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LIBERTY HEAD DOUBLE EALGES (1849-1907)

Type 1 Double Eagles - Without Motto on Reverse (1849-1866)

1850-O Double Eagle

1850-O Double Eagle
Circulation Strike Mintage 141,000
First year of issue. Scarce in all grades. Incredibly rare in Mint State.
 

The 1850-O Double Eagle is fairly scarce in the context of general American numismatics, but enough exist that examples appear on the market with regularity. Of the first three dates of New Orleans coins of this denomination, the 1850-O is the scarcest. As the first year of the Double Eagle and, accordingly, the first New Orleans issue, this variety is always in strong demand. Most specimens are in the VF grade range, and, indeed, this has been about par for even the greatest collections. EF coins are scarce, and AU pieces are especially so. In recent times some other 1850-O twenties have been called Uncirculated, perhaps pieces that have "graduated" from the AU level, or perhaps new discoveries-who know? In any event, no choice or gem pieces are known.

Longacre’s Liberty Head Type 1 Double Eagle (1849-1866): James Barton Longacre designed the pattern for the Twenty Dollar Double Eagle in 1849. It was produced because of the huge amount of gold that came into the Mint from California. With the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in January 1848, the California Gold Rush began. It led to an influx of miners and others into the area. The vast quantity of gold produced led to a need for a standard form of exchange. The Double Eagle was the government’s response. They also felt that the Double Eagle would be useful for large commercial transactions and that it would facilitate foreign trade.

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 Double Eagle 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 Double Eagles were minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In total there were 23,526,676 business strikes. The largest mintage was in 1851 with 2,087,155, and the lowest was 1856-O with 2,250 (not counting the single pattern coin that was struck in 1849).

It is interesting to note that until the discovery of the shipwrecked 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. The loss of the Central America triggered the “Panic of 1857,” which was actually 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.

Now Mint the state 1857-S Double Eagle as well as other dates from the Central America are available today encapsulated and authenticated by the two major grading services.

Specifications:
Edge: Reeded
Weight: 33.436 grams (516 grains) (1.075 troy ounces )
Diameter: 34 millimeters
Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper

Gold Content: 30.093 grams (464.4 grains) (0.9675 troy ounces)

 


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