see Pictures* No Reserve!1908 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms64+ Cac 20 Gold Dollar 1911 Ms 641922 St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Pcgs Ms-62 (no Reserve) 1924 Pcgs Ms-62 Saint-gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold Us Coin **sealed Case**1914 $20 Gold St. Gaudens Circulated Condition1922 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms64 Cac 1883-s Xf Liberty Head Double Eagle Gold $20 Coin - No Reserve1926 $20 St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagle - Ms-63 PcgsEstate--1927 $20 Double Eagle 1 Oz Gold Coin--pcgs Ms63--no Reserve1908 $20 Saint Pcgs Ms63 No Motto St Gaudens Gold Coin Double Eagle Usa1924 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Pcgs Ms65+ Plus! 20 Gold Dollar 1927 Ms 621900-s $10 Liberty Gold Coin.. Choice Bu+1900-s United States Liberty Head $20 Gold Peace, Pcgs Graded As An Ms621908 No Motto $20 Gold St Gaudens Ms 61One New Ngc 20 Coin Storage Box1926 $20 St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagle - Ms-63 Pcgs$20 Gold Liberty Dbl Eagle 19041924 Pcgs Ms-62 Saint-gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold Us Coin **sealed Case**1874-cc Liberty $20 Gold Average Uncirculated Very Rare This Nice!1892-cc Carson City $20 Double Eagle Pcgs Xf-45 Pq1904 $20 Gold Liberty Head Pcgs Ms 621904 $20 Gold Liberty Head Ngc Ms 621908 No Motto $20 Gold St Gaudens Ms 621908-s Liberty Head $20 Gold Nice Uncirculated Rare! Low Mintage!!1909-s/s Fs-501 $20 Saint-gaudens Gold Double Eagle Ms61 Ngc Rare Variety!!Usa 20 Gold Dollars Double Eagle 1911 S 33.43 Gr. 0.9675 Oz. 0.900 Gold 1903 Au Liberty Head Double Eagle Gold $20 Coin - No Reserve1860 Liberty Head Twenty Dollar $20 Double Eagle Gold PieceA 1904 United States Liberty Head $20 Gold Peace, Pcgs Graded As An Ms631896 S $20 Gold Liberty Head Pcgs Ms 62

Recent News: US Twenty Dollar Gold Coins

Source: Google News

Don't Miss: Teck Resources Ltd (USA) (NYSE:TCK), Forward Industries Inc ...
Stock Transcript, August 28th

Named Project Corridor, the combination of Goldcorp's El Morro gold and copper project with Teck's Relincho copper and molybdenum mine targets initial capital costs of US$3.5 billion to bring the properties to production. Earlier studies put El Morro's...Read more

Today in history
Bowling Green Daily News, August 17th

Olympic gold medal figure skater Robin Cousins is 58. Singer Belinda Carlisle is 57. Author Jonathan Franzen is 56. Actor Sean Penn is 55. Jazz musician Everette Harp is 54. Rock musician Gilby Clarke is 53. Singer Maria McKee is 51. Rock musician...Read more

Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Coin Sculptor
KOIN.com, August 8th

After two years of considered design work, America's master sculptor completed the $20 gold Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. In the 100 years since this iconic coin was released into circulation, it has never ceased to impress coin collectors and design...Read more

KING5.com, July 21st

When I first heard of this coin as a child, I did not understand why the originals were referred to as "double eagle" since quite literally only one said feathered friend appears to be present on the reverse and the obverse always has a woman of Greek...Read more

US Asks Appeals Court to Rehear Ruling Over Rare 'Double Eagle' Coins
Wall Street Journal (blog), July 2nd

The U.S. government hasn't given up its multiyear fight to hang on to 10 rare gold coins that a federal appeals court recently ruled should be given back to the heirs of a Philadelphia coin dealer who obtained them decades ago under mysterious ...Read more

Philadelphia: Family wins back rare Double Eagle gold coins that could be ...
The Independent, April 20th

A total of 455,500 double eagle coins were minted in Philadelphia in the 1930s, but were ordered melted down and converted to gold bullion as part of President Franklin D Roosevelt's plan to shore up the nation's banking and currency system. A small ...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

Rare 'double eagle' gold coin could fetch $1.5 million
USA 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