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1856 Double Eagle

1856 Double Eagle

1856 Double Eagle or $20 Gold

PCGS No: 8917
Circulation strikes Mintage: 329,878
Proofs: Unknown
Designer: James Barton Longacre
Diameter: ±34 millimeters
Metal content: Gold - 90%
Other - 10%
Weight: ±516 grains (±33.4 grams)
Edge: Reeded
Mintmark: None (for Philadelphia, PA) below the eagle's tail on the reverse.


The 1856 double eagle is much more difficult to locate than many of the other Philadelphia double eagles of the 1850s. The production for the year was widely distributed, and nearly all of the coins known are low grade. The S.S. Central America and S.S. Republic held relatively few examples. The 1856 double eagle is very rare in full Mint State. Just a couple of coins have been certified as choice. The finest example the authors have seen is a PCGS MS-63 specimen that sold at the 1997 ANA Convention sale for $17,825. The coin would bring much more today.

Key to Collecting: The 1856 double eagle is scarcer than generally realized. However, there are enough on hand that the specialist will have no trouble picking up a piece in the usual grades for this decade, VF and EF. Finer examples are elusive, and attractive Mint State coins are great rarities. There is not even a whisper of Proofs having been struck.

Aspects of Striking:
Usually well struck.

Die Data: 1856 four-digit date logotype with 1 and 8 close, 85 slightly farther apart, 56 even farther apart. Top interior of 8 is slightly smaller than bottom interior; upright 5 (with upright part of digit not even slightly slanted; first such form of the decade); flag of 5 short, thick on left side; 6 slightly low and heavy. Used on all dies for all mints. 10 pairs of dies were prepared, but it is believed that not all were used.

Number of Appearances: 71 (16%)
High Grade Condition Points: 43
Average Grade: VF-39

Auction Records:
(17) Unc: Auction '81; New England 7/80; ANA 1979; Stack's 2/79, 6/77; NASCA 12/76; ANA 1976; New England 3/76; Pine Tree 6/75; AAA 11/74; ANA 1974; AAA 5/74; Shapero 1971; Stack's 10/70; Holmes 1960; Menjou 1950; Bell 1944

(9) AU: Stack's 9/81, 9/79; New England 11/77, 7/77; Scanlon 1973; ANA 1971; Stack's 6/70; DiBello 1970; Miles 1968

(21) EF: Stack's 2/80; Superior I/80; Stack's 12/79 (2); NASCA 10/79; Stack's 10/79, 9/79, 6/79; New England 3/79; B&R 2/79; Stack's 2/77; B&R 2/77; Superior 10/74; Stack's 6/74; Gilhousen 1973; Kreisberg/Cohen 11/70; Merkin 3/69; Stack's 5/68; Bolt 1966; Bell 1963; Smith 1955

(21) VF: Auction '80; Stack's 2/80; ANA 1975; Pine Tree 6/75; ANA 1974; Kreisberg/ Cohen 9/71; Stack's 4/71; Shuford 1968; Stack's 4/67, 10/66; Kosoff 10/65; Paramount 2/65; ANA 1964; Wolfson 1962; Golden 1962; Cicero 1960; Baldenhofer 1955; Farouk 1954; MC 1948; WGC 1946; Roach 1944

(3) Fine: Melish 1956; Baldenhofer 1955; Atwater 1946

The 1856 Double Eagle is a very elusive date, generally obtainable only in VF or EF condition. In AU it is very scarce and in Uncirculated 60 or better condition it is rare. Locating a choice or gem quality unc would be a very difficult task indeed and I have seen only a couple at those levels. As is the case with a number of the $20 issues from the mid-1850's, particularly the S-Mints, "saltwater uncs" are occasionally available (cf 1974 ANA). Among Type I Double Eagles from the Philadelphia Mint, the 1856 is comparable in overall rarity to the 1855, 1857, 1858, 1863 and 1864 although it is a little easier to locate in Unc. than the latter four dates, particularly the 1863 and 1864 which are all but unobtainable in mint state. No proofs are known nor has one ever been reliably reported in the past. Whether any were minted is not known.


Oregon Territory, Feb. 22. Indians kill father and sons while holding mother and daughter captive: Geisel Family Massacre enrages settlers
California, Feb. 22. First railroad in slate links Sacramento and Folsom.
Boston, March 26. Operation of first steam trains in New England begins.
United States, Apr. 1. Western Union Telegraph formed to handle Western telegraphic communication.
Texas. Apr. 29. First camels purchased by U.S. Army for experimental duly in Texas arrive (--June 16, IS57).
San Francisco, May 15. Politician James Casey lynched after murdering James King, crusading reformist editor.
Kansas Territory. May 21. Lawrence looted and sacked by pro-slavery forces; one man killed (-Aug. 30).
Bloomington, Illinois, May 29. In a speech. Abraham Lincoln says. "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the lime, hut you can't fool all of the people all of the time."
Boston, May. Emulating large European music festivals, first American festival consists of a chorus of 600 and an orchestra of 78.
Cincinnati, June 6. Democrats end week-long national convention, nominating James Buchanan for president and John C. Breckinridgc for vice president (~*Nov. 4)
Illinois. Sept. 21. Illinois Central Railroad completed between Chicago and Cairo: longest in country with 700 miles of track.
Chicago. Railroad companies employ telegraph to aid engineers and operators.
Terre Haute. Indiana. T.T. Woodruff patents three-tiered berth railroad car; Andrew Carnegie is principal investor.
Richmond, Virginia. Editorial in Examiner is first to warn that fundamental social and economic differences between North and South may lead to civil conflict.
New York City. Freeman Hunt, author of Wealth ami Wurth, predicts that business will become a form of culture.

See Double Eagle Gold Coins for sale. Click here!

Courtesy Akers: United States Gold Coins - An Analysis of Auction Records
Courtesy Bowers: A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins


1856 Double Eagle - Double Eagle Gold Coins - Double Eagles

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

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