Series notes: $20 Liberty Gold (Proof)

Struck from 1849 through 1907, Liberty $20 gold double eagles were the nation?s largest-denomination regular-issue coin. They were designed by James B. Longacre, and proofs were produced throughout the duration of the series. The 1849 double eagle is unique in that just one was struck, and it?s a proof example that resides in the Smithsonian Collection. According to Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), famous collector Kevin Lipton believes the 1849 Liberty proof double eagle is perhaps worth as much as $20 million, which theoretically makes it the world?s most valuable coin.

Interestingly, the 1850 Liberty Head proof double eagle is not technically unique in that two or three are believed to have been made, but only one is known and it is in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France museum in Paris and thus is also obtainable by private collectors. Even more physically elusive than the 1849 or 1850 proof double eagles is the rumored 1854 proof Liberty Head $20, which late numismatic scholar Walter Breen referenced in published works and is believed to reside in a German collection. The 1854 proof, however cannot be traced at this time and is the only known proof double eagle struck from 1851 through 1857. A few proofs bearing the 1858 date exist, though two are in museums (Smithsonian and American Numismatic Society collections) and another in the Josiah K. Lilly Collection. A fourth proof example was long ago attributed, but its proof status is questionable according to some numismatic scholars.

This means the that 1859 proof double eagles are the earliest $20 gold proof coins that any collector can reasonably hope to acquire, and even those select few 1859 proofs are six-figure coins. Proofs from the early 1860s through 1870s are all extremely rare, with the 1861 proof likely the rarest of all post-1858 dates. Most proofs from about 1881 to 1907 are very scarce but are relatively more obtainable and generally trade in the five-figure price range, with nicer specimens fetching six-figure prices.

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