Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries has an extensive inventory of double eagles. We specialize in pieces of the highest technical merit and eye appeal for the grade and price. View our double eagles now. >
The History of Double Eagles
In the late 1840s, the California Gold Rush brought about the need to mint a new, higher-denomination coin in the United States, as miners brought their gold to U.S. Assay Offices in the West. Until that time, the $10 gold piece, or eagle, was the highest denomination minted. As a result, in 1849, Congress approved the minting of a $20 gold piece, or double eagle, along with a new gold dollar coin.
The first regularly issued double eagles were minted in 1850 at the Philadelphia and New Orleans Mints. In 1854, due to the large amount of gold found in California, a new mint opened in San Francisco. The first $20 gold pieces were designed by James B. Longacre and are known as Liberty Head double eagles. The obverse design remained relatively unchanged until 1907, when a new design was implemented.
Liberty Heads featured three different reverse designs. The Type I Reverse was used from 1850 to 1866. From 1866 to 1876, the motto “In God We Trust” appeared above the eagle, and this new design became known as Type II Reverse. The reverse was slightly changed again in 1877, yielding the Type III Reverse design. The denomination appeared on the reverse as “TWENTY D.” in early versions, and “TWENTY DOLLARS” in later versions. The Type III design ceased production in 1907.
Over the years, Liberty Head double eagles were struck at the Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, Carson City and Denver Mints. Numerous extreme rarities exist in this series. These dates include: 1854-O, 1856-O, 1861 with the Paquet (“tall letters”) reverse, 1861-S Paquet reverse and 1870-CC. Many other Liberty Head double eagle dates are also quite elusive and pricey.
In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to change the U.S. gold coin designs. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a prominent artist and sculptor of the time, won a competition for a new double eagle design. The initial Saint-Gaudens double eagles were struck in beautiful high-relief fashion. Unfortunately, these coins were difficult to strike and would not stack very well. In short order, the design was modified to a lower relief. Initially, these coins lacked the motto “In God We Trust,” but it was added midway through 1908 in the area above the sun on the reverse.
Again, the Saint-Gaudens double eagle series features several very elusive dates. These include: 1907 high relief, 1920-S, 1921, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D and 1932. Extremely rare dates include the 1927-D and the 1933, of which only one is in public hands.
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