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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Sunken 'Ship of Gold' Contains Bounty of Jewelry, Other TreasuresLiveScience.com, September 17th
At the time the ship sank, it was carrying numerous gold ingots and freshly minted Double Eagle coins, which were worth $20 apiece at the time. So much gold was lost that public confidence in the banks — already overstretched at the time — was...Read more
SSCA Salvage: 22 Double Eagles, No Ingots (OMEX)Seeking Alpha (registration), September 16th
In total the inventory sheet is just 2 pages and includes only 22 double eagle coins and some misc other smaller coins and objects and no ingots (no "Army Gold"...). Based on the $10mm Fifth Third credit line collateral requirements - they should be...Read more
Arup Celebrates 10 Strong Years in ChicagoSYS-CON Media (press release), September 15th
CHICAGO, Sept. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, today celebrates the tenth anniversary of its Chicago office. Located downtown in the ...Read more
Saddle Ridge Hoard Coins and Cans at PNG New York ShowCoin Update News, September 12th
The $10 million Saddle Ridge Hoard of buried treasure gold coins will make its first public appearance in New York from October 9 – 11, 2014. More than 50 of the historic coins, including the finest known 1866-S No Motto Double Eagle valued at over $1 ...Read more
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House to open Sept. 19Washington Post (blog), September 10th
It's apparent from the decor of the two-story restaurant, which boasts window views from every seat and a color scheme of white marble, gold ceiling fixtures and muted green banquettes. "The color of money," said Scott Gould, the restaurant group's...Read more
Odyssey Marine Releases Preliminary List of Numismatic Items Recovered from ...CoinWeek, August 28th
As CoinWeek reported earlier, the April 15, 2014 reconnaissance dive turned up five gold ingots and two $20 double eagle gold coins. Recovery efforts were threatened after a legal claim filed on behalf of the Columbus-America Discovery Group. Odyssey ...Read more
CoinWeek Q&A with U.S. Gold Coin Expert Douglas WinterCoinWeek, August 26th
As a buyer, you have to do your homework and stay vigilant. 1861 paquet CoinWeek Q&A with U.S. Gold Coin Expert Douglas Winter CM: Well one coin that I'm sure you did your homework on is the 1861 Paquet Reverse $20 Liberty Head double eagle that ...Read more
All Time Finest Collection of Saint Gaudens Double Eagles on Display at Long ...Coin Update News, August 14th
The all-time finest collection of Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins will be displayed in public for the first time at the Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp & Sports Collectible Expo held from September 4 – 6, 2014. The finest known 1932 Saint...Read more