$20 Gold Liberty Head (1850-1907)
America’s largest circulating gold coin was the double eagle or $20 piece, born in the exciting years of the great California Gold Rush. The new mines yielded the greatest mass of gold in recorded history. Vast quantities of the yellow metal helped to speed development of the American West and had far-reaching effects on the world’s coinage. These coins came in three different types during the years it was minted.
The Type 1 1850-1866 (or No Motto)double eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint every year from 1850 through 1865, at New Orleans from 1850 through 1861, and at San Francisco from 1854 through 1866. The O or S mintmark is found below the eagle’s tail. Average mintages were several hundred thousand, but ranged up to just under three million for the 1861 issue. The San Francisco coins of 1866 were the last of the design, and were also issued as part of the Type 2 series, with the new motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
The Type 2 1866-1876 (or Motto) came with the new motto IN GOD WE TRUST and was first added to dies for double eagles in 1866. The addition was relatively easy to accomplish by slightly widening the oval of stars above the eagle’s head and placing IN GOD WE TRUST within. Because of the double eagle’s larger size, the addition of the motto did not result in undue crowding of the devices as on the smaller, lower denomination coins. Mint Engraver James Longacre also made two other minor modifications to the reverse: the sides of the shield that were formerly straight, curve outward on the Type 2 coins, and the tail feathers of the eagle are lower and closer to the lettered devices on the lower reverse, requiring smaller mintmarks than on the Type 1 coins.
The Type 3 1877-1907 was by far the largest mintage of the three types with 64,137,477 business strikes and 2,426 proofs minted from 1877 through 1907. Five facilities minted the coin during its thirty-one-year run: Philadelphia (no mintmark) and San Francisco (S) were the major producers, with Carson City (CC) augmenting mintage until 1893, New Orleans (O) striking coins only in 1879, and Denver (D) coming aboard for the last two years of 1906 and 1907. Mintmarks can be found on the reverse below the eagle. The 1904 Philadelphia mintage alone dwarfed all others with over 6.25 million coins produced. Collectors looking for a gem example of this design for a type set will invariably find this date.
- Contains .9675 oz of Gold.
- Obverse: Shows Liberty, facing left, encircled by 13 stars with the word “Liberty” on her hair band. The reverse features a heraldic eagle with a shield on its breast with thirteen stars above.
- Designed by James B. Longacre
- Metal Content: 0.9675 troy oz
- Purity: .900
- Thickness: 2.41 mm
- Diameter: 34 mm