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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Recent News: US Twenty Dollar Gold Coins
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2015 $100 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin PhotosCoinNews.net, July 31st
As comparisons, the 2009 $20 UHR Double Eagle launched with a one-coin limit but cheaper $1,189 price. It ended with unaudited sales of 115,178. The 2013 $50 Reverse Proof Buffalo was more expensive, launching at $1,640. It lacked limits other than a ...Read more
Battle over gold coins goes on and onPhilly.com, July 29th
There were 455,500 double eagle coins minted in Philadelphia in 1933, but never circulated because President Franklin D. Roosevelt scrapped the gold standard. He ordered all but two of the coins melted into bullion. The two saved were sent to the ...Read more
Gold & Silver Money has Devolved into Debt and PlasticSilverSeek.com, July 21st
IN THE BEGINNING: Gold and silver coins were used as real money for several thousand years. Gold and silver were universally recognized as a store of value. 140 YEARS AGO: The $20 Gold Double Eagle Coin was globally recognized as money...Read more
FIVE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE 1933 DOUBLE EAGLEKING5.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
Gold at five-year lows! Interested?Uncommon Wisdom Daily, July 21st
As you know, I favor income-producing assets and gold hardly fits into that category. But readers often ask about my thoughts on the yellow metal, so I at least try to give updates once in a while. The short story is that I have been openly bearish on...Read more
Notebook: Forshey Records Double EagleSouthern Pines Pilot, July 17th
Double Eagle: Brady Forshey, foreman at Pinehurst No. 8, made a double eagle June 30 on the par-5 third hole of Pinehurst No. 5. Brady was playing from the gold tees, and the hole measured 484 yards to the green. He used his hybrid 4 iron from 210...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 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