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20 Dollars, United States, 1851

National Museum of American History
With the onset of the California Gold Rush, a new coin denomination was authorized - a twenty-dollar gold piece called a double eagle. It depicted the head of Liberty wearing a coronet, surrounded by stars, for the obverse. The reverse bore a heraldic eagle, similar to the Great Seal of the United States.

Mintage: 2,087,155

With gold rushing in from California, the production of double eagles soared to a level that would not be exceeded until 1861. A large number of coins were produced, but the vast majority of 1851 double eagles did not survive. Of the coins seen today, most are heavily worn. Examples were found on the S.S. Central America and the S.S. Republic, nearly all of which were circulated. High-grade 1851 double eagles are very rare, with only two dozen coins known in choice condition. The highest-grade 1851 double eagle certified to date has been MS-64

20 Dollars, United States, 1904

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1890

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1896

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1888

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1882

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1862

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1870

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1874

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1894

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1883

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1885

National Museum of American History

20 Dollars, United States, 1892

National Museum of American History

Panama Harp

NMNH - Education & Outreach
This object is part of the Education and Outreach collection, some of which are in the Q?rius science education center and available to see.

20 Dollars, United States, 1850

National Museum of American History
Mintage: 1,170,261

The 1850 double eagle (20 dollar coin) is the first year of the regular issue for the type and denomination.

It is extremely popular as such and is one of the more available dates of the type. A surprising number of coins have been auctioned in the last 15 years; most, however, grade VF (very fine) to AU (almost uncirculated.) Fully Mint State examples of this issue are rare, with fewer than a dozen choice pieces.

The treasure of the S.S. Central America contained 26 coins, but all were circulated.

20 Dollars, United States, 1852

National Museum of American History
Mintage: 2,053,026

The mintage of double eagles continued in large numbers at the Philadelphia Mint in 1853. The date is one of the more common Type 1 double eagles. The treasure of the S.S. Central America contained nearly 30 coins of the date, and the S.S. Republic yielded nearly 100

examples. Only about a dozen in those two groups are of Mint State quality.

20 Dollars, United States, 1853

National Museum of American History
1853

Mintage: 1,261,326

The mintage for the 1853 double eagle is well below that of the 1851 and 1852 Philadelphia issues. There were still more than one million coins struck, and the 1853 double eagle

is fairly common in average grade. Nearly 100 coins of the date were found in the wrecks of the S.S. Central America and the S.S. Republic with a few of them being Uncirculated.

Fully Mint State coins are rare, particularly at the choice level.

20 Dollars, United States, 1855

National Museum of American History
1855

Mintage: 364,666

Low-grade examples of the 1855 double eagle are fairly common. The issue becomes increasingly rare in high-grade condition. There were examples of the date found on the S.S. Central America and S.S. Republic. Most of these were Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated, but a few were on the low end of the Mint State scale. The 1855 double eagle is a true condition rarity. Nearly all of the known examples of this date are low grade.

20 Dollars,United States, 1855

National Museum of American History
Mintage: 8,000

The rarity of the 1855-O double eagle is often overshadowed by the 1854-O and 1856-O issues. There are fewer than 100 examples of this date known in all grades. This is especially important considering the fact that double eagles are one of the most popular U.S. coins. Most of the coins known for the date are low grade. The treasure of the S.S. Republic featured three examples, all of which grade AU-58. The Smithsonian has two specimens, both of which are About Uncirculated. Mint State coins are very rare and the few that have been certified as such, are barely so

20 Dollars, United States, 1856

National Museum of American History
Mintage: 2,250

The 1856-O double eagle is one of the great rarities of the Liberty Head series. There are thought to be fewer than 25 coins known in all grades. The known coins range in grade from polished Very Fine to Specimen-63. Most collectors of double eagles have given up on this date as the starting price for an attractive example begins in the six figures. The Smithsonian contains two examples. Of the small number of coins known in About Uncirculated condition, most are at least partially prooflike. The collecting of gold coins by mintmark did not start in earnest until decades after the 1856-O double eagles were struck. Today, the issue is considered a “classic.” Note: This coin is included among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (Garrett and Guth 2005).

20 Dollars, United States, 1933

National Museum of American History
United States Mint, Philadelphia. Production of gold coinage was halted early in 1933 as the United States continued to move away from the gold standard. All double eagles struck in 1933 were not issued or authorized to be released to the public. Instead, they were supposed to be melted down and conveyed as bullion to Fort Knox. But all of the coins were not melted down. A handful were spirited away and kept in hiding for decades. One double eagle dated 1933 surfaced recently, and a complicated arrangement monetized it so that it could be sold at auction for millions of dollars.

This coin and another 1933 double eagle transferred from the U.S. Mint to the Smithsonian were the only legally owned with that date until recently.

The 1933 double eagle marks the end of the era in which the U.S. Congress authorized circulating gold coinage.

20 Dollars, United States, 1910

National Museum of American History
United States Mint, Philadelphia. Obverse: Liberty with feather headdress, facing left. Reverse: Denomination and date within cereal wreath. The United States Mint experimented with a number of innovative surface treatments for its proof coinage between 1905 and 1915. These included matte and sandblast surfaces that reflected light back in unusual ways. They also included the application of a "Roman" finish, making the surfaces of gold coins look more golden, and more mellow. These experimental surfaces were applied to test new ideas regarding what would work and what would not. The surfaces were also placed there so that the coins that bore them became "special," and could be sold to collectors at a premium.

20 Dollars, United States, 1851

National Museum of American History
Mintage: 315,000

The 1851-O double eagle was struck in ample numbers and is readily available in circulated grades. A surprising number of examples are offered each year at auction. This is the result of popularity and availability. The issue was widely distributed and heavily circulated with most survivors grading Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The date is scarce in About Uncirculated and very rare in full Mint State. Several examples of the 1851-O double eagle were found on the wrecks of the S.S. Central America and the S.S. Republic. None were of Mint State quality. It is estimated that just 15 to 20 examples would qualify as Mint State by today’s standards.

20 Dollars, United States,1854

National Museum of American History
1854-S

Mintage: 141,468

The year 1854 was the first time that gold coins were produced at the San Francisco Mint. The 1854-S quarter eagle and half eagle are extremely rare. Most of the production for the year focused on double eagles. The issue was widely distributed and many of the coins seen today are rather heavily worn. A large group of 1854-S double eagles were found in the wreckage of the S.S. Yankee Blade. The treasure was undocumented, but it is believed that around 200 to 300 coins were discovered. Most of the coins were high-grade examples with surfaces that are lightly etched from exposure to seawater. A Proof example of the 1854-S double eagle resides in the Smithsonian Collection.
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