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History of Gold Eagles
The $10 gold piece, or gold eagle, was first issued in 1795. The original design was identical to that of the half eagle gold coins also first struck that year. Gold eagle coins were issued every year from 1795 to 1804. As with the half eagle, a small eagle design was originally used for the reverse design until 1797, at which time the large eagle began being used.
Gold eagle production ceased after 1804, and none were minted until 1838. The familiar Liberty (or Coronet) Head was then minted every year until 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt ordered design changes for all denominations of U.S. gold coins. From 1907 to 1933, the Indian Head design was minted. The first versions of the Indian Head eagle did not feature the motto “In God We Trust.” This omission caused quite a stir across the country, so the motto was added to the reverse design midway through the 1908 production.
The $10 gold piece, especially the Liberty Head design, was very popular in the days before paper currency entered widespread usage. For this reason, most of these pieces were in heavy circulation, and few coins of higher grades — including Mint State — were saved. Couple this fact with low mintages for many dates, and you can see why it costs a considerable sum to build anything near a complete set of gold eagle coins. Some notable eagle rarities include:
- All dates with the small eagle reverse
- 1798 8/7 overdate with 7 x 6 obverse star configuration
- 1804 Plain 4 (restrike) — Only three or four known
- 1907 Indian Head with wire rim, “with periods” before / after E PLURIBUS UNUM
- 1907 Indian Head with rounded rim, “with periods” before / after E PLURIBUS UNUM
Very few numismatists collect this denomination by date and mintmark, except for the Indian Head design. As a result, many of the especially low mintage dates (like the 1883-O with 800 minted) can sometimes be obtained for a surprisingly reasonable price, all things considered, when offered at public auction.
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