Type 1 Double Eagles - Without Motto on Reverse
1849 Double Eagle (Pattern)
Pride of the National Coin Collection housed by the Smithsonian,
believed to be unique.
Strike Mintage Small numbers; all probably destroyed. Proof
Mintage Probably 1
of the Mint Collection.
Double Eagle, of which just one is known to exist, has been
considered by many to be the most desirable and most valuable
of all United States Coins. It is said that in the early 20th
century J.P. Morgan, the famous financier, offered $25,00 to
buy the coin, then displayed as part of the Mint Collection
in Philadelphia, but to no avail. The national treasure was
not for sale.
is on view as part of the National Numismatic Collections at
the Smithsonian, where it is in good company with other famous
gold rarities, including Proofs of all denominations from the
late 1850's to 1915, two examples of the 1815 Half Eagle (a
coin that in the 19th century was considered to be the most
desirable of all gold coin rarities excepting the 1849 $20),
two of the 1822 Half Eagles (of only three known; a coin which
today is recognized as being several times rarer than the 1815),
and in the pattern series, multiple specimens of the MCMVII
Ultra High Relief Double Eagle and both of the two unique varities
of gold 1877 $50 pieces.
and historians are fortunate that this division of the Smithsonian
has generously made available information about its coins and
archives, contributing much to numismatic scholarship over a
long period of years, including to the present text.
by Mint History Books
in her excellent study, A Visit to the Cabinet of the United
States Mint, at Philadelphia, Elizabeth Johnston singled out
the 1849 as the only United States gold coin discussed in some
is one specimen which it is well to remark, as it illustrates
how a coin may become famous without the least premonition,
and also is a witness of the positive law which protects and
- A law
passed Congress in 1849 ordering twenty-dollar gold coins to
be issued. One price was struck. Something intervened to delay
the work, and the year closed; then, of course, the dies had
to be destroyed, as no more could lawfully be issued of 1849.
The coin just beside this, marked 1850, of same value, is not
worth the collectors's consideration, while "1849" cannot be
purchased. It is marked "Unique" and is really "the only one"
as the Germans fondly called Jean Richter.
A.M. Smith in his book, Coins and Coinage: The United States
Mint, Philadelphia, History, Biography, Statistics, Work, Machinery,
Products, Officials, included this under the heading of "Rare
- The rarest
United States coin is the Double Eagle of 1849, of which there
is only one in existence and belongs to the U.S. Mint Cabinet.
The next in rarity is the Half Eagle of 1815, of this date there
are only seven specimens known to exist.
and tributes relating to the 1849 Double Eagle are numerous,
including illustrations and information in most popular guides
to United States coins and, separately, specialized texts on
has conjectured that on December 22, 1849, two or three gold
impressions are believed to have been made of the 1849 Double
Eagle. One went to the Mint Cabinet, this being the only specimen
known today. Another is said to have been made for Secretary
of the Treasury William M. Meredith. However, this does not
explain the Mint Cabinet piece being from a corrected die with
lower relief. Accordingly, the comment must be taken with a
grain of salt.
the Meredith example, facts are scarce, but it is said that
is passed from the Meredith estate to Philadelphia dealer William
K. Nagy, who was active from the turn of the century onward
and who was the business partner of the old-time dealer John
W. Haseltine, then in his waning years. In the 1950's, Nagy
discussed the coin with Breen and Stated that it had been placed
in a private collection. Breen remarked that this must have
been the Meredith coin, and Nagy was astonished that Breen knew
that at a later date, probably 1859 or 1860. Mint Director James
Ross Snowden gave a brass striking of the 1849 Double Eagle
to Robert Coulton Davis, a Philadelphia druggist who at least
by a later time developed close ties with the Mint. Davis was
the first Numismatist to study closely and publish extensive
data on patterns, although they had been noticed in print earlier,
such as by Mint Director James Ross Snowden in A Description
of Ancient and Modern Coins in the Cabinet of the Mint of the
United States, a study primarily researched and written by William
Ewing Dubois and Geogre Bull (curator of the Mint Cabinet).
1849 four-digit date logotype about evenly spaced. Bottom serifs
of 1 and 4 light. 4 has prominent serif at end of crossbar (crossle
4). Right side of 9 is not oriented vertically, but slants inward
and left; ball widely separated from top curve. This relates
to the specimen in the Smithsonian Institution. The unique specimen
in the Smithsonian dated 1849 resembles in overall appearance
the regular circulation strikes made the next year, 1850, except
for the 1849 date. The relief on the other 1849 Double Eagles
may be slightly higher, or the rims lower, or a combination
of both, for it is said that the 1849 coins would not be stack
properly. However, the Smithsoniam coin seems to be of a modified
format similar to a normal coin (such as the production strikes
made the next year and dated 1850).
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