Series notes: $20 Liberty Gold

Liberty gold double eagles were first struck in 1849 and represent the first type of $20 gold coin officially produced by the United States Mint for circulation as well as the largest denomination of all regular-issue coins. Designed by James B. Longacre, the $20 Liberty gold coins were authorized by the Coinage Act of March 3, 1849, and feature hefty physical proportions, including a weight of 33.436 grams and diameter of 34 millimeters.

The series is generally divided into three subtypes. These include the No Motto (?IN GOD WE TRUST?) on Reverse, which were struck from 1849 through 1866; Motto Above Eagle pieces, produced from 1866 through 1876; and Value TWENTY DOLLARS, which rounded out the series from 1877 until the last were issued in 1907. Only a single pattern was struck in 1849 and is in the Smithsonian Collection. Thus, collectors must begin their $20 Liberty gold collections with the 1850 issues, which were struck at the Philadelphia and New Orleans Mints. The majority of $20 Liberty gold issues are relatively common, though there are several scarce issues, including the 1854-O, 1856-O, 1861-S Paquet Reverse, 1870-CC, 1871-CC, and proof-only 1887. As a rule, all Carson City (CC) issues are scarce, as are nice Gem specimens of any issue.

Like many pre-1933 gold issues, circulated examples of common $20 Liberty double eagles are widely traded at price levels near gold spot. Despite their prevalence in bullion-related trades, $20 Liberty gold coins are actively pursued by diehard numismatists and pose a great collecting challenge to even the most financially well-heeled of collectors.