United States, 10 dollars, 1838

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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.
date made
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Gobrecht, Christian
place made
United States
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: 2 mm x 27 mm; 3/32 in x 1 1/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Government Transfer: US DOTT, USM
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins, Currency and Medals
The Value of Money
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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