The Complete Guide to Certified Gold Coins is what every numismatic should be reading to begin their collections or enhance their knowledge. An extraordinary numismatic investment begins with, above all, love for beautiful coins and history as well as exhaustive research into the field of certified gold coins. PCGS and NGC are the industry experts in this sector, with a few other competitors including ANACS, PCI and novice, ICG.
Certified gold coins have a grading above MS60. Coins that are lower generally do not need third-party certification.
Rare gold coins encompass everything that an effective numismatic venture commands. First of all, they are rare and while tens of millions of U.S. gold coins were created from 1830 to 1933, not many survived. Secondly, they reflect history. Each has its purpose within American history and reflects the time period as well. And, finally, each gold coin is more than just an investment; they are beautiful pieces characterized by exclusive American symbolism and designed by some of America’s leading visionaries.
The two characteristics that define the value of numismatic pieces are condition and rarity. In other words, if the coin is in great condition it will be worth more than its weight in gold (or silver).
According to the third-party certification industry (particularly PCGS), the highest-graded coins carry the MS or mint state designation, and are graded in numerals from 60 to 70. Grades higher than 67 are almost impossible to obtain. These are the coins that demonstrate no signs of wear even though they might show scuffs or bag marks. They have not been circulated.
PCGS defines these as:
MS-65 Shows an attractive high quality of luster and strike for the date and mint. A few small scattered contact marks, or two larger marks may be present, and one or two small patches of hairlines may show under magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks may show on the high points of the design. Overall quality is above average and overall eye appeal is very pleasing. Copper coins have full luster with original or darkened color as appropriate.
MS-64 Has at least average luster and strike for the type. Several small contact marks in groups, as well as one or two moderately heavy marks may be present. One or two small patches of hairlines may show under low magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks or defects might be seen within the design or in the field. Has an attractive overall quality with a pleasing eye appeal. Copper coins may be slightly dull. Color should be appropriate.
MS -63 Mint luster may be slightly impaired. Numerous small contact marks, and a few scattered heavy marks may be seen. Small hairlines are visible without magnification. Several detracting scuff marks or defects may be present throughout the design or in the fields. The general quality is about average, but overall the coin is rather attractive. Copper pieces may be darkened or dull. Color should be appropriate.
MS-62 An impaired or dull luster may be evident. Clusters of small marks may be present throughout with a few large marks or nicks in prime focal areas. Hairlines may be very noticeable. Large unattractive scuff-marks might be seen on major features. The strike, rim, and planchet quality may be noticeably below average. Overall eye appeal is generally acceptable. Copper coins will show a diminished luster.
Rare Certified Gold Coins
$1 Type I: Liberty Heads
Minted: 1849 – 1854
Gold Content: .04837 oz. Pure Gold
In the early 1800s during the first gold rush of the United States, a coin was born, a very small coin…the very first $1 gold coin. The setting was North and South Carolina as well as Georgia. But it wasn’t until March 3, 1849 and the second gold rush that the gold dollar entered into the rare coin market. This subsequent rush beginning with the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill located in Coloma, California activated Congress to make the metal more practical in terms of U.S. coinage. Simultaneous to the creation of the $1 Type I Liberty Head was the birth of another historical coin…the $20 Double Eagle. So, in effect, two coins, opposite in size were conceived at the same moment in time. James B. Longacre, the designer of both coins, was the U.S. Mint’s chief engraver and used similar obverse design which is an image of Miss Liberty with a small crown facing left. The 13 colonies are represented by 13 stars which encircle her. With a diameter of 13mm, all that could be depicted on the reverse are the words 1 DOLLAR along with the date and a wreath. This is surrounded by the words: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The only issue with this coin was its small size which scared people because they felt it would be too easily lost. These gold dollars are extremely rare. They can reach a Mint State-64 but it would be almost impossible to locate one in Mint State-65 and even less in better condition.
Type 1 gold dollars were struck at five different mints throughout their six years of production:
- Philadelphia (no mint mark)
- Charlotte (C)
- Dahlonega (D)
- New Orleans (O)
- San Francisco (S)
The Philadelphia and Dahlonega mints were the only ones to issue them annually. Charlotte and New Orleans made them every year except 1854 while San Francisco made them only in 1854. Mintmarks can be found underneath the wreath. Philadelphia and New Orleans had high mintages as opposed to the other three. In 1850 and again in 1852, the Charlotte and Dahlonega branches made less than 10,000 gold dollars each while the lowest mintage of all took place at Dahlonega in 1854, when a mere 2,935 examples were created. Additional major rarities consist of the 1853-D with 6,583 mintages and the 1851-D with 9,882.
This type can be obtained in grades up through Mint State-64 but they’re in very short supply in MS-65 and extremely rare beyond that. Grading decisions are dependent upon the hair near the coronet and the tips of the leaves on the wreath which are the highest relief points and are where the first traces of wear emerge. On the record, proofs were not struck, but the late Walter Breen, a prominent numismatic scholar, disclosed that at least seven proofs were made in 1849 of the open wreath type and no letter L on the bust. There are also three proofs of the closed wreath type dated 1849 that he was aware of. It is also believed that proofs were made for 1850 and 1851 with an 1854 one also in existence.
The size of these coins was questionable for many people because they could be lost without difficulty. But that was the only thing small about them because they enjoyed formidable potential for economic transactions and today benefit from enormous admiration from collectors.
$1 Type II: Indian Heads
Minted: 1854 – 1856
Gold Content: .04837 oz. Pure Gold
A decade into the California Gold Rush multiplied the state’s population at an alarming rate from 25,000 to over half a million. The amount of gold restored from the Earth was equivalent to roughly $600 million and thus revolutionized California until it reached acceptance into the Union of the United States. It became the 31st state in 1850 with its population focused on uncovering their individual fortune whereas much of America staggered on the verge of civil war. Not only was the state of California forever altered, but likewise was the influence in American coinage. Between 1849 and 1854 the enormous quantities of gold surfacing from California impelled Congress to consent to three new denominations: a gold dollar, a three-dollar gold piece, and a double eagle, or twenty-dollar gold piece. The focus here was to facilitate transition of the large masses of gold into something that would produce more functionality for society. Between 1850 and 1854, over eight million double eagles were struck.
The coinage act of March 3, 1849 brought with it the smallest and largest regular-issue gold coins in U.S. history the gold dollar and double eagle. The two were designed by James Barton Longacre, the U.S. Mint’s chief sculptor-engraver from 1844 to 1869. The dollar’s size was dealt with by making them bigger but adding center holes. During subsequent years test strikes were made. In 1853, James Ross Snowden became the new director of the Mint and acknowledged the larger size, but advocated instead making the coin somewhat thinner instead of using a hole to keep the weight the same. Snowden commissioned Longacre to adapt the coin accordingly as well as create a new sketch. Originally, the gold dollar Liberty head was similar to the one on the double eagle but by 1854, conversely, when Snowden ordered the changes, Longacre had created a new model. He used the design from the three-dollar gold piece he had just produced.
The second time around, James B. Longacre designed the gold dollar that was 15mm in diameter but was made thinner so that the gold content could remain the same. Its obverse is characterized by a left-facing portrait of a female figure exhibiting an ornamental headdress. The figure is generally interpreted as an Indian princess. The design on the reverse shows the date and denomination within a wreath of corn, cotton, wheat, and tobacco. Nevertheless, this design only had a duration of three years because the coin was made too thin and after striking, they became brittle. Very few models display clear details in the hair, the word DOLLAR, and the date. Even Longacre’s initial L, located on the truncation of the bust can barely be seen. Branch-mint issues are predominantly weak. Because of the striking problems, Longacre had to design yet another gold coin leaving the Type II to last only until 1856. Throughout its short life, scarcely 1.6 million Type 2 examples were created, with the Philadelphia issues of 1854 and 1855 accounting for most of them. In 1855, the three southern branch mints all made the coin, but production was particularly modest at Dahlonega (D mintmark) 1,811 mintages and Charlotte (C) with 9,803 mintages. New Orleans (O) minted the most with 55,000 in 1855. San Francisco (S) was the only mint to make this type in 1856. The mintmark is depicted under the wreath on all gold dollars. The issues of relief as well as quantity make this gold dollar almost unattainable in mint condition. It is most uncommon in Mint State-65, and exceptionally rare above that State. The collector should verify signs of wear by the hair over the eye and the bow knot at the base of the wreath. Interest in the Type II Indian Head Gold Dollar is usually very strong and it is recognized as the key coin in the popular 12-Coin U.S. Gold Set.
$1 Type III: Indian Heads
Minted: 1856 – 1889
Gold Content: .04837 oz. Pure Gold
James B. Longacre went at it once again with the design of the third gold dollar making the portrait bigger, but at the same time smoother. Even though the size and configuration of the picture and other elements vary on the Type 2 and Type 3 gold dollars, both have fundamentally the same design and are both the same size in diameter (15mm). On the obverse side of both there is a female figure generally characterized as an Indian princess and both are consequently known as Indian Head types. A closer analysis poses a different viewpoint from the late Walter Breen, a renowned numismatic scholar, observing that the head is in fact a copy of a Roman marble figure, with the headdress which was supplemented by Longacre being the only feature that possibly could be an Indian element. Along with making the portrait bigger and decreasing its three-dimensional depth, Longacre also positioned the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA closer to the border on the obverse, where it encircles the Indian Head. On Type 2 coins, it had been directly opposite the wreath on the reverse, which made it harder to strike both sides with sharp details. The weak strike of the first two types in this American gold dollar rare coin series guided its designer to use the obverse design of Miss Liberty adopted directly from the $3 gold piece.
In the early years, mintages were highest, in part due to deteriorated or incurrent gold coins which were being remade during that period. As a case in point, in 1861 and 1862, a plentiful amount of Type 1 gold dollars hit the melting pot for recoinage. The circulation of these coins alongside each other had been causing a little disorder so Mint Director James Ross Snowden instructed that the smaller coins be withheld at the New York Sub-treasury. The amassing totaled some eight million pieces before recoinage.
The $1 Type 3 Indian Heads are much more abundant in choice mint condition than Type I or Type II. The key points of reference for revealing signs of wear are the cheek and the bow-knot on the wreath which are more likely to be untouched. Choice models of 1862, 1874 and many dates in the ‘80s are usually accessible.
This third gold dollar showed its potential and beauty because from that moment on, the gold dollar’s size and resilience both proved suitable, and production was nonstop for more than 30 years until the year 1889 when the denomination was abandoned. It lasted 33 years and co-existed with one of the most chaotic epochs in American history: a third of a century during which the Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, and the Indian Wars in the West all left indelible marks on the nation’s consciousness. It circulated in the economy from the beginning of the Civil War to the beginning of the 90s. It has been the most durable one dollar gold coin in the history of America.
$2.5 Indian Heads
Minted: 1908 – 1929
Gold Content: .12094 oz. Pure Gold
President Theodore Roosevelt was an exemplary in many areas and it was very important for him to leave his mark on American life. He definitely left his signature within U.S. coinage when he delegated the paramount task of designing two gold coins to Bela Lyon Pratt, one of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ (designer of the $20 Saint-Gaudens) students.
In the early 1900s, the genesis of one of the most beautiful coins occurred: the $2.50 Indian Head (18mm in diameter). He also designed the $5 Indian Head. He brought a distinct and never before seen feature into the coins: the legends and motifs incused instead of raised on the coin. They have no raised rims to protect them from wear and their most elevated points of relief are level with the coins’ fields. Actually, the only feature of these coins to surpass the level of their fields is the mintmark, if any. He bravely swayed from earlier United States coinage with the devices being recessed into the surface of the coin. The only U.S. coins minted in this way are these. The new obverse on the $2.50 and $5 gold coin featured an Indian Chief in an elaborate headdress with the word LIBERTY along with 13 stars around him and the date below. The reverse shows a serene eagle, settled atop fasces and an olive branch, the symbols associated with readiness and tranquility. With a keen eye for balance, Pratt accomplished another difficult task by incorporating four different inscriptions on this side, (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, IN GOD WE TRUST and the statement of value) without causing the coin to seem unbalanced, disorderly, or overcrowded.
This Quarter Eagle gold coin was minted during only 13 years, making it one of the shortest-lived series in U.S. numismatics. This is one reason the $2.50 Indian is such an attractive gold investment and collector’s item. Quarter Eagles of this type were produced in 1908 through 1915 and once again from 1925 up to 1929. Shortly after, the denomination was halted because of that year’s Wall Street crash. As the depression unfolded, what little gold came into the Mint was used for production of double eagles. With the termination of gold coinage and the gold confiscation of 1933, the quarter eagle would not be seen again for a very long time.
These gold coins enjoy only 15 different date-and-mint combinations (12 issues from the Philadelphia Mint and three from Denver). Even though anything made of gold is at high cost, this series is one of the smallest in U.S. coinage making a complete set attainable for many collectors. Its affordability is complemented by the fact that only one coin, the 1911-D, is particularly limited; at 55,680, it’s the only coin with a mintage of less than 240,000. Looking carefully to the left of the arrowheads you can see the Denver mintmark on the reverse.
The exclusive design that Bela Lyon Pratt introduced on Indian Head quarter eagles are what now safeguards them from excessive deterioration. Concurrently, this makes the grading of these coins more difficult since the patterns of standard wear vary from those of coins in which motifs are raised. Essential areas for revealing traces of wear are the Indian’s cheekbone and headdress feathers as well as the shoulder of the eagle’s left wing. Despite the amount of $2.50 Indian Heads in grades up to Mint State-64, an intense decline appears passed that level and a small number of examples subsist in grades of greater than Mint State-66. Be weary of imitations because there are quite a few in circulation and can mislead even the keenest of eyes.
$2.5 Liberty Heads
Minted: 1840 – 1907
Gold Content: .12094 oz. Pure Gold
Six years prior to the mintage of the $2.50 Liberty Heads, the quest for a design that could serve as a long-term symbol on American gold coins was in process. The result had to be a symbol for Liberty more suitable for the thriving Republic. In 1838, Christian Gobrecht’s Coronet design for the eagle was very much accepted and esteemed and from this design an adaptation emerged which was used on the quarter eagle starting in 1840.
The final design constituted a large left-facing Liberty head with an extensive coronet inscribed with the word LIBERTY (18mm in diameter). A string of pearls holds her hair back which is drawn in a bun. The outline is decorated with thirteen stars representing the original colonies with the date below. The eagle on the reverse was basically similar to the one that had been on quarter eagles since 1808. Initially designed by John Reich, the 1840-1907 versions were customized by Gobrecht. The American bald eagle has its wings extended from edge to edge with the union shield protecting its breast. In the eagle’s right claw an olive branch on behalf of the country’s peaceful aspect with three arrows accentuating military preparedness in the left. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA envelopes the eagle, with the denomination 2 1/2 D. underneath the bird.
A total of 11,921,171 Coronet quarter eagles were struck at five mints between 1840 and 1907:
- Philadelphia (no mintmark)
- Charlotte (C)
- Dahlonega (D)
- New Orleans (O)
- San Francisco (S)
Mintmarks can be located on the lower reverse under the eagle. It is also likely that 4,232 proofs were also coined. The early (pre-1860) proofs are very rare, with only two or three pieces existing from different years. Frequently, proofs have frosted white devices that contrast sharply against deeply mirrored fields. These cameo proofs are very attractive as type pieces. The majority of the proofs struck after 1901 have an all-brilliant finish with no field to device contrast which continued until the end of the series in 1907, when Bela Pratt’s sunken relief Indian Head design appeared, and the matte proofing process was endorsed.
This is an extremely demanding series to attain because of its 68 years in existence. While nearly all collectors search for a single high grade example for type sets, others enhance their collections by including one coin from each mint, but even that is demanding.
In mint condition, Charlotte and Dahlonega quarter eagles are predominantly rare and expensive making these pieces the keys to a collection from the five mints.
- The series abounds with significant coins, but none more famous and historically significant than the 1848 CAL. quarter eagle. It is made from 230 ounces of native California ore shipped eastward in 1848, the resulting 1,389 quarter eagles are characterized by the abbreviation CAL. stamped into the die above the eagle’s head, and all genuine specimens have a square period after CAL. A lot of collectors deem these CAL. quarter eagles to be the original commemorative coins struck in the U.S., foreshadowing the Columbian half dollar by 44 years.
The Philadelphia Mint is also responsible for two other dates that have acquired legendary status, the 1841 and 1875.
- The 1841 is fondly known as The Little Princess. Around fifteen examples are recognized and these extremely rare coins have only been found in the best and most complete collections.
- The 1875 Philadelphia issue is another very rare date, with only 400 pieces struck and an estimated 23-25 examples existing. More than fifteen specimens of this key issue have been gathered by a well-known gold collector in the Northeast.
- The San Francisco Mint also has an additional memorable rarity: the first year of issue from the 1854-S. It is one of the prominent rarities in all of U.S. numismatics, with a limited 10 or so specimens believed to have survived today in all grades. Because the San Francisco Mint lacked parting acids, merely 246 quarter eagles were struck in that initial year.
$3 Indian Heads
Minted: 1854 – 1889
Gold Content: .14512 oz. Pure Gold
The $3 Indian Princess Head is probably in the top percent of very memorable coins within the coinage history of the United States. Its history is a bit controversial, though. Simultaneous to its birth is the genesis of the postal system which is why both sectors are deemed so closely related. In the beginning, postage was set at five cents. But in 1851, postage was lowered to three cents and the $3 Indian Head eased customer purchases of three cent postage in sheets of 100. But, in reality, public demand never warranted this hypothetical justification. When Mint Engraver James Barton Longacre designed the $3 Indian Princess gold piece, he wanted to produce an exclusive motif so that the new gold coin would not be mistaken for the two other gold coins of the era that were very similar in size (the Liberty Quarter Eagle and the Liberty Half Eagle). It was an impressive design and guaranteed no confusion. Today the gold coin’s classic beauty has made it a favorite of collectors and investors.
He selected an Indian Princess for the obverse. But this was not a Native American profile, but actually a profile fashioned after the Greco-Roman Venus Accroupie statue which was, at the time, in a Philadelphia museum. He used this characteristic sharp-nosed profile on his gold dollar of 1849 and would make use of it again on the Indian Head cent of 1859. On the three-dollar coin, Liberty is wearing a feathered headdress and equally big is a band bearing LIBERTY in raised letters. It measured 20 mm in diameter. The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surround her. Such a headdress dates back to the earliest known drawings of American Indians. It was French artist Jacques le Moyne du Morgue’s who sketched the Florida Timucua tribe residing near the tragic French colony of Fort Caroline in 1562. This design was acknowledged by engravers and medalists of the day as the design shorthand for America. On the reverse there was a wreath of tobacco, wheat, corn and cotton with a plant at top carrying two conical seed masses. Interestingly, the original wax models of this wreath still exist on brass discs in a Midwestern collection and show how detailed Longacre was in constructing his design. The wreath surrounds the denomination 3 DOLLARS and the date. There are actually two very diverse reverse types, the small DOLLARS appearing only in 1854 and the large DOLLARS on coins of 1855-89.
Issuance of this type was a little over 535,000 pieces and 2,058 proofs. The 15 proofs of 1854 were the first coins struck. Standard coinage commenced on May 1, and that first year saw 138,618 pieces struck at Philadelphia (no mintmark), 1,120 at Dahlonega (D), and 24,000 at New Orleans (O). It was only in 1854 that these two branch mints would strike coins. San Francisco produced the three-dollar denomination in 1855, 1856, and 1857, again in 1860, and it seems one final piece in 1870. Under the wreath is where you would look for the mintmarks.
There are rarities in every U.S. denomination. Within the three-dollar gold coinage of 1854-1889 there are so many low-mintage dates that the series is basically rare in its entirety. In mint state, 1878 is the most common date, followed by the 1879, 1888, 1854, 1889 and 1874 issues. Every other date is very rare in high grade:
- 1858, 1865, 1873 Closed 3
- the San Francisco issues
Very small mintages were the standard after that.
- If we look before 1859, proof coins are exceptionally rare and harder to find than the proof-only issues of 1873 Open 3, 1875 and 1876.
In the higher mint state grades there are dates that are even rarer. The reason for this is because at least some proofs were preserved by affluent collectors, while few collectors showed any interest in higher-grade business strikes of gold coins. There are some counterfeits for many dates so collectors need to be cautious.
- The most commendable of all dates is the exclusive 1870-S, of which only one example was struck for inclusion in the new Mint’s cornerstone. No one is entirely sure what occurred but in Bowers and Ruddy’s October 1982 sale of the Eliasberg Collection, this renowned coin sold for a then-record $687,500.
In 1889, the three-dollar denomination disappeared into the horizon along with the gold dollar and nickel three-cent piece leaving U.S. coinage with less luster. Its future recognition with collectors would greatly surpass the indifferent public reception it had throughout the time it circulated within the economy of the mid 1800s.
$5 Indian Heads
Minted: 1908 – 1929
Gold Content: .24187 oz. Pure Gold
The $5 gold Indian Head was brought into existence at a very rewarding time in America. The Ford Motor Company announced its raise in earnings from $2.34 per day to $5.00. So, in effect, this coin represented a full day’s work for those fortunate workers and bore with it respectable prestige in 1914. At more or less the same time, the new Buffalo nickel entered the market and was just a tad smaller but could not compare with the $5 Indian Head. Despite this, they were somewhat uniform in that they both depicted portraits of realistic-looking American Indians. The Indian Head half eagle had made its first appearance in 1908, along with quarter eagles (or $2.50 gold piece) with the same sketch.
The Indian Half Eagle is one of the few beautiful coins that also exhibit a distinct intricacy of design as well as intrigue (21.6 mm in diameter). An honorable Native American chieftain (the model unknown and his tribe unidentified) overshadows the obverse of the Half Eagle. On the reverse, an American eagle rests above an array of arrows and an olive branch which are the trademarks for peace and war. Renowned sculptor Bela-Lyon Pratt designed the coin but it was William Sturgis Bigelow, a Boston physician and art lover and a good friend of Pres. Roosevelt’s, who brought the idea of incuse to America. Bigelow had seen incuse relief in Egyptian art works at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and he spurred the president’s interest with his notion of endorsing this technique to U. S. coinage. Once he hooked the President, Bigelow contracted a fellow Bostonian, noted sculptor Bela-Lyon Pratt, to construct coinage models, and Pratt developed designs pairing an Indian brave on the obverse with an eagle in repose on the reverse.
The Half Eagle generated a great deal of controversy when it was first circulated. People were disturbed that the recessed features could harbor disease-carrying bacteria which is why the public was not willing to even store uncirculated specimens for decades. These coins also represented the first fundamental design change in the two denominations in virtually seven decades. Apart from the addition of the words IN GOD WE TRUST in 1866, the previous half eagle, which carried a portrait of Liberty with a coronet in her hair, had been essentially the same since its origin in 1839. Besides that, the fact that Pratt decided not to use rims to safeguard the surface of the coin, uncirculated examples are limited and excellent gems are almost non existent.
They were issued every year from 1908 through 1916. In 1909, four different mints produced them (branch-mint issues are denoted by a mint mark to the left of the fasces on the reverse). Subsequent to 1916, production was postponed for 13 years, but resumed for one final time in 1929 at the Philadelphia Mint before the series ended when the Great Depression began.
- The VIP of this series is the 1929 half eagle which is valued at several thousand dollars whether circulated or not. There are 662,000 mintages in the archives, but the greater part was dissolved.
- 1909-O, 1911-D and 1908-S are also limited dates with mintages under 100,000.
- There was also a reduction of matte proofs that were produced every year from 1908 through 1915.
The Indian Head half eagle was preserved in its first year of issue despite the controversy with its innovative design.
- The Philadelphia Mint pieces of 1908 exemplify one of the most obtainable dates of this series in mint state.
$5 Liberty Heads
Minted: 1839 – 1908
Gold Content: .24187 oz. Pure Gold
The Classic Head design was superseded by the classically stylized head of Liberty on the Coronet half eagle designed by United States’ Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht who believed in the Neoclassicism style. The obverse design of the new coin was characterized by Liberty’s hair tied in a bun and held with a thread of beads. Liberty wore a coronet in her hair inscribed with the word LIBERTY. The design’s cleanliness was fundamentally unchanged by the addition of the date below the bust and thirteen stars encompassing the perimeter (21.6mm in diameter). This was a style that could be appreciated in any prominent museum in Europe, and this classically graceful yet, nevertheless, simple design prevailed on the obverse of the half eagle until 1908, when the design was substituted for Bela Lyon Pratt’s Indian Head. The reverse of the spread eagle motif that had been in use since 1807 was slightly difference from this new version in that Gobrecht’s design, the eagle’s wingspan was made larger to cover the new coin from edge to edge.
The $5 gold half eagle was well-known in American economic life as it had been in steady use since the early days of the Republic and was one of the longest lasting denominations in United States history. Not only were half eagles in almost nonstop production from 1795 to 1929 or be used in trade, but were inclined to be the favorite choice in eastern towns and cities as Christmas presents.
The only coin of any type or denomination to be struck at all seven mints is the Liberty Half Eagle is. Two types were struck:
- the extremely rare “No Motto” minted from 1839 until 1865 and
- the “With Motto” (IN GOD WE TRUST) type, struck from 1866 until 1908
The design on the Liberty Half Eagle illustrates the crowned image of Liberty on the obverse. On the reverse, a majestic bald eagle with a shield over its breast, sitting atop an olive branch and holding three arrows. In the first several years of production slight design adjustments were made:
- the head of Liberty was faintly adapted following 1839
- in 1840 the diameter was diminished
- the font and dates were made bigger in 1842 and 1843
These slight design modifications offered more selection for the date and mintmark collector even though there are a considerable number of mispunched. Dates and overdates within the series largely because of engraver James Longacre’s shortcoming as a die sinker. This fact also provides numismatic attention. But the true rarities in this series are the low mintage, low availability issues, especially the branch mint issues from Dahlonega and Charlotte, such as:
- the 1842-D Large Date
- the 1842-C Small Date
- the 1861-C
There are no standout rarities among the New Orleans issues except for:
- The renowned 1841-O, a coin that is unheard of in any collection even though mint records indicate 50 pieces were struck but which were most likely melted after coining.
The rarest regular production No Motto half eagle comes from the San Francisco mint
- The 1854-S; 268 half eagles were struck in the initial year the San Francisco mint was in operation and at present only three pieces have been identified.
The ones struck in Philadelphia are the most frequently encountered half eagles from this period with AU and mint state coins often obtainable. The most uncommon Philadelphia mint half eagles are those struck during the Civil War because of low mintages and people storing their coins.
Ironically, though, America clashed with its own beliefs during the first half of the 19th century. It was supposed to be land of the free as well as ethically austere, yet simultaneously, supported slavery within their territories. This flaw divided the country and brought on the Civil War in 1861. The contribution of coins offered every Sunday as personal renouncements in churches all over the country were the economical foundation for the abolitionists’ anti-slavery movement. The need to manifest good faith somewhere in the country rested upon the countries’ coinage and that is the origin of the adopted motto IN GOD WE TRUST. It was first placed upon the new two-cent piece of 1864.
The Mint lingered with its apprehension of Gobrecht’s Coronet half eagles stereotyping the designs on all U.S. coins. This pursuit of consistency prevailed since the Mint’s early days and did not entirely vanish until new, non-mint designs materialized early in the twentieth century. The eagle released in 1838 and the quarter eagle of 1840 was similar in design with the Coronet half eagle. Also know as No Motto half eagles by modern collectors, these were struck in five mints:
- Philadelphia (no mintmark)
- Charlotte (C)
- Dahlonega (D)
- New Orleans (O)
- San Francisco (S)
Mintmarks were located on the reverse underneath the eagle and on top of the word FIVE in all but the first year of issue.
- The C and D mintmarks were positioned above the date on the obverse in 1839, making these otherwise fairly ordinary coins a very well-liked and eagerly favored year for collectors.
A total of 9,114,049 pieces were produced from all five mints for the 28 year-lifespan of these coins.
In 1866 No Motto half eagles ceased minting and were compensated by coins with the newly administered motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the reverse. In most cases, coins struck subsequent to 1866 are not that difficult to find in AU and Uncirculated condition than their No Motto equivalents. The Southern gold rarities from Charlotte and Dahlonega are limited to the No Motto series. No Motto half eagles prevailed in the economic system for decades and at the turn of the century along with the beginning of mintmark collecting that they began to be esteemed as a series with many precious rarities and hardly any high grade riders in the storm.
If you want to examine this coin for grading purposes, look for abrasions on the uppermost segments of the design elements which would be the hair curls as well as over the eye of Liberty on the obverse and on the eagle’s wings on the reverse. On the other hand, partly struck coins from this period are the norm and one should anticipate smoothness of strike on the hair curls of Liberty as well as the eagle’s left (facing) leg on all branch mint coins and several of the Philadelphia issues. This series is not overloaded with counterfeits. A few branch mint issues, particularly those from the mid-1850s, may show full mint sharpness but faded facades. In the early 1970s, these seawater Uncs. were supposedly rescued off a buried Confederate transport ship.
Given that there are so many holy grail rarities before 1878, collecting the complete series of Coronet half eagles with motto by date and mintmark is an intimidating mission. With the exception of the moderately high mintage 1873 Philadelphia issue, every single date of this period is rare. Only a number of pieces have survived of many dates in any grade, and some issues are basically unfamiliar in mint state. As collectors in that era collected by date only, entire collections of Coronet half eagles did not exist in the 19th century. Collecting by mintmark became popular when Augustus G. Heaton, President of the American Numismatic Association published his famous monograph on branch mints in 1893. Many coins were not saved at the time of issue because of the indifference towards mintmarks. As a result, many early branch mint issues are not found in grades above VF. Several famous early 20th century numismatists wisely comprehended that many of the 19th century gold issues were rare and wanted these coins for their collections. It was some of these who were able to complete the series or get a hold of at least some of the rarities. Among these famous collectors were:
- banker Louis Eliasberg
- William Cutler Atwater
- the movie actor Adolph Menjou
- King Farouk of Egypt
- pharmaceutical giant Josiah K. Lilly
Check for signs of wear on the hair above the eyebrow to the top of the coronet when grading this series. Also examine the hair strands on the very top of Liberty’s head and on the ringlets of hair just above the neckline. Observe carefully the wing tips, claws and neck of the eagle. The ribbon and motto do not display deterioration until the coin is worn to the grade of Very Fine.
Extensive gold amassing led the U.S. government to drastically reduce the mintages of these coins During the Civil War making issues from that era particularly rare.
The Coronet half eagle gave way to the Indian Head design of Bela Lyon Pratt in 1908, satisfying President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of an artistic national coinage. The new coins included the motto IN GOD WE TRUST as well as the former motto E PLURIBUS UNUM as well.
$10 Indian Heads
Minted: 1907 – 1933
Gold Content: .48375 oz. Pure Gold
The design of the $10 Indian Eagle was actually a pet project for President Franklin D. Roosevelt who went to work to compel a creative redesign of the nation’s coins on the reluctant and unhelpful Chief Engraver Barber. The President called Augustus Saint-Gaudens to the cause despite the decline in the sculptor’s health. Saint-Gaudens went to work straight away on new coinage design producing images of Liberty in both full figure and bust motifs, and eagles in flying and standing positions. Eagles in standing position emerged from the reverse of the Roosevelt medal.
A little history about the medal: The Inaugural medal designed by U. S. Mint engravers Charles E. Barber and George T. Morgan Roosevelt was too commonplace and did not satisfy the President. His regard for numismatic art was stimulated when his artistic friends urged him to delegate the production of a ground-breaking Inaugural medal and suggested the great American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the assignment. Being swamped with work, Saint-Gaudens sketched the basic design on a paper napkin while on the train from Washington.
Even though Saint-Gaudens favored the bust of Liberty and the standing eagle for the twenty dollar coin (as they appeared on the unique 1907 $20 pattern), subsequent to weeks and months of deliberation with the President during 1906 and early 1907, the conclusion would be that the $10 coin (27mm in diameter) would have a mixture of both. The bust on the new eagle more or less matched the Nike head (Victory) that Saint Gaudens designed for Sherman’s monument in New York’s Central Park. She discarded her laurel crown for a striking, but traditionally unattainable Indian feathered war bonnet at Roosevelt’s persistence. LIBERTY was inscribed on the Indian’s headdress, with 13 stars above the head and the date below. The reverse’s eagle stands on a bundle of arrows, with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM to the right. Surrounding the border above the eagle is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TEN DOLLARS is inscribed underneath the denomination. The edge of each gold piece has 46 raised stars. Two more stars were added after 1912 when New Mexico and Arizona joined the Union. Augustus Saint-Gaudens had created yet another stunning design in American coinage.
Barber omitted the triangular periods and made other minor modifications because of demands to get the new eagle into circulation. In the fall of 1907, 239,406 regular-issue rolled edge pieces left the Philadelphia Mint. This design persisted into early 1908. The religious motto IN GOD WE TRUST was omitted since President Roosevelt firmly believed that the use of God’s name should not be inscribed on coins that could be used with irreverence. Nevertheless, after 33,500 Philadelphia and 210,000 Denver pieces were struck, a snubbed Congress upheld the lawfully mandated (Act of March 3, 1865) motto be restored to the coin. It was ultimately located to the left of the eagle.
Coins of this final design would be struck at the:
- Philadelphia (devoid of mintmark)
- Denver (D)
- San Francisco (S)
Mintmarks can be located to the left of the arrows bound together on which the eagle reposes.
From 1908 through 1911 as well as 1914, regular issue coins were struck at all three Mints. Only Philadelphia and San Francisco struck eagles in 1912, 1913 and 1915, and only San Francisco struck them in 1916 and 1920.
Not many Americans realized that two additional stars were added on the edge in 1912, acknowledging statehood by Arizona and New Mexico. Coinage throughout the 1920’s was very intermittent symbolizing just four dates: 1926, 1930-S, 1932 and 1933. In 1933, the Philadelphia Mint struck 312,500 coins, but released only a few dozen pieces before President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 6260 ended circulation of gold coins and notes. Nearly all 1933 Indian eagles were liquefied into undistinguished blocks of .900 fine gold, vanishing along with hundreds of thousands of other historic gold coins during the time when gold was confiscated from private citizens.
The total number of Indian Heads struck was 13,070,583. This number also includes proofs. Despite this fact, these figures are ambiguous because the 1920-S, 1930-S and 1933 coins were almost all done away with. A few hoards of both the `30-S and the `33 have materialized throughout the years, but the rarest of the three is the `20-S since there has been no sign of them. The 1909-D, 1911-D, 1913-S and the 1915-S are other very obscure dates in mint state.
$10 Liberty Heads
Minted: 1838 – 1907
Gold Content: .48375 oz. Pure Gold
The $10 Liberty was immediately accepted into the American way of life because of its suitable size and denomination. It actually became one of the coins most circulated in our history despite the period in which it was produced. In the beginning of the 1800s, gold prices soared due to the violent onset of the French Revolution as well as the wars brought about by France headed by Napoleon Bonaparte. As per the Act of 1792 which restrained the U.S. Mint to the weight specifications and 15 to 1 silver/gold ratio the unpredictable market price of precious metals unleashed a wave of mayhem with U.S. coinage, mainly the largest gold coin, the $10 Liberty Eagle.
An ounce of gold in 1795 was valued at 15 ounces of silver in the United States and across the Atlantic in Paris; it was valued at 15.5 ounces of silver. This stirred bullion brokers to purchase United States gold coins, typically with Latin American silver coins, and ship them to Paris to be sold. Eventually, the ratio would reach 16.25:1 in 1813, and before long, 98% of all U.S. gold coinage would be destroyed. Before this, though, President Thomas Jefferson ordered eagle production stopped in 1804 and we wouldn’t see production begin again for almost three and a half decades. Those turn of events were not supposed to occur, though, because as Alexander Hamilton had conceptualized, gold was to be the only legal tender whereas coins of other metals to be merely an accommodation. His justification is the same that wise gold bulls hold today: that gold is the most unwavering precious metal in terms of price and not as receptive to changes in supply. Of course, he was looked upon as a fool.
Gold was in short supply in the 1790s but there were many silver coins, particularly from Latin America. Congress’ decision to conform to a bi-metallic standard was a blessing because silver coins, even if they were foreign silver coins, gave the new Republic a ready supply of money for commerce. Two separate Congressional Acts in 1838 modified the content and fineness of U.S. gold coins sufficiently to permit them to continue in circulation. Engraver Christian Gobrecht, substituting William Kneass who was in poor heath, was summoned by Mint Director Robert M. Patterson and told to produce eagles. The Liberty Eagle (27mm in diameter) was modeled after two well-known sources. The obverse was designed using the popular 1816 Coronet-type Large Cent. And the impressive eagle on the reverse is still considered to this day one of the most mesmerizing eagles on any U.S. coin.
Fashioned after the image of Venus in Benjamin West’s Painting Omnia Vincit Amor (Love Conquers All), his design became the model for the half-eagle and large cent of 1839 as well. It is characterized by a left-facing Liberty bust bearing a coronet inscribed with the word LIBERTY. Her hair is knotted in the back with hanging curls and thirteen stars surround the bust, with the date positioned underneath. The reverse portrays an eagle holding an olive branch and arrows, surrounded by the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TEN D. Mintmarks are below the eagle.
The coins of 1838 and early 1839 are noticeably different than later issues: each of these coins has Liberty’s shoulder line distinctly pointed and positioned amid the twelfth and thirteenth star. Gobrecht designed the bust anew in the fall of 1839 and put it towards the center above the date. With the exception of the added motto in 1866, this design lingered until the end of the Coronet series in 1907, when it was interchanged for Augustus Saint Gaudens’ Indian Head motif.
The $10 Liberty Head’s first few years in U.S. coinage was a time of economic despair. A half ounce of gold in present day was more or less equivalent to that eagle of the late 1830s to early-mid 1840s. The mintage of the new Coronet eagles was curbed because of its equally limited demand in everyday use at the time.
It is quite challenging to find high grade specimens of any date in the series because mintages were limited and those that were around of the 5.3 million strikes and 400 proofs were most likely dissolved into bars of gold in the 1930s. There are no “common-dates” in uncirculated condition as every issue is rare, and only a small quantity even approaches the grade of MS-65. Excellent pieces do exist, but almost always in sales of the most prevalent and renowned collections. Some seek the issues from a single mint or one from each mint because they are discouraged from attempting to assemble complete date and mintmark sets. A collection of New Orleans eagles, corresponding to the two decades leading up to the Civil War and the Confederacy’s appropriation of the branch there, is composed of twenty coins. Yet, there are only thirteen pieces in a San Francisco set which entails the first eagles struck at the new mint and which go to the Gold Rush days to the end of the Civil War. The average collector is just happy to locate just one high-grade example for their type sets.
In grading No Motto eagles observe abrasions on the top of the coronet over Liberty’s forehead, on the top of her hair, and just over her eye. Check the tips of the eagle’s wings, neck and claws on the reverse. This series does include some very well-made counterfeits. The Coronet eagle was minted until 1907 with only one big alteration to the design. The bloodshed of the Civil War and the horrible mayhem that followed found the population of the country in a spiritual and truth-seeking disposition: IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the coins. Inscribed on a ribbon over the eagle’s head in 1866, it helped the country in a time of healing.
$20 Liberty Heads
Minted: 1849 – 1907
Gold Content: .96750 oz. Pure Gold
The $20 Liberty Eagle Gold (27mm in diameter) is one of the most beautifully-designed gold pieces in U.S. coinage. Its creation came at a time of true economic growth. The transcendent California Gold Rush produced the largest mass of gold in recorded history and it was these immense quantities of the yellow metal that aided in the quick progression of the West. The world’s coinage would never be the same again.
It was Secretary of War William L. Marcy who received the initial shipment of gold at the Philadelphia Mint. The majority of the 230 ounces of gold was coined into quarter eagles, $2.50 pieces given an incuse stamp CAL over the eagle. Realizing the limited denomination versus amount of gold that was coming in, a need for a much larger denomination would be unavoidable. North Carolina Congressman James Iver McKay had already endorsed the smallest U.S. gold coin which was the gold dollar and so also complied with the immediate demand for a larger coin form. McKay was promptly influenced to amend his bill to incorporate another new gold coin, the double eagle or $20 piece. On March 3, 1849, the authorizing statute was passed by Congress.
James B. Longacre used an impressive woman’s head featuring a detailed nose and bearing a coronet lined with pearls along with the inscription LIBERTY. The Greco-Roman sculpture, The Crouching Venus, was the model for his design. Demonstrating his skills as a two- dimensional engraver, his reverse was based on the Great Seal of the United States portraying a spread eagle with a shield on its breast and13 stars in an oval with rays above. The nation’s name appears above with the denomination expressed as TWENTY D. underneath it.
Every year from 1850-1865 The Type 1, or No Motto, double eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. At the New Orleans Mint from 1850 through 1861 and at San Francisco from 1854 through 1866. The O or S mintmark is found under the eagle’s tail.
Standard mintages were several hundred thousand, but for the 1861 issue ranged up to just under three million. The last of the design were the San Francisco coins of 1866 and these were also issued as part of the Type 2 series including the new motto IN GOD WE TRUST. These early twenties vary from elusive to very rare in all Mint State grades. Many of the great rarities in the series come from the New Orleans issues. Low mintage New Orleans dates include 1854-O with 3,250 pieces struck; 1855-O, 8,000; 1856-O, 2,250; 1859-O, 9,100; and 1860-O, 6,600 specimens.
- The rare 1853 over 2 discovered in 1959 by the late Walter Breen is the only over date in the series.
- The Paquet Reverse issues of 1861 and 1861-S are another well-known series. These coins are derived from Mint engraver Anthony C. Paquet’s endeavor to perk up the reverse design. He stretched out the letters for the legend and used a very thin raised border in place of the wide rim of the Longacre reverse. This version lacked durability and occasioned early die deterioration. The only survivor is the MS-67 example in the Norweb Collection selling for a then-record $660,000. The San Francisco Mint struck 19,250 Paquet Reverse coins.
In grading double eagles, deterioration is first evident on the locks over Liberty’s ear and on the eagle’s head and neck as well as bag marks demonstrating usage because of the soft texture of these great pieces. Prior to circulation, they normally picked up many bag, reeding, and contact marks. This series is normally not a good option for collecting because it is deficient in quality and pieces. The series is better represented with just a type I coin.
The introduction of the Type II coin came at a time when America was suffering from the Compromise of 1850 which was dead just as the million young men that had given their lives on battlefields throughout the South. Reconstruction was proving to be an encumbrance on the southern states as well as a political dilemma for President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Congress. Nevertheless, the country required a more divine route to mend its latest grievances and because of that, the Mint Act of 1865 included a provision that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST be placed on the nation’s coins. This proposal of a religious motto decorating U.S. coinage began in 1861 when Reverend M.R Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase encouraging him to add some type celestial affirmation. It took a few years, but the motto was perfected: IN GOD WE TRUST now graced our coinage.
In the eleven years Type 2 double eagles were produced, a total of 16,160,758 pieces were struck in three mints:
- Philadelphia (no mintmark)
- Carson City (CC)
- San Francisco (S)
Mintmarks can be identified on the reverse underneath the eagle.
In 1877 the design was once again altered by spelling out TWENTY DOLLARS in place of the TWENTY D. of the two issues before it. Until 1907 this new type (Type III) was produced and when President Theodore Roosevelt decided to correct them yet again, he appointed renowned experts to provide sketches. As we know today, it was the design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the twenty dollar gold coin which was declared as the most attractive in U.S. history which was adopted up until the end, or rather the beginning of the gold confiscation of 1933.
There were 64,137,477 business strikes and 2,426 proofs minted from 1877 through 1907 of the Type III double eagle. The Mints that were responsible for the most mintages were:
- Philadelphia (no mintmark) 6.25 million
- San Francisco (S)
Carson City (CC) hiked up mintage until 1893, New Orleans (O) struck coins only in 1879, and Denver (D) for the last two years of 1906 and 1907. Mintmarks can be found on the reverse below the eagle.
Regrettably, there are quite a few counterfeits of this series. In the Middle East and Europe many Lebanese counterfeits were originally sold as gold bullion in an identifiable form being that double eagles hold almost an ounce of pure gold. The majority of these fake coins are easily recognized by a specialist, but are made well enough to swindle an apprentice. In grading this series observe the wear on the hair above Liberty’s forehead and behind her ear, on her cheek, and on the coronet. Check for wear on the eagle’s neck and wing tips as well as on the top of the shield on its reverse.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries millions of Type 3 Liberty double eagles were sent overseas to be used as bank reserves. The surge of double eagles out of the country was massive when gold coin production culminated in 1933 and Americans were mandated to hand over their gold at face value for melting. Luckily, foreign stockpiles were the reason many rarities survived.
Minted: 1907 – 1933
Gold Content: .96750 oz. Pure Gold
President Theodore Roosevelt was a president who reflected vitality in almost every area of service and this tendency also emanated in his love of artistry. During a visit at the Smithsonian Institute, he was amazed with the ancient Greek coinage. American coinage fell short when examined in contrast to those coins. Looking at the fascinating Greek coins motivated him to commence innovative designs for American coinage. The result: the most dazzling and artistic coin ever produced: the $20 Saint-Gaudens (34mm in diameter).
This spectacular gold piece developed from two positively exceptional human beings. President Roosevelt was intent on leaving his mark on American coinage and he did it with absolute greatness as did Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the renowned American sculptor who designed the magnificent coin. Saint-Gaudens first proved himself when asked by the President to design his official inaugural medal. It was this stunning piece that compelled the President to return to Saint-Gaudens with this special assignment. They both shared an appreciation for the classic Greek coins with high-relief and the president exhorted the artist to fashion a series of U.S. coin designs founded upon those models. Again, Roosevelt had a mission within U.S. coinage. Saint-Gaudens acceded to create an assortment of coins comparable to the ancient Greek coins which Roosevelt admired. He did this for a fee of $5,000.
The obverse is characterized by a full-length portrait of Liberty grasping a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. The U.S. Capitol graces the left of her cascading gown with the word LIBERTY above her. She is presented in full stride with rays of sunlight blessing her. Surrounding her are 46 stars which represented one for each state in the Union at that time. Underneath the date you can observe the artist’s initials. The coin’s reverse portrays an amazing eagle in flight which is possibly the most impressive resemblance of the nation’s official emblem ever to charm a U. S. coin or medal. Under this glorious bird is the sun with its rays spreading upward. The legends UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS are located above it in two semicircular tiers. When looking for signs of wear observe Liberty’s breast, knee, as well as the eagle’s wing.
Saint-Gaudens sustained the flawless look by placing one other required motto, E PLURIBUS UNUM, along the edge, thereby reducing the obverse and reverse verbiage. The standard disarray was additionally abridged when Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens collaborated to exclude the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the initial double eagles. Using the divine name on coinage was disrespectful in Roosevelt’s opinion because coins were used in all places and God only knew where they ended up. It didn’t end there, though. Congress ordered its reinstatement.
In 1907, acting under direct orders from President Roosevelt, the Mint pioneered its creation of spectacular proof specimens with extremely high relief. It produced a single piece with an unadorned edge and about two dozen others with E PLURIBUS UNUM on the edge. The differences between these and the ones that went out into the public are basically in the thickness of the edges and the fields which are extremely concave linking directly with the edges without a border. Saint-Gaudens’ attempt to express a classical appearance is reflected in the overwhelming features this gold coin bears. It would also be very different to the two commonplace and drab coins that were being replaced, the Liberty double eagle and the Coronet eagle, both of which were grounded in the first half of the 19th century.
The beauty of the $20 Saint-Gaudens is the result of receiving nine blows apiece from the dies at a pressure of 172 tons as well as the date being depicted in Roman numerals. Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens wanted the beauty of this coin flaunted very clearly via high relief but they experienced conflict from the U. S. Mint’s chief engraver, Charles E. Barber, who regarded this unreasonable and wanted to terminate this practice. In August 1907, Saint-Gaudens lamentably passed away before seeing his great artwork receive top-notch recognition. Barber was able to hinder production somewhat until the President commanded its progress. The high relief edition of Saint-Gaudens’ double eagle turned into a collectible on the spot with pieces yielding as much as $30 within weeks of their issue. Thanks to Philadelphia coin dealer Henry Chapman, numismatists were furnished substantially with the $20 Saint-Gaudens.
Once the production of the Saint-Gaudens continued, Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber used the pretext that mass-produced coinage required a lessening of the relief because high-relief coins were not able to be stacked. The coin did not lose much allure even in lower relief or even when the Mint used Arabic numbers in dating all reduced-relief double eagles almost as if to emphasize the change from the classical to the commercial. The coins were minted each year from 1907 through 1916. Mintage discontinued for three years after which the coins were struck every year from 1920 through 1933. The branch mints in Denver and San Francisco increased the main Philadelphia Mint production, but not annually. Mintmarks are visible above the date and the artist’s initials below it. Newly minted specimens were held almost exclusively as part of the nation’s gold reserves from 1929 forward, with few being released into circulation. Unfortunately, almost all of these were melted (as well as many earlier double eagles) subsequent to the gold recall order signed in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Because of this, double eagles dated 1929 through 1932 are extraordinarily uncommon in present day.
Interestingly, the Mint created nearly half a million pieces dated 1933, but the government sustains that these were never surrendered and because of this it is against the law to have possession of them. There is only one piece that is owned privately whereas two specimens have been safeguarded within the Smithsonian Institution since 1934. And that’s where standard-issued U.S. gold coinage culminates. There weren’t that many mintages but it was excessive melting and not low mintage that was mainly accountable for the foundation of the major rarities of which the 1927-D, 1920-S, 1921, 1930-S and 1932 are a part of. Swiss and French bank vaults are the reason these dates exist. Only 687 proofs were offered for sale from 1908 through 1915 making them very rare. In 1909 and 1910 they were made with a more luminous Roman or satin finish. This exquisite gold coin is one of the most sought after pieces. Its obverse design is graced on the American Eagle gold bullion coins since 1986.
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