Liberty Head Gold, 1839-1908

Liberty Head Gold, 1839-1908

Liberty Head $2 1/2 Gold Pieces, 1840-1907. Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the “Coronet,” or Liberty Head Quarter Eagle, was issued annually for 67 consecutive years between 1840 and 1907. These coins were issued from the Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and San Francisco Mints. Like most other gold and silver issues, Liberty Head Quarter Eagles disappeared from circulation during the early years of the Civil War, and were not seen again in large numbers until specie payments were resumed in 1876.

There are a number of issues with the Liberty Quarter Eagle series that are very rare to exceedingly rare yet the prices realized for such issues are not much more than coins encountered far more frequently. Lately, the values for Liberty Quarter eagles produced at the branch mints of Dahlonega and Georgia have increased dramatically in all conditions, this market movement due, in whole, to a number of collectors entering into the market within the past three years all vying for the same coins.

While this series has its share of rarities, perhaps one of the best known pieces is the 1848 with “CAL.” counterstamped on the reverse above the eagle. These coins were struck from gold sent to the Secretary of War from the military governor of California. After it had been turned over to the Mint, this gold was coined into quarter eagles. The “CAL.” counterstamp was added to the coins while they were still in the dies, signifying that they were the first federal coins struck from gold received at the Philadelphia Mint from the large California gold discoveries. Today, this first U.S. “commemorative” is one of the most highly-prized U.S. gold coins.

Liberty Head Half Eagle $5 Gold Pieces, 1838-1908. Like the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle, Christian Gobrecht designed the Half Eagles. Prior to 1900, they circulated heavily in the West, where distrust of paper currency was widespread. In the North and East, where paper currency circulated freely, gold coins of all denominations suffered from disuse, most eventually finding their way back to the Mint. The are two major Varieties of the Liberty Half Eagle. These include:

  • Liberty Half Eagle, No Motto, 1838-1866
  • Liberty Half Eagle, With Motto, 1866-1908

The 1839-C is a minor Variety and is technically a one-year Type coin, since it has the mintmark placement on the Obverse above the date, rather than on the reverse, typical of all subsequent issues.

The Liberty Head Half Eagle was the only U.S. coin to be struck at each of the seven mints. Particularly scarce among the half eagles are the San Francisco issues of 1854 and 1864, the Carson City issues of 1870 and 1878, and the Philadelphia issues of 1875 and 1887. Most of the Charlotte and Dahlonega Mint issues are scarce, and some are unique or unknown in uncirculated grades.

Liberty Head $10 Gold Pieces, 1838-1907. Like the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle, Christian Gobrecht designed the Eagle coins. Prior to 1900, they circulated heavily in the West, where distrust of paper currency was widespread. In the North and East, where paper currency circulated freely, gold coins of all denominations suffered from disuse, most eventually finding their way back to the Mint. The are two major Varieties of the Liberty Half Eagle. These include:

  • Liberty Eagle, No Motto, 1838-1866
  • Liberty Eagle, With Motto, 1866-1907

Coins struck in 1838 and March and June of 1839 exhibit a Large Letters on the reverse and are a recognized minor variety.During the period between 1866 and 1878, the overall mintages for the Eagle remained low, partially due to the failure of the banks to redeem paper money into the equivalent amounts of gold or silver. As a result, many of these coins are very rare and are seldom seen for sale. These especially include the Philadelphia mint issues struck between 1870 and 1877. Several Carson City issues, especially the 1870-CC, 1873-CC, and 1879-CC, are very scarce coins. Yearly coinage of Eagles at the Carson City Mint exceeded 100,000 only once, in 1891, and all other issues, except the 1892-CC, had mintages of less than 25,000 pieces. Furthermore, these Carson City issues received widespread circulation and in higher grades, are virtually unobtainable.

Liberty Head $20 Double Eagle Gold Pieces, 1849-1907.¬†Along with the Gold Dollar, the $20 Gold Piece, or Double Eagle, was authorized by the Act of March 3, 1849. The large western gold discoveries made mintage of the Double Eagle a necessity, especially at the San Francisco Mint where the majority of Double Eagles between 1855 and 1907 were produced. Struck in three distinct Varieties, like the Liberty Head Eagles and Half Eagles, the motto, “In God We Trust,” was added to the reverse of the Double Eagle in 1866. These three distinct Varieties are:

  • Liberty Head Double Eagle, Type 1, No Motto, 1849-1866
  • Liberty Head Double Eagle, Type 2, With Motto, “TWENTY D.” on reverse, 1866-1876
  • Liberty Head Double Eagle, Type 3, With Motto, “TWENTY DOLLARS” on reverse, 1877-1907

There are many outstanding rarities in this series. The only Double Eagle minted in 1849, considered a pattern, is permanently impounded in the U.S. Mint collection. Particularly rare are the New Orleans Mint issues of 1854, 1856, and 1879, the Carson City Mint issues of 1870, and the Philadelphia Mint issues of 1881 to 1887. In 1861, Anthony Paquet designed an experimental reverse with tall letters that was briefly used to mint a reported 19,250 coins. This reverse was withdrawn shortly after production began, however, since the border was too narrow to protect the devices from abrasion. These coins are very scarce today, with perhaps 50 known specimens extant from the San Francisco mint and only 3 from the Philadelphia mint.

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