by Adam Crum for Monaco Rare Coins ……..
More often than not, challenging economic times inspire policy makers to change currency policies . . . and sometimes, with dire and unintended consequences on the economy. The Coinage Act of 1873 did just that . . . and my recent discovery of an original bag of 1873 Type II $20 Double Eagle gold coins, now certified and guaranteed by NGC, provides a tangible link to a troubled and turbulent time in American economics.
In the early months of 1873, the Coinage Act of 1873 was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. It effectively abolished the right of holders of silver bullion to have their metal struck into legal tender coins. The act ended bimetallism in the United States, placing the nation firmly on the gold standard. Because of this, the act became unpopular in later years to those who saw it as deflationary to the economy and it became known as the “Crime of ’73.”
Its creation began years earlier in 1869, when Treasury Secretary George Boutwell commissioned Deputy Comptroller of the Currency John Jay Knox to draft a revised law which was later introduced into Congress by Ohio Senator John Sherman. Due to the high price of silver, little of that metal was presented at the Mint, but Knox and others foresaw that the development of the Comstock Lode and other rich silver-mining areas would lower the price of silver, thereby causing large quantities of silver dollars to be struck causing the gold standard to be endangered by a huge increase in the supply of money.
During the three years the bill was pending before Congress, it was rarely mentioned that the bill would end bimetallism, though it was debated. The legislation effectively ended the minting of the standard silver dollar, which is what became referred to as the “Crime of 1873.” But in addition to ending the production of the silver dollar, it also ended the minting of the three-cent and half-dime silver coins.
By 1876 silver prices began to plummet and a movement for the free coinage of silver began to take hold. Leaders of the movement defended the bimetallic standard and charged that the demonetization of silver was the result of a conspiracy entered into by British and American financial interests to surreptitiously secure the adoption of the gold standard in the United States. The matter became a major political controversy that would last the remainder of the century. The controversy pitted those who valued the deflationary gold standard against those who believed the free coinage of silver was necessary for economic prosperity.
The ending of bimetallism in 1873 caused the minting of large $20 Double Eagle gold coins, like those offered here, to increase significantly from previous years’ mintings. The 1873 Double Eagle is the most common of the Type II variety. In fact, it is the one date most collectors would seek to acquire for a type set. In mint-state, the 1873 issue is scarce, as are all Type II Double Eagles. Choice examples are quite rare and seldom available, and cost in excess of $10,000 in today’s market.
This wonderful hoard of beautiful 1873 “Open 3” $20 gold coins presents a tangible historical artifact of this “boom and bust” time in American economic and political history. The coins represent the early beginnings of the Gilded Age of American ingenuity. Every one of these 1873 $20 gold Liberty coins are graded and certified by NGC in grades of Extra-Fine-45 to About Uncirculated-58. And because each coin is priced significantly lower than every leading published price guide in the industry today, they will not last long.