United States, 10 dollars, 1838

The gold British sovereigns that James Smithson bequeathed to the United States were melted down and re-struck as American coins. Some of the gold went into the reissue of the ten-dollar piece, or eagle. There were other factors at work, of course, including two Acts of Congress that reduced the weight and fineness of all United States gold coins, in an effort to keep them in circulation.
The resumption of eagle coinage was ordered in July 1838, and between seven and eight thousand of the coins, the first eagles struck since 1804, were minted at the beginning of December. Smithson's legacy played a role: the knowledge that a massive amount of bullion was on its way across the Atlantic fostered the decision to resume the eagle, the largest existing American denomination.
Christian Gobrecht was responsible for the designs on the resumed eagle coinage. His left-facing Liberty sported a coronet (there is a copper cent, also by Gobrecht, with a nearly identical arrangement), while the rounded tip of the truncation points to the "1" in the date.
A simple eagle with shield appears on the reverse. The obverse design was modified slightly in 1839, the truncation now being centered above the date. A handful of proofs, specimen coins of record or for VIPs, was also struck. Three have been reliably reported, and a fourth is rumored.
Object Name
date made
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Gobrecht, Christian
Physical Description
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .2 cm x 2.7 cm; 3/32 in x 1 1/16 in
place made
United States
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
See more items in
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
The Value of Money
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Mint
Publication title
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL
Additional Media

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