1861 Double Eagle Republic - 1861 $20 SS Republic NGC MS63. This Civil War dated 1861 Double Eagle Republic from the shipwrecked Republic is tied for the second finest at NGC. This 1861 Double Eagle Republic coin shows a strong strike with full details on the centers of the stars and the design features of the reverse. Subdued, satiny mint luster is seen on both sides of the piece. A few abrasion marks keep this 1861 Double Eagle Republic coin from a higher Mint State grade. The surfaces of this 1861 Double Eagle Republic are original and free of individual marks worthy of description.
During the California Gold Rush, the S.S. Republic, then called the Tennessee, was used to transport miners to the shores of Panama and Nicaragua to travel to the California gold fields. For several years the ship was used to transport immigrants to the United States from Mexico. In 1865 she sank in a hurricane off the coast of Savannah. In 2003 the Odyssey Republic Expedition, after twelve years of searching, discovered and began the recovery of the ship’s treasure. The cargo of riches had lain for 138 years approximately 100 miles off the coast of Georgia. “Lost Gold of the Republic,” a film produced by National Geographic documents the discovery and recovery. The coins recovered from the S.S. Republic are labeled as such by NGC and its affiliate NCS not only to note the historic significance of the coin, but also to indicate that these coins have been professionally conserved.
The double eagle was designed by James B. Longacre. The obverse 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.
In 1844 Longacre was appointed Mint Engraver through the influence of Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. After overcoming opposition by the Chief Coiner, Franklin Peale, who was fearful that the new Engraver would interfere with his illegal medal manufacturing business using the Mint facilities, Longacre did well. He 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.
Almost 500 examples of the 1861 Double Eagle Republic were found on the S.S. Republic. Most of them graded from AU58 to MS62. In its population report, NGC shows 24 1861 Double Eagle Republic pieces in MS63 with 5 better.