Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

20 Dollars, United States, 1854-S

20 Dollars, United States, 1854-S

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
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."
Currently not on view
Object Name
gold coin
Proof Coin
date made
U.S. Mint, San Francisco
Longacre, James Barton
place made
United States: California, San Francisco
Physical Description
gold (overall material)
overall:.3 cm x 3.53 cm; 1/8 in x 1 3/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Mint
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
United States Double Eagle
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object