HomeGold BullionGold CoinsPre-1933 US Gold Coins$20 Liberty Gold Double Eagles
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During the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s, the U.S. Mint manufactured $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle coins. Twenty dollars was a considerable sum of money at that time, but the California Gold Rush had enriched many a pocket, and U.S. citizens found themselves needing larger currency. Today, the $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle intrigues collectors and investors alike with its vintage appearance and rich history.
Prompted by the onslaught of precious metal during the California Gold Rush, the $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle coin was struck for the first time in 1849. Prior to its inception, the largest coin denomination Americans used was the $10 Gold Eagle piece. James Barton Longacre, Chief Engraver for the U.S. Mint, was tasked with the job of designing the $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle, which ultimately became the country’s largest circulating gold currency.
Unfortunately for Longacre, U.S. Mint Director Robert Patterson was not fond of him and wanted to oust him from the job. To make matters worse, Patterson had a partner supporting his efforts: Chief Coiner Franklin Peale. Patterson and Peale worked in tandem to make Longacre’s work life as miserable as possible. As a result, the designer/engraver was forced to slave over many coin templates before the $20 Liberty Gold finally came to fruition.
Between 1850-1907, three different versions of the $20 Liberty Gold coin entered the U.S. market: Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3. Each type bore its own set of unique obverse and reverse details which are outlined below.
Type 1 coins, or “No Mottos,” were manufactured between 1850-1866. Minting occurred in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. The obverse side featured Lady Liberty’s left-facing profile with the word “Liberty” inscribed inside her coronet. Her hair was tied back, but two curls fell about her face. Encircling her head were 13 stars representing the colonies and an inscription of the year.
On the reverse, an eagle bearing the words “E Pluribus Unum” was framed by the coin’s denomination and the words “United States of America.” A halo of thirteen stars hovered above the eagle’s head, symbolizing the original colonies and the country as a whole. Interestingly, all Type 1 coins manufactured between 1850-1858 spelled the word “Liberty” as “Llberty” — a fine detail now evident upon magnification.
Type 2 coins were minted between 1866-1876. At the urging of Pennsylvania’s Reverend M. Watkinson, these coins included the religious phrases “God and Our Country,” “God Our Trust,” and “In God We Trust,” a reflection of the trials endured by Americans during the Civil War.
The reverse side of the Type 2 coins incorporated several changes, including a widening of the eagle’s star halo to accommodate the religious phrase, a curving of the formerly straight shield sides, and a slight lowering of the eagle’s tail feathers.
Type 3 coins were minted between 1877-1907. Over 64 million coins were struck at a total of five facilities, making this phase of Liberty Gold production the most prolific of all. Mint marks from San Francisco (S), Carson City (CC), New Orleans (O), Denver (D), and Philadelphia (no imprint) are located on the reverse.
Lady Liberty’s neck is shorter on the Type 3 to allow more space for the date, and her coronet sits atop her head at a slightly different angle. On the reverse, the denomination marker of “Twenty Dollars” is spelled out rather than abbreviated, and the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” is enlarged.
Production of the $20 Liberty Gold coin ceased in 1907. President Roosevelt wanted to replace the coin with a modernized design created by his sculptor friend, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The sculptor unfortunately passed away of cancer in 1907, before his designs were realized. The current chief engraver created a new coin that replicated Saint-Gaudens’ design somewhat, and although the sculptor was not completely responsible for it, the Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle coin entered the U.S. market in late 1907.
Many $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle coins were lost, shipped to Europe, or melted during the collapse of the Gold Standard. Some dates are harder to find than others, but the $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle is still a valuable coin for investing or collecting. Both high and low-grade specimens are available for purchase today, but the majority display quite a bit of wear, particularly on Lady Liberty’s locks and the eagle’s head.
The coin’s price mirrors the price of gold in many cases. With .9675 troy ounces of pure gold, these pieces reflect an important era of American history. They are an interesting and fun way for investors and collectors to ramp up their precious metals portfolios. We invite you to browse through our online catalog of $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle coins and add one to your portfolio today!