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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Travel: Idaho Springs gives visitors a dose of mountain charmGlenwood Springs Post Independent, October 20th
The Argo Mill — the largest of its kind in the world — was constructed to process the gold-bearing ore from these mines. Visitors can take a tour through the Double Eagle Mine at the top of the mill and learn about the history of the tunnel, the mine...Read more
Cider Mill Ridge offers options for every buyerKansas City Star, October 11th
As the Fall Parade of Homes comes to an end Sunday, Fivestar Lifestyles, the Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Kansas City Homes marketing team and builders Ashlar Homes, SAB Homes and Double Eagle Builders thank you for coming by and seeing what...Read more
AM #2: NY RangersColumbus Dispatch (blog), October 11th
A rookie, Wennberg hasn't played his cards yet to get them on Muirfield, Double-Eagle, Scioto or the like. "When I'm older, maybe," Wennberg said with a smile. -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault on the Blue Jackets: "They're, in my esitamation, a very...Read more
Six Coins That Broke World RecordsKING5.com, October 11th
The 2,204-pound Gold Kangaroo coin from the Perth Mint in Australia holds that title by a wide margin. This massive coin beat out ... at the very beginning of the Gold Rush. You can find the first 1849 Double Eagle ever minted on display in the...Read more
NGC has certified Newman Part V, which includes many extraordinary Early ...CoinWeek, October 9th
Also featured in Newman Part V are several superlative gold coins, including the finest known 1867 Double Eagle, graded NGC MS 66, and two dozen Territorial gold pieces. The first four parts of the Eric P. Newman Collection, all of which have been...Read more
Thousands of Gold Coins and Bars Found on Sunken ShipJCK, September 25th
Among the best finds: a garment meant to be worn around someone's waist, which contained 134 Double Eagle coins. The recovered gold jewelry is often found to be made of large gold nuggets. The expedition also found a significant amount of “cultural ...Read more
Coin Collecting Strategies : How To Collect Type One Double EaglesCoinWeek, September 25th
I had previously written on New Orleans double eagles in my book New Orleans Gold Coins: 1839-1909 (published in 1992 and revised in 2006). Prior to this, collectors had to rely on the Breen Encyclopedia and ... If you are taking the time to read this...Read more
By the Numbers: Inside Del Frisco's Double Eagle SteakhouseWashingtonian.com (blog), September 23rd
400: Seats in the gold-and-green-accented dining rooms (the theme of the colors rhymes with “honey”), spread over three floors. $160: Cost of surf-and-turf for two on executive chef Scott Kroener's menu. The dish is made up of a 16-ounce Chateaubriand...Read more