1884-CC Double Eagle - 1884-CC $20 PCGS MS60. This crusty, Mint State, Western branch mint 1884-CC Double Eagle is well struck. Full details are evident on the centers of the stars, Liberty’s hair, and the design details of the reverse, especially the eagle. Muted mint luster is seen within the devices on both sides. The surfaces are original and clean for the grade with just a couple of small rim nicks and abrasions that keep it from a higher Mint State grade.
The double eagle was designed by James B. Longacre. It 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. The mint mark is between the tail feathers and the N of TWENTY.
The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the original double eagle by enlarging the oval of stars above the eagle’s head and placing the motto in it. This modification did not require a major alteration of the design as was the case with adding the motto to the lower denominations. It was made at the behest of Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of Treasury and Congress because of pressure brought about by the Reverend M.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania.
The design change that brought about the Type 3 double eagle was the denomination. It went from TWENTY D. to TWENTY DOLLARS. Like the addition of the motto to the reverse of the previous double eagle, it did not cause any major change in the rest of the coin’s design. William Barber who by then was the Engraver following Longacre’s death in 1869 made the modification.
James Barton Longacre was born in Pennsylvania in 1794. When he finished his apprenticeship in Philadelphia as a bookseller and a banknote engraver, he worked on his own as an engraver of book illustrations and bank notes. His works included one on the signers of the Declaration of Independence and another on stage personalities. In 1830, Longacre began a series of biographies of famous men in the military and the political arena. In 1834 the result of this series became the National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans that was published in four volumes.
Longacre and those who worked with him became famous because of this work. In 1844 Longacre came to work at the Mint. He was opposed by Franklin Peale, the Chief Coiner. Peale was probably responsible for some blundered dies that Longacre was criticized for making. Peal was involved in a private, illegal medal manufacturing business using Mint facilities. He was concerned that this new political appointee would interfere with his business, and he resisted Longacre’s appointment as Chief Engraver. Finally in 1854, Peale was fired by President Franklin Pearce. Longacre flourished in his position and was responsible for creating many new designs including the Indian Head cent, the two-cent piece, the Shield nickel, the Liberty Head gold dollar, the Indian Princess gold dollar, the three-dollar gold piece, and the Liberty Head double eagle.
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