Its size – somewhat larger than today’s quarter – was convenient to handle and store and its denomination was imminently practical for trade in the East. Without pressure from the inflation-ridden gold mining towns in the far west, the Eagle may well have remained the largest denomination gold coin in circulation.
When paper money was printed to fund the Civil War effort, Americans hoarded vast numbers of Liberty Gold Eagles, rightfully assuming that the fiat money would rapidly lose value without the backing of gold. Many of the coins remained out of circulation after the war, so older Liberty Gold Eagles in unusually good condition are readily available today.
Christian Gobrecht, who was highly praised by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for his soaring eagle design on the 1836 Gold Dollar, designed the Liberty Gold Eagle. For the reverse, Gobrecht created another imposing image of an eagle, a frontal view with the tips of its widespread wings reaching to the edge of the coin and its head turned to the left. The denomination, written as ‘TEN D.,’ is on the bottom. In 1866 a scroll bearing the inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” was added above the eagle’s head.
The obverse of the Liberty Gold Eagle portrays the familiar “Matron Head” Liberty that was introduced on the 1816 Large Cent. The bust of Liberty faces left, wearing a coronet inscribed with the word ‘LIBERTY.’ Surrounding her are 13 stars and below her is the date.
The Liberty Gold Eagle was first struck in 1838, ending 34 years with no mintage of $10 gold coins. In adherence to the Coinage Act of 1834, the gold content of the Eagle was reduced from one half ounce to 0.48375 ounce, matching the coin’s face value to its gold value at the fixed rate of $20.67 per ounce.
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