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Type 1 Double Eagles - Without Motto on Reverse (1849-1866)

1861 Double Eagle

1861 Double Eagle

Until the treasure of the S.S. Central America was discovered, the 1861 Philadelphia issue was the most common Type 1 double eagle. This is the issue most collectors thought of when trying to find an acceptable example of the type. The large mintage, the highest of any double eagle until 1904, makes the 1861 a common issue in most grades. Choice pieces are actually very rare. There have only been about 60 coins certified at that level. The finest known example of the date by far is a PCGS MS-67 coin that sold at auction in 1995 for $96,800. Nearly 500 examples of the date were found on the S.S. Republic. Most were in grades from AU-58 to MS-62.

The 1861 Philadelphia Mint double eagle has the largest mintage figure for any Type 1 double eagle 1850-1866 or, for that matter, for any 19th century double eagle of any of the three types. Some of this metal came from melted-down Type 1 gold dollars. In the waning days of December 1861, when the outcome of the Civil War was uncertain, banks stopped paying out gold coins at par in exchange for paper money. Hoarding began, and this probably accounts for the survival of 200 or more Mint State coins today, although the large mintage played a role as well. Circulated examples from VF to AU are very common. Although Mint records sliow that 66 Proofs were struck this year, only a half dozen or so can be traced tocky—yielding a variety which David W. Akers considers the rarest of all Proof gold coins after 1858.

The 1861 Double Eagles were usually well struck, Mlint State coins usually have finely-grained satiny surfaces rather than deep frost. Certain details less well defined than on 1850-1858 coins.

Trompeter Specimen: Date to left, slanting minutely down to right; device more frosted than in earlier years, die looks rusty at brow, hair and LIBER; dentils well apart at lower right. Reverse with extra outlines around stars; rays partly joined; unpolished areas at branch, arrows and base of shield, less extensive than on the 1859 die; tapering dentils as on 1859-60. Field striation nearly vertical, slanting slightly down to right, plainest in shield and around eagle.

James B. Longacre’s double eagle design lasted from 1849 to 1907 with only two post-Civil War modifications, the addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST and the change of the denomination from TWENTY D. to TWENTY DOLLARS. Thus, as a major design type for more than half a century, the double eagle was a familiar American design. The 1861 twenty was a Type 1 piece.

Longacre’s design for the double eagle shows a Liberty head facing left, wearing coronet inscribed LIBERTY. Her hair is tightly tied in the back with two loose curls hanging down her neck to the end of the truncation. She is surrounded by thirteen six-pointed stars with the date below. Dentils are near the edge on both sides of the coin. The reverse 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 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.


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