HomeUS CoinsLiberty Head Double Eagle, With Motto (1866-1876) | CoinWeek

Liberty Head Double Eagle, With Motto (1866-1876) | CoinWeek

1873 Liberty Head Double Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeeek.
1873 Liberty Head Double Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..

When the $20 gold double eagle denomination was proposed, one of the arguments supporting it was that a depositor with a large amount of bullion would find the coin a more convenient product than smaller denominated coinage. One of the sponsors of the double eagle authorizing legislation, Representative James McKay (D-NC5) noted that the Act of 1837 required the United States Mint to provide whatever coins a bullion depositor wanted. Certainly, the thought went, a depositor would prefer to have as few coins as possible.

However, because some legislators doubted that the public would accept this large coin, its authorization was limited to two years. If the denomination proved unpopular, then the legislation would not be renewed.

But the double eagle did have its supporters. Senator and hard money advocate Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri (D) predicted that the $20 coins would be more popular than the gold dollar, which proved to be a correct assessment, and the denomination was produced for eight-and-a-half decades.

Gold twenties were first released into circulation in 1850. In 1866, the religious motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse of the double eagle, producing what is often referred to as the Type 2 Double Eagle. This resulted in two designs for the same year (1866), a pattern repeated in 1907 when Augustus Saint-Gauden’s design replaced Chief Engraver James B. Longacre’s Liberty Head type. The oval of stars above the eagle on the reverse was expanded to accommodate the motto. Additional changes included modifying the reverse shield, ribbons, and rays and lengthening the eagle’s tail feathers. The last change required smaller mintmarks to fit the reduced space between the feathers and the denomination.

How Much Are Liberty Head Double Eagles, With Motto Worth?

With Motto Liberty Head Double Eagles are considered common, and though prices for the lower grades reflect the amount of gold contained in this large coin, they advance steeply at low Mint State grades or finer. Carson City Mint issues command higher premiums for nearly all dates, particularly for 1870 (extremely expensive) through 1873. Prooflike circulation strikes are known.

All Proofs are expensive as near-Gem and Gem and are represented in census/population reports by very few coins. Cameo and Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo Proofs have been certified and are not unusual for the type.


Several minor die varieties have been identified, but the 1873 Open 3 and Close 3 types are the most popularly collected. Close 3 circulating coins were produced at all three mints, and by Philadelphia for the Proof issue. Open 3 examples are listed separately in census/population reports only for Philadelphia and San Francisco issues.

In-Depth Date Analysis by CoinWeek Notes

1870-CC Double Eagle. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1870-CC Double Eagle. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

Extended Coverage on CoinWeek

Circulated Liberty Head Double Eagles With Motto ($20 Gold Coins), Type 2

Auction analyst and CoinWeek contributor Greg Reynolds explores the market for circulated examples of the Type 2 Liberty Head $20.

U.S. gold coin expert Doug Winter offers his analysis of the Type 2 and gives insightful tips to (potential) collectors.



Longacre’s classical left-facing Liberty on the obverse is said to be modeled after an old Hellenistic sculpture, the Crouching Venus. A beaded-edged coronet with the word LIBERTY is placed on her head, and curled locks both drape down the back of her neck and sweep from the front to form rolled curls at the back of her head. Thirteen six-pointed stars encircle inside a denticled rim, and the date is centered at the bottom. The designer’s initials JBL appear at the bottom edge of the neck truncation.


The reverse displays the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the top two-thirds inside a denticulated rim, and the denomination TWENTY D. is centered at the bottom. An eagle with outstretched wings is in the center, clutching three arrows in its left claw and a small olive branch in its right, with a shield across its breast.

The eagle, head turned to its right, is holding in its beak one of two top extensions of an elaborately curled and parted double scroll or ribbon, which some suggest represents the double eagle denomination. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is divided, with E PLURIBUS is in the center of the ribbon to the left, and UNUM in a similar location on the ribbon to the right.

Above the eagle’s head, below STATES OF, 13 small six-pointed stars form an oval. Seven of the stars are on the blank field and six overlap sunburst-like rays that form an arc between the eagle’s wings.


The edge of the Type 2 Liberty Head Double Eagle With Motto is reeded.

Liberty Head Double Eagle Coin Specifications

Liberty Head Double Eagle, With Motto
Years Oo Issue: 1866-76
Mintage (Business): High: 1,709,825 (1873); Low: 3,789 (1870-CC)
Mintage (Proof): High: 50 (1867), Low: 20 (1874 and 1875)
Alloy: 90% gold, 10% silver
Weight: 33.436 g
Diameter: 34.00 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: James B. Longacre
REV Designer: James B. Longacre


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Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Dannreuther, John and Harry W. Bass, Jr. Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, A Study of Die States. 1795-1834. Whitman Publishing.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

–. Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins: 1795-1933. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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