Learn more about the value and history of this rare and beautiful historic coin.
Shortly after the nation’s founding, Congress authorized gold coins in three values: $10, $5, and $2.50. They all featured eagles on their reverse sides, but only the $10 coin took the name “eagle.” The $5 coin was therefore called a half eagle and the $2.50 coin, a quarter eagle.
When $20 Liberty gold coins—so called because they feature Lady Liberty on their obverse (front) side—were introduced in 1850, they logically took the name “double eagle.” These coins are therefore known by the somewhat wordy name $20 liberty gold double eagle coins. However, what they lack in nominal brevity they make up in physical beauty, dignified history, and substantial worth.
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These coins were the first of their denomination. Their production was made possible in 1850 by the increase in gold supply produced by the California gold rush that began only two years prior. Each coin is comprised of .9675 troy oz. of .900 fine gold, which makes it both a collectible coin and a substantive asset for investors. The coins were very popular, and were used extensively in commerce.
Liberty gold coins feature designs by artist James B. Longacre on both the obverse and reverse. The sculpture of the elegant lady graces the obverse, engraved in Greco-Roman style and bearing the crown of liberty. She is portrayed in left profile and ringed by thirteen stars in tribute to the thirteen original colonies. The date of the coin’s mintage is struck at the bottom.
Great Seal of the U.S.
The reverse side of the coin bears America’s Great Seal. A frequent sculpture on U.S. coins, the seal has a bald eagle prepared for war or peace—armed with shield and arrows, but also bearing an olive branch. It is ringed with words all around—“TWENTY DOLLARS” at the bottom and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” arced across the top. Just under the top inscription are rays of light emanating from the seal and topping the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” framed by 13 stars.
While the sculpted work remained constant, the inscriptions underwent some changes through the years. These included the addition of the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” in 1866, and the coin’s denomination was abbreviated in 1877 (to “TWENTY D.”).
“Liberty Head” double eagle gold coins are an extraordinary value. They are evidence of a proud nation’s heritage and they exalt what that nation holds dear. By animating the concept of liberty on coins of enduring, exceptional, and true value, those who produced the coin made a timeless tribute to America and its ideals. Today, the coins often sell at prices comparable to those of current bullion coins, yet they come bearing the memory and gravity of events that forged a great—and greatly blessed—nation. What better way to remember the America of yesterday and prepare for the America of tomorrow.
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