American Gold Double Eagle coins hold a prominent position in the world of numismatics and offer a captivating glimpse into the history of the United States. These remarkable coins, minted from 1849 to 1933, are not only sought after by collectors and investors but also embody the rich heritage and economic evolution of the nation. In this article, we will delve into the intricate history and significance of the American Gold Double Eagle coins.
Origins and Background
The genesis of the American Gold Double Eagle can be traced back to the California Gold Rush of 1848, which led to a surge in gold discoveries and subsequent mining activities. With the rapid influx of gold, the need for a reliable and standardized gold coinage system became evident. In response to this growing demand, the U.S. Mint introduced the Double Eagle denomination in 1849.
At the time, the United States of America didn’t have gold bullion coins like the American Gold Eagle or American Gold Buffalo. That all changed in 1849 and the American Gold Double Eagle took flight.
Design and Specifications
The Double Eagle, as the name suggests, had a face value of twenty dollars, making it the highest denomination gold coin in circulation at the time. The initial design, commonly known as the “Liberty Head,” was created by James B. Longacre, the Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. The obverse side featured a classical depiction of Lady Liberty wearing a coronet inscribed with the word “LIBERTY,” while the reverse displayed a heraldic eagle with a shield on its breast.
The American Gold Double Eagle coins witnessed a multitude of historical events during their production period. These coins played a vital role in the nation’s financial system and were widely used for commerce and international trade. They witnessed the economic boom during the California Gold Rush, the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and the aftermath of the Great Depression.
Key Variations and Rarity
Throughout its production history, the American Gold Double Eagle coins underwent several design modifications, resulting in distinct variations. The two notable design changes occurred in 1866 and 1907. The 1866 version, often referred to as the “With Motto” type, featured the addition of the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse side. In 1907, a radical redesign by Augustus Saint-Gaudens gave birth to the “Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle,” which is considered one of the most beautiful coins ever produced.
Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression and subsequent economic pressures, the U.S. government suspended the gold standard in 1933. As a result, the production of Gold Double Eagle coins ceased, making the 1933 issue one of the rarest and most sought-after coins in the world. Many people were forced to sell gold coins although we’ve heard many stories where gold coins were hidden from the government. While thousands were minted, nearly all were subsequently melted down, leaving only a few examples in private hands.
Legal Issues and Rarity of the 1933 Double Eagle
In an intriguing turn of events, the 1933 Double Eagle faced legal battles and a captivating narrative. Although the coins were never officially released, a few managed to escape the melting pot. However, the U.S. government later deemed these coins illegal to own, leading to their confiscation. One example, known as the “Langbord 1933 Double Eagle,” was discovered in a family safe deposit box in 2003 and ignited a legal battle that lasted for over a decade. The coin eventually sold at auction for a record-breaking sum of over $7 million.
The American Gold Double Eagle coins occupy a significant place in American history and numismatic lore. These coins encapsulate the spirit of the nation, reflecting its economic growth, cultural changes, and moments of triumph and adversity. From the early days of the California Gold Rush to the remarkable legal saga of the 1933 Double Eagle, these coins have a story to tell. Whether cherished for their artistic beauty or valued as an investment, American Gold Double Eagle coins stand as enduring testaments to the nation’s past and continue to captivate collectors and history enthusiasts worldwide.