1857-S Double Eagle (1857-S $20) SS Central America, 20A Spiked Shield, PCGS MS65 CAC. Bright luster blooms from this gem “Spiked Shield” 1857-S Double Eagle. It shows pale yellow-gold through the highly reflective centers with deeper peripheral color, which is typical of SSCA double eagles. There are a couple of scattered wispy marks that are not worthy of individual description and mentioned merely for the sake of accuracy. The grade, which is confirmed by CAC, could easily have been a point higher. The strike is full and sharp with every detail on both sides easy to see and appreciate. It is probable that this coin’s excellent condition is because of its high state of preservation within the shipwreck itself. Double eagles were minted because of the huge amount of gold discovered in California in 1849.
The Gold Rush caused large amounts of gold to be sent to the Mint for coinage. A bill was introduced in Congress to create the twenty dollar double eagle. It was felt that this new denomination would facilitate large domestic and international transactions. At this time, Mint Director Robert Patterson tried to replace James Longacre as Engraver. Longacre had obtained his position through John C. Calhoun, the former Vice President, and was hated by Patterson. He was afraid that Longacre’s continued presence would disrupt the illegal and lucrative medal making business of his friend, Franklin Peale. Despite Patterson’s encouragement of harassment against him, Longacre prevailed and maintained his position.
For the double eagle Longacre chose the Coronet motif similar to other coins of the era. On the obverse, Liberty wears a coronet inscribed LIBERTY, and her hair is tied in the back as curls flow down her neck. The date is below the truncation, and thirteen stars surround her head. Dentils are placed near the edge of both sides of the coin. The heraldic eagle of the reverse has an oval of thirteen stars above its head which are surrounded by rays. E PLURIBUS UNUM is found on matching ribbons on each side of the eagle. These ribbons were added to symbolize the new denomination. The present coin is a Type 2. The denomination is abbreviated TWENTY D., and IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the slightly enlarged oval of stars.
Until the discovery of the S.S. Central America, 1850’s double eagles in gem condition were virtually unavailable. The ship, originally called the S.S. George Law, was a United States mail steamship. In 1857 it sank off the coast of the Carolinas because of a huge hurricane. It was a three-mast, side-wheel steamship that traveled between Panama and New York. The journey took approximately 21 days. In the five years prior to its sinking, it has been estimated that the Central America carried about $150 million worth of gold or one-third of all of the gold mined in California. The ship was 272 feet long and had 578 passengers and crew on board. It also had on board over 35,000 pieces of mail and gold bars, nuggets, dust, and 5200 newly minted San Francisco gold coins from the West, of which the present coin is one. The loss of the Central America triggered the “Panic of 1857,” which was caused by bank instability and generally poor economic conditions.
In 1985, the Columbus-America Discovery Group raised ten million dollars and began to search for the wreck. They found it at a depth of 8,500 feet off the coast of South Carolina. It is estimated that the total coins, ingots, and gold bars were worth more than one hundred million dollars.
Mint state 1857-S double eagles from the Central America are available today encapsulated and authenticated by the two major grading services; however, few are as attractive in gem condition as the present coin.
** All buy it now coins availability must be confirmed via email or phone before purchase. Please contact us ( email ) for availability.
* Prices subject to change with no advance notice due to market or other reasons.
see it here? Tell us what you want Click