20 Dollars, United States, 1854

Description
The sheer size of the California gold strike altered the nature of American numismatics. It was not only that mintage figures dramatically increased; the actual range of denominations increased as well.
Prior to 1849, there had been three gold coins: the quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle (or $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00 coins). By 1854, three more had been added, a dollar, a three-dollar piece, and a double eagle, or twenty-dollar coin.
Artist James Barton Longacre designed all three of the new coins. The double eagle was the most popular. For its obverse, Longacre employed a simple head of Liberty, wearing a coronet. Stars surrounded the head of the goddess, and the date appeared below. The reverse depicted a somewhat ornate representation of an eagle, a "glory" of stars and rays above, the national motto to either side.
In 1854, the United States created a new branch mint in San Francisco to deal with the fruits of the gold rush. It was intended to replace a whole galaxy of private California mints that had created a variety of local coins.
This double eagle was the first coin the new federal mint struck. Below the eagle, each coin from the new branch Mint bore a distinctive small "S." This distinguished the coin from ones struck in Philadelphia, which had no such mark, and ones struck at New Orleans, which had an "O."
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
gold coin
Proof Coin
date made
1854
mint
U.S. Mint, San Francisco
maker
Longacre, James Barton
Physical Description
gold (overall material)
Measurements
overall: .3 cm x 3.53 cm; 1/8 in x 1 3/8 in
place made
United States: California, San Francisco
ID Number
1985.0441.0488
accession number
1985.0441
catalog number
1985.0441.0488
subject
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Numismatics
Coins
United States Double Eagle
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
United States Double Eagle
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Title
United States, 20 Dollars, 1854-S
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Mint
Additional Media

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