Gold Liberty Coins
The US Mint recommenced production of a $10 coin (Eagle) in 1838 with a new design, the Gold Liberty Head or Coronet style. The Gold Liberty coins were designed by Christian Gobrecht’s and the Liberty Head style remained almost unaltered for nearly 70 years until the new Indian Head gold coins were minted in 1907. There was a small change to the face in 1839 and the inscription “In God We Trust” was added in 1866.
The Gold Liberty Head Design. The reverse depicts an eagle on an olive branch holding three arrows and the inscription “United States Of America” with the denomination “Ten D”. The obverse shows a left facing female with her hair tied with a string of beads and wearing a coronet with the inscription “Liberty”. She is surrounded by 13 stars representing the 13 original colonies with the date of issue at the bottom.
The Philadelphia Mint commenced production of the $5 (Half Eagle) Liberty Head in 1839. During that first year and part of 1840 the coins diameter measured 22.5 mm and are known as “broadmill” but later coins only measure 21.6 mm. By the mid 1840s the lettering on the reverse was made much larger as was the date on the obverse. It is important to note that a number of the years show both the small and large inscriptions, particularly the coins issued during 1842.
The Gold Liberty $5 gold coin was minted at the Philadelphia Mint for the duration of its lifetime but additionally the Gold Liberty was the only US coin to be minted at all seven of the main US mints including San Francisco, Charlotte, Dahlonega and new Orleans.
Although the coins from Dahlonega and Charlotte are quite rare, the best finds in this series would be the San Francisco 1854-S and the Philadelphia 1875 because there were total of less than 270 of each minted and only 3 or 4 are known to exist. Also, there were very limited numbers of $5 Liberty Head Proofs ever made so these are rarely seen and would be a great find.
The Gold Liberty $2.5 Quarter Eagles were minted from 1840 until 1907 and similar to the Eagle and Half Eagle there were very few design changes during that time. They have the longest continuous minting of any US coin design without any significant changes. The rarest of the Quarter Eagles are the 1841 coins which were only made as proofs, the 1863 (proof only) of which only 30 were produced and the 1854-S, only 246 of these were minted.
The Gold Rush in California brought a large amount of gold to the Philadelphia Mint in 1848. In this year 1,389 Quarter Eagles were produced using this bullion and were counter-stamped in the die to create the very first official US commemorative coin. Less than 300 specimens of these are known to be still in existence today.
After the discovery of enormous amounts of gold in California it was decided that a new $20 denomination of the Liberty Head would be minted which became known as the Double Eagle. They were first minted in 1850 and were continually produced as the Liberty Head until 1907 when the $20 denomination became the St. Gaudens Gold Double Eagles.
The $20 Gold Liberty Heads were produced in very large quantities as it was a convenient way to transfer the new found gold bullion into coins. During a time when foreign governments and institutions were cautious about accepting payments with paper money the Double Eagle became a trustworthy form of payment for larger value international transactions. In 1877 this brought about a change to how the denomination was shown on the coin, the “Twenty D” was altered to read “Twenty Dollars”.
There are numerous Double Eagles which are quite scarce including the 1854 and 1856-O, the 1861-S, 1870-CC and the 1879-O. In 1883 and 1884 Philadelphia only minted proofs and in very small quantities. They only produced 92 of the 1883 issue and 71 of the 1884 Double Eagle Proofs. The Liberty 1857-S Uncirculated is difficult to find even though there were almost one million of these minted and any of the earlier (1850 to 1866) Double Eagles in mint condition are rather scarce. Also the Philadelphia Mint issue of the 1861 $20 Liberty Head with the Paquet reverse is a very scarce coin.
The Wreck Of The S.S. Central America was discovered in 1989 which had sunk during a hurricane off North Carolina in 1857. The ship was travelling from San Francisco with a cargo including a shipment of 1857-S Double Eagles bound for the Assay Office in New York. The salvage team managed to recover thousands of $20 Gold Liberty Heads in perfect condition using modern techniques including a special robot to bring them to the surface.