In the 1840s, an abundance of gold was stumbled across in California. This sparked the California Gold Rush, during which bullion was brought east in large amounts. However, this wasn't the only major factor in the move towards introducing what would be the Liberty Double Eagle coin. In 1792, the U.S. Congress passed what was called the Coinage Act, under which the $10 piece, the eagle, was the biggest-denomination coin. However, a lot of bullion left the country during the late 18th and early 19th centuries largely because, for international transactions, the eagle was a conveniently-sized coin to use. This caused the U.S. to suffer economically.
Deeming that most eagles being minted were likely being exported, Elias Boudinot, the Director of the U.S. Mint, put eagle production to an end in 1804. The eagle re-entered production in 1838 after a revision to its gold fineness removed the attraction of exporting the piece. However, as the early nineteenth century progressed, many people thought that a bigger United States gold coin was necessary. It would help with international transactions, as American merchants were sometimes putting high-denomination Latin American gold coins to that use.
In the late 1840s, the much larger gold supply resulting from the California Gold Rush made the idea of a high-denomination gold U.S. coin even more attractive. This increased supply had sent the worth of silver coins beyond their face value, leading them to be commonly exported. A $20 gold piece could not only replace the silver coins in commerce but also assist the efficient conversion of gold into coins. A bill that would enable a double eagle to be issued became law on March 3, 1849. James K. Polk signed it into law the day before his U.S. Presidency ended.
The task of designing this unorthodox coin fell to James B. Longacre, who nonetheless included familiar motifs in the coin's appearance. A good-looking and discernibly young Liberty made the obverse, on which her hair was largely tied in a bun. Surrounding her head are 13 stars, symbolic of the colonies responsible for forming the U.S. as its own country. Thirteen stars were also placed on the other side, but this time arranged in a halo shape. Starting in 1866, the double eagle also displayed "IN GOD WE TRUST" inside that shape. Here, the stars seemed to hover above an eagle with a double ribbon in its grasp. This was intended to symbolize the $20 denomination, which the design also indicated as "TWENTY D."
That was a form of indication that stayed until 1877. It had been on the Type I and Type II versions of the Liberty Double Eagle, but the Type III revision changed it to "TWENTY DOLLARS." The Type III coin and the Liberty Double Eagle series as a whole was discontinued in 1907. While Theodore Roosevelt, the President at this point, criticized the general look of American coinage that had circulated during the time of his administration, the Liberty Double Eagle has drawn acclaim elsewhere, particularly from 21st century collectors.
Features of the Common Date $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle MS64:
Possibility of noticeable scuff marks
An eye appeal that pleases
.100 fine copper to go with the .900 gold
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