Tracing the History of the Liberty Gold Coins

Come September 4, a high grade Liberty gold coin, minted in Carson City in 1870 will be up for auction. The $20 Liberty Double Eagle is estimated to be worth $150,000 to $180,000. Charles Mapes of Mapes Hotel had bought it at an auction in 1961 in New York and it has since been in the Mapes collection which is now being auctioned off. From 1838 to 1908, the Liberty gold coins dominated the US Gold coinage and, thus, came to symbolize America’s growth to a superpower. Once circulated as money, today they have come to be one of the most popular collector coins in history.

Types of Liberty Gold Coins

These coins are a huge part of a glorious American history. From the civil war days, when they were first minted, they underwent some changes. Today, there are three types of the coin and amateur to serious collectors seek them in all types and denominations because it is like owning an important artifact.

Type I: The obverse of the coin features a portrait of Lady Liberty, also called the ‘Liberty Head’. The reverse shows a majestic eagle, perched on an olive branch with three arrows in its claws. It is the largest US gold coin minted for circulation.

Type II: In 1866, the words ‘In God We Trust’ were added to the reverse, above the ornate eagle with the spread wings.

Type III: 1877 saw another slight design change as the denomination ‘Twenty D’ began to be written as ‘Twenty Dollars’.

The designer of this coin was Christian Gobrecht. The series was minted through these times to 1907, when minting was stopped.

Denominations the Liberty Gold Coins are Available in

Usually collectors like to collect all the types in the four denominations in which they were minted. All four of the denominations together form a complete series which is often valued higher than individual coins.

The Liberty $2.50 Quarter Eagle: Minted from 1840 to 1907, the obverse of this coin depicts the bust of Lady Liberty, surrounded by 13 stars which are to represent the original 13 US States. Her hair is pulled back in a bun and held in place by a string of pearls. Eighteen millimeters in diameters, it contains .12094 ounces of gold.

The Liberty $5 Half Eagle: This coin was minted in two varieties, the ‘no motto’ variety until 1866 and ‘with motto’ from then onwards. It has the distinction of being the only denomination for which coins were minted at all seven US mints.

The Liberty $10 Eagle: With a diameter of 27 mm and .900 ounces of gold, this coin was the base unit for gold currency for about 140 years. It is one of the most widely circulated coins in American history because of the convenience of this denomination.

The Liberty $20 Double Eagle: The creation of this coin in 1849 can be attributed to the increase in supply of gold because of the California Gold Rush. It was the largest regular issue coin denomination of the country. This coin went on to evolve through the times as it gave way to the $20 St Gaudens through 1908 to 1933.

The 1933 coins were minted but never circulated and yet some of them have found their way into the coin market. The coin’s modern form is the bullion coin, the American Eagle. The earlier coins continue to be traded for their numismatic values and collectors continue building the complete sets of those coins. Meanwhile, the American Eagle is the most popular bullion coin of the world with legal tender from the US Mint. Essentially the figure of Lady Liberty and the eagle on the reverse of this coin have remained constant trademarks even as the coin has changed form from currency to investment.