Circulation Strike Mintage 141,000
First year of issue. Scarce in all grades. Incredibly rare in
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.
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
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.
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
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.