Collecting $20 Liberty
Type I Gold Double Eagles
America’s Type I Collecting
Collecting $20 Gold Type I Liberty Head double eagles have been popular with collectors for generations, with a recent surge in popularity and increased demand after the discovery of shipwreck treasure found in several notable 19th Century wrecks. Type I double eagles have become the single most popular area of collecting in the rare date United States gold coin market. This is clearly a design type which is destined to remain popular with future generations of collectors. They feature all three musts for my blueprint for successful investing and collecting – Rarity, Historical Significance and Popularity.
Their mass appeal is unquestioned, in fact, in the highly acclaimed book, 100 Greatest United States Coins, there are seven different issues listed, more than any other single series of United States coins. This can be attributed to several different historical factors. They were America’s first $20 gold coin, struck in a time of incredible historical significance (1850-1866). Their pedigrees span an era from the California Gold Rush through the Civil War, many with shipwreck treasure provenance. The building of the transcontinental railroad, the expansion west, the beginning of the Gilded Age, and that is just to name a few. They are big, beautiful, heavy gold coins with high numismatic value with mass appeal for collectors and investors alike. Each Type I $20 Liberty coin has a story to tell, and when you hold one of these big hefty gold coins in your hands, one can begin to wonder what it must have been like to have experienced the Wild West and the Gold Rush, or lived the atrocities of the Civil War. History just comes alive when hold one in your hands.
Collecting Type I Gold
There are a variety of ways in which to collect the Type I series. Here are seven of the most popular and interesting ways to assemble a Type I collection from the novice to the advanced collector.
Many Type I issues are available in lower grades making it attainable to build sets on a budget. However, there are several truly rare dates that appeal to the advanced collector with the financial resources to complete a high-grade Type I set.
- Collecting Type Coins
- Collecting by Mint
- Collecting by Year
- Assembling a Complete Set
- Collecting by Die Variety
- Collecting Proofs
- Collecting Specialty Sets
1. Collecting Type Coins
Many collectors pursue coins by type, or design, and Type I $20 gold coins are always a top priority. Currently if one is seeking a beautiful example in high grade it is usually an 1857-S or 1856-S (San Francisco Mint) with provenance to the SS Central America. The 1857-S with SSCA provenance to this famous Gold Rush Era Shipwreck is listed in the book 100 Greatest United States Coins. Further, due to the two decades these coins were minted, the 1850s with Gold Rush ties, and 1860s and the Civil War, many type collectors pursue one from each decade. But it cannot go without saying, that the first year for any design type is always a popular pursuit, making the 1850 very popular.
2. Collecting by Mint
A major focus of building Type I $20 gold coin collections is by mint location. The Type I double eagle was minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco. Collectors who focus on a mint location pursue one example from each mint location. There is plenty of historical events surrounding each of these mint locations. The San Francisco Mint opened in 1854 due the immense quantities of gold coming out of the gold fields and streams in Northern California. Tons of that gold was shipped to New Orleans for minting there, and of course, the Philadelphia mint. The pursuit of a mint collection of Type I $20 Gold coins is historically and intellectually stimulating which adds to demand pressures on a fix supply of coins. Here are the numbers of years they were minted at each mint.
- Philadelphia mint produced Type I double eagles from 1850-1865, with a few major die varieties which are very rare. Making the number of major collectible Philadelphia minted coins come in at 19.
- The New Orleans mint produced Type I double eagles from 1850-1861, some of these are excessively rare with the 1854 and 56-O being the rarest, both are Top 100 United States Coins. But just as popular is the Civil War date of 1861-O. In all, there are 12 collectible dates baring the New Orleans mint mark “O”.
- The San Francisco mint produced Type I double eagles from 1854-1866. Several dates can be acquired in extremely high-grade condition due to shipwreck provenance which adds considerable collector and investor interest.
3. Collecting by Year
Another very challenging and popular set is to assemble an example from each year of mintage. Many collectors and investors seek an example from each year with no specific mint in mind. Many attempt to acquire the most desirable from each year in a grade, rarity and price range they can afford at the time of acquisition. I have built countless date sets since 1990, which is when I became deeply interested in these wonderful and exciting coins. I love Wild West history, the Gold Rush and the amazing American history of the Civil War. Just remember, when building a date set it’s best to acquire coins that are the most difficult for the year that it is within your reach, and then refine as you build the set over time.
While it is an asset class and investment for many, it can and is a fun endeavor for many investors who enjoy history and economics and who may be looking for a distraction from the norm. I have heard from far too many collectors and investors alike to underestimate the enjoyment one gets by studying the history of money and its many forms. Countless customers have told me that the pursuit of collecting money has made them more savvy with all their holdings.
4. Assembling a Complete Set
Assembling a complete set of Type I $20 gold in each date and mintmark (1850-1866) can be a very exciting undertaking and is reserved for those with the financial where-with-all to accomplish the task. Assembling a well-matched date set can add significant value when it’s time to sell. This is due to the attention it would garner when the collector or their heirs decide to sell. It is not an accomplishment that can be overstated. I have helped to assemble several complete sets, minus the excessively rare 1861 Philadelphia Paquet Reverse and all of them were exciting, yet difficult tasks to accomplish. I am very proud of the fact, that the only complete set ever assembled which included the 1861 Philadelphia Paquet was done so under my guidance. The set was sold several years ago upon the early unexpected death of its owner and custodian. It garnered much fanfare and was highly featured as “the main event” of a highly anticipated auction. The set sold for multi-millions of dollars, with the MS61 Philadelphia Paquet selling for nearly $2,000,000 by itself. One may endeavor to complete a set of this exciting series, but keep in mind the Philadelphia Paquet is probably a coin in which cannot be attained without being willing to commit many millions of dollars. There are only two known, and both are worth multi-millions of dollars, the famed King Farouk specimen which grades MS67, and the MS61 from the set previously mentioned.
Certainly, the attempt to assemble a complete date and mintmark set of Type I $20s is an ambitious endeavor, and there are several coins that will pose a challenge to acquire. There is a total of 43 issues, but that number could be more if one decides to pursue the major die varieties which exist for some years. The values increase substantially in higher grades from Extremely Fine-40 to Mint State-63. The rarest issues are the 1854-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, 1859-O, 1860-O, 1861-S Paquet, and of course, the 1861 Philadelphia Paquet. These may be difficult to acquire in any grade and will demand a premium. It’s best to try to match the coins by grade and similar appearance to demand a “set premium” when it comes time to sell the collection.
A Coin Worthy of a King
The finest known of only two 1861 Philadelphia Mint Paquet Reverse Double Eagles, formerly owned by King Farouk of Egypt and known as the Norweb Specimen, is insured for $8 Million Dollars. The reverse side of Paquet’s design has slightly taller, more slender letters than the similar reverse design by Chief Mint engraver James B. Longacre on other double eagles of that era. Of all regular issue U.S. Double Eagles, the 1861-P Paquet Double Eagle is the rarest. For years, this coin was considered a pattern, until research concluded the coin was meant for circulation before the mintage was melted down after a defect in the dies was discovered. mysteriously, two examples survived.
5. Collecting by Die Variety
Type I coins have many different die varieties to collect. When old cracked dies became too warn, they were replaced with new dies, creating different die varieties, some of which are very rare. The only varieties that the collector should pay a premium for are very well-recognized issues such as the 1853/2 and the 1854 Large Date. However, there are many others that have become popular in the past two decades since the publication of my book, An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type I Double Eagles. Thanks to the work performed by Bob Evans, Chief Historian for the discovery of the SS Central America, many of those will be published in my upcoming book, America’s First $20 Gold Coins.
Here are few notable issues, but there are far more, and all will be featured in my next book:
An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type I Double Eagles – By Adam Crum
This best-selling book is a comprehensive guide to this series. Each Type I issue is described in detail with an analysis of strike, surfaces, luster, color and eye appeal and includes a list of major varieties with an estimate of rarity. This wonderfully illustrated book is certain to be an important reference for gold coin collectors.
6. Collecting Proofs
Collecting proof coins is at the top of numismatic collecting, especially with collecting Type I Proofs. Fewer than 350 Type I proofs were struck and fewer than 75 proof pieces are known to have survived. Prior to 1859 proofs of any type of coin is very scarce. Philadelphia minted proofs were minted in very small numbers between 1859 and 1865. In all my 30 years of being a Type I expert I have been unable to complete an entire set of proof issues. A collector pursuing proof specimens must be prepared to invest $200,000, $300,000 and even more depending on date and grade. But make no mistake, these blue-chip coins are a sight to behold. They are stunningly beautiful, excessively rare and have been top performers in price appreciation. If a set is what one wishes, it will take very deep pockets and patience to assemble a 1859-1865 proof set.
7. Collecting Specialty Sets
There are some fun specialty sets that you can assemble with $20 gold Type I double eagles. Two popular sets are a Shipwreck set and a Civil War set. A Shipwreck set consists of Type I double eagle recovered from the SS Central America, SS Republic, SS Brother Jonathan, and SS Yankee Blade. In addition, I have had countless collectors and investors pursue and complete a Civil War set. A Civil War set can be as simple as a five-coin set consisting of one Type I double eagle minted each year of the Civil War (1861-1865). However, collecting one coin from each year and mint is the most popular. That set would include a coin from each year minted in Philadelphia (1861-1865), one from each year minted in San Francisco (1861-1865), and the lone 1861 from the New Orleans mint. For added challenge, many collectors find the date, mint and variety set from the year 1861 intriguing. That set includes the 1861 regular reverse, 1861 Paquet reverse (2 known), 1861-S regular reverse, 1861-S Paquet reverse, and the 1861-O. Both the Paquet reverse coins are listed in the book 100 Greatest United States Coins.