By 1904, the United States’ large format gold double eagle had begun to fall in popularity and had practically ceased to circulate. As a result, production far outstripped demand, and while gold coins were still used in many of the western states, most US citizens would not use gold coins in regular commerce. This was not helped by the fact that the United States Mint struck the largest issuance of double eagles of the entire series that year. With a mintage of 6,256,699 pieces, the Philadelphia 1904 is quite common. Despite this massive issuance, the Philadelphia Mint performed at a high level, and 1904 double eagles are known to have sharp strikes and defined details.
The 1904 Philadelphia issuance is also notable due to the fact that it was dramatically larger than that of the San Francisco facility. This was the first time since 1894 that this had occurred.
In order to deal with the massive glut of gold coins, the US had been sending large quantities of gold coins to Europe and South America since around 1900. By World War I, a large number of coins had been relocated as payment for large international business deals. During the calendar year ending in June 1904, the US exported $15,682,424 worth of gold coins, of which 49.85% went to France, 28.66% to Canada, 19.44% to various South American countries, and the rest to the West Indies, Hong Kong, and Mexico, among many others. This trend only increased, and in the 1905 calendar year, the US government exported $54,409,014 in gold coins.
These double eagles were generally sent in cloth treasury bags containing 250 coins worth $5,000 per bag. This is held to be true since the majority of gold coinage in the US was melted down by the time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 in 1933. If many of the 1904 double eagles had remained in the US, they would be consequently much rarer today.
Today, there is a combined population (NGC and PCGS) of 456,805 pieces – which undoubtedly includes a decent number of resubmissions in the higher grades. While MS 63 is by far the most common grade (accounting for 35.44% of the total population), the population figures fall dramatically as the grade rises. In MS 65, there is a combined population of 14,063 pieces, and in MS 66 there are only 273 certified by PCGS and none by NGC. Finally, in the top population of MS 67, PCGS records three and NGC records two specimens.
The 1904 Double Eagle in Today’s Market
As of the writing of this piece, the 1904 double eagle has a melt value of $1,746 USD.
Since the 1904 P double eagle is by far the most common of the series, it is very easy to find in almost all grades. For graded and ungraded examples in AU 55 or lower, this type is only worth melt plus a 5-10% premium–roughly $1,900. In AU 58, the 1904 double eagle is worth roughly $2,000, or a 14.25% bump over melt.
The prices start to rise in Mint State, with certified examples in MS 60 to 63 selling regularly for between $2,100 and $2,200 – a 19%-24% bump over melt. At MS 64, the price starts to become more reliant on the coin’s numismatic importance than it is on the straight bullion value. As a result of this shift, most are worth $2,250 to $2,300. There are some MS 64 examples that sell for upwards of $2,800. As of August 2022, most MS 65 graded examples are selling for roughly $4,000.
Moving one grade higher (MS 66), it starts to become hard to locate examples. When MS 66s have come to auction in the past few months, they sell for around $9,000. However, in April 2022, an MS 66 was auctioned by Stack’s Bowers for over $16,000. Top population specimens (MS 67) are quite rare, with only a handful known to exist. The auction record of $138,000 for a MS 67 was set in June of this year (2022) in a Stack’s Bowers auction.
As the largest circulating denomination in the US, the double eagle makes quite the statement. The obverse features a stoic left-facing profile portrait of Lady Liberty. Her hair is held up in a knot, with curling locks falling down the back of her neck. Lady Liberty is also wearing a coronet, inscribed with LIBERTY. Encircling the bust of Liberty are thirteen six-pointed stars representing the 13 original colonies. The date (1904) appears below the bust.
The reverse design is centered on a rendition of the US heraldic eagle. A semi-circle burst of sunbeams extends from wing tip to wing tip, encompassing a circle of 13 six-pointed stars and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The heraldic eagle’s shield is bracketed by two large scrolls, one on each side that contain the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Ringing the main design are the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination (TWENTY DOLLARS).
The edge of the 1904 double eagle is reeded.
James Barton Longacre (1794-1869) was one of the most famous US engravers and medallic artists of the 19th century. Longacre was appointed the fourth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint by President John Tyler after Christian Gobrecht died in 1844. Before his appointment, Longacre worked for the Philadelphia engraving company Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co. until he began working for himself in 1819. As an independent engraver, Longacre produced a series of famous plates that featured the Founding Fathers, President Andrew Jackson, and Senator John C. Calhoun. Once he became Chief Engraver at the Mint, he produced such famous pieces as the Flying Eagle cent, the Indian Head cent, and the Shield nickel.
|Year Of Issue:||1904|
|Denomination:||20 Dollars (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||90% Gold, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||James Barton Longacre|
|REV Designer||James Barton Longacre|
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