Type 1 Double Eagles - Without Motto on Reverse
1861 Double Eagle
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
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.
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.