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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Fugitive treasure hunter who found 'Ship of Gold' nabbed after two years on lamFox News, January 28th
12, 1857, killing at least 425 of its 477 passengers, it was carrying a large consignment of gold ingots and freshly minted U.S. $20 Double Eagle coins. The sheer size of the loss was so large that it triggered public confidence in the economy to fall...Read more
2015 High Relief Gold Coin and Silver Medal RecommendationsCoinNews.net, January 28th
Based on CFA and CCAC recommendations, the above obverse and reverse designs will likely be featured on the 2015 High Relief Gold Coin and 2015 High Relief Silver Medal. The silver medals would not bear any coin-specific inscriptions to include the ...Read more
CCAC Recommendations for 2015 High Relief Gold Coin and Silver MedalCoin Update News, January 27th
April Stafford of the United States Mint began the discussion by explaining the that the high relief gold coin with a placeholder denomination of $75 would be issued following the success of the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle. A silver medal...Read more
Evening of Hope Benefits Candlelighters ChildhoodNevada Business Magazine (press release), January 26th
To date, participating restaurants and specialty food providers include: Capital Grille, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, Dom DeMarco's, Hash House a Go Go, Mundo, Paymon's Mediterranean Grill and Sprinkles Cupcakes (featured on national...Read more
Artists of the Week: Buddy Ritter, Craig Holden collaborate on Mesilla historyLas Cruces Sun-News, January 25th
History has long been a kind of art form for Ritter, who has incorporated art and artifacts in the decor of his hotel and restaurant projects, most notably in Peppers and the Double Eagle in Mesilla. The restaurant's themed ... Treasures include the...Read more
As seen on TV: Murderous coin dealer in 'Streets of San Francisco' strikes ...Coin World, January 22nd
Actor Jamie Farr (later Klinger on MASH) is offed at the beginning of this episode of The Streets of San Francisco after smuggling blank double-eagle size gold planchets into the country. (From the Great Depression until 1975, private ownership of gold...Read more
Annual quilt show brightens Harrison Community LibraryTribune-Review, January 18th
The more recent one, “Double Eagle,” depicts gold-color eagles on a white background. Both are completely hand-stitched and are full-size quilts. “And they're in amazing condition,” Mock says. Mock and her mother have visited the library's quilt show...Read more
Rare 'double eagle' gold coin could fetch $1.5 millionUSA 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