$20 Liberty Head Double Eagle: 1849-1907


Quick Coinage Facts

Years Minted: 1849-1907
Mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, Carson City, Denver
 Composition: 0.900 gold, 0.100 copper
Diameter: 34 mm
Weight: 33.436 grams (.9675 gold ounces)
Total Mintage: 103,822,180
Edge: Reeded


Designed by James B Longacre, the $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle was produced from 1849 to 1907 with each coin containing just under a full ounce of gold. Coinage was authorized by the Act of March 3, 1849 and only one issue (a pattern) was made that year. That one 1849 specimen currently reside within the Smithsonian. 

The obverse design features an idealized bust image of Lady Liberty facing left wearing a coronet with “LIBERTY” inscribed. Above the bust design are 13 stars to represent the original states or colonies.  

The reverse features an eagle with outstretched wings is in the center, clutching three arrows in the left claw and a small olive branch in the right, with a shield placed across its breast. On either side of the eagle are ribbon with “E PLURIBUS” on the left and “UNUM” on the right. Above the eagle is an oval or halo of 13 stars to represent the original states or colonies and within the oval is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. In the background of the design are rays while on the outer periphery is the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and just below the eagle design is the denomination "TWENTY DOLLARS." A mint mark for New Orleans (O), San Francisco (S), Carson City (CC), or Denver (D) is located below the design and just above the denomination. Coins minted at the Philadelphia Mint carried no mint marks. 

Obverse Reverse
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Major Varieties

Though there are many small die varieties the series has three major varieties:

Variety 1 No Motto - issued from 1838 to 1866
Variety 2 With Motto - reverse design modified by adding the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST".
Variety 3 Twenty Dollars - reverse design modified denomination from “TWENTY D.“ to “TWENTY DOLLARS”

Variety 1 Variety 2 Variety 3
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Paquet Reverse Design

In 1860, Anthony C. Paquet  was authorized to modify existing reverse dies for coinage starting in 1861. The new dies were issued to branch mints and shortly after minting had begun at both the Philadelphia & San Francisco mints coinage was soon stopped due to concerns that the larger field area on the reverse die would cause problems with striking due to unaligned stress points and that coinage would return to the old reverse design dies. New Orleans received the order and complied immediately while the San Francisco mint produced coinage until the end of the first month. In the end, Philadelphia produced an unknown quantity (only 3 are known to exist) making the 1861 “Paquet” the rarity for the entire series. The 1861-S “Paquet” coins are fairly expensive in their own right but because the were produced in higher numbers their value does not come close to its Philadelphia cousin.

General Market Notes

The rarity of the series is the 1861 “Paquet” designed reverse.

Excluding die varieties and proofs, the keys to the series are the 1854-O, 1856-O, and 1870-CC issues.  The semi-keys are the 1871-CC, 1879-O, 1882, and 1886 issues.  

For the value investor look to Variety 2 coins which have the lowest total mintage of approximately 16,040,758. Within this series one can find the 1868 issue with a mintage of only 98,575 and at lower grades (VF to XF) its price carries a small premium over common issues.

Due to the high valuations of these coins it is not uncommon to discover altered or counterfeit coins.  It is highly recommended NOT to purchase a raw specimen but a certified coin from a reputable seller. 

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