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1854-S Double Eagle

1854 Double Eagle

1854-S Double Eagle or $20 Gold

PCGS No: 8913, 70030, 70031, 70032
Circulation strikes Mintage: 141,468
Proofs: 1
Designer: James Barton Longacre
Diameter: ±34 millimeters
Metal content: Gold - 90%
Other - 10%
Weight: ±516 grains (±33.4 grams)
Edge: Reeded
Mintmark: "S" (for San Francisco, CA) below the eagle's tail on the reverse.

The 1854-S double eagle is a Type 1 Liberty Head. The Type 1 Double Eagles were made from 1849 to 1866 and are different from Type 2 Double Eagles in that they lack the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Designed by James B. Longacre, the obverse shows Liberty facing left wearing a coronet inscribed LIBERTY, with her hair tied tightly in the back. Two curls flow down the back and side of her neck. She is surrounded by thirteen stars with the dated below. Dentils are near the edge on both sides of the coin. The reverse of the double eagle shows a heraldic eagle with elaborate ribbons on both sides of the shield extending from the top corner down to the eagle’s tail feathers. The ribbons are inscribed, on the left E PLURIBUS and UNUM on the right. The ribbons were added to the design to symbolize the denomination since this was the first twenty dollar double eagle coin. There is an oval of thirteen stars above the eagle’s head and an arc of rays from wing tip to wing tip behind the upper half of the oval. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is in an arc above the eagle, and the denomination TWENTY D. is below. The mint mark is between the tail feathers and the N of TWENTY.

The double eagle was authorized by Congress in 1849 because of the large discoveries of gold in California. Large quantities of gold were coming into the Mint for conversion into coinage. It was felt that a double eagle would greatly facilitate large domestic or international transactions. At a weight of 33.44 grams, they would be comparable to several gold coinages in use in Latin America.

Mint Director Robert Patterson tried to use this new coinage bill as an excuse to terminate James Longacre as the Engraver because of political and other differences. The Chief Coiner, Franklin Peale, with Patterson’s approval and help, was making medals on the side. Patterson was afraid that Longacre would interfere in Peale’s profitable business. Therefore, Peale would not cooperate with Longacre; however, Longacre prevailed and was able to retain his position and complete the dies for the double eagle coins.

Many mint state 1854-S double eagle coins are shipwrecked. They have microscopic seawater etching, which gives the pieces a matte appearance. These coins have been called “saltwater uncirculated.” Perhaps they were part of the cargo of the S.S. Yankee Blade, which sank on October 1, 1854 while on a trip from San Francisco to Panama. Before the advent of the Panama Canal, ships would carry goods from California to the Pacific coast of Panama. The passengers and goods would then by transported by land across the isthmus to the Atlantic coast. There the goods and passengers would board another ship and sail for an east coast port such as New York. The Yankee Blade carried 900 passengers and crew as well as gold and about $152,000 in coins. Believing he was far out to sea, during a heavy fog the captain of the ship went full speed trying to establish a new record for the trip. However, he was in the Channel Islands off the rocky coast of Santa Barbara. The ship smashed into the rocks and sank. Because the ship was hung up on the rocks for a while, most of the passengers and crew escaped. Some gold coins were recovered immediately afterward; however, others were found later. In 1977 there were extensive recoveries. About 225 1854-S double eagles became available for sale, and all of them showed seawater etching.

The 1854-S double eagle comes with both large and small dates as well as a Broken A, Open A, and Closed A. The coin had an original mintage of 141,468. In its population report NGC show a total of 181 pieces in all grades. PCGS shows 141 pieces and of them 11 are the Broken A, 7 are the Open A and 5 are the Closed A.

1854-S Double Eagle - San Francisco Mint - Double Eagles

US Rare Coin Investments 2003 - 2015 U.S. Rare Coin Investments

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