Although most standard price guides agree that three distinct Coronet
$20 double eagles were produced, three "subtypes," if you
will, collectors paying closer attention will find there's more to
collect than immediately meets the eye.
The Coronet double eagle was introduced into circulation in 1850,
and struck every year through the end of the century, into the year
1907 when it was replaced by the famed Saint-Gaudens designs. The two
major design elements remained unchanged for the entirety of the
series: James Barton Longacre's standard portrait of Liberty wearing a
coronet inscribed liberty on the obverse, and a heraldic eagle with
shield on its breast and two scrolls on the reverse.
Catalogers have conveniently categorized the series into three
subtypes or groups, based on changes to the reverse design:
The subtype of 1850 to 1866 features a reverse lacking "In God
We Trust" and bearing the denomination as TWENTY D. Two versions
of the same basic design by two different artists were used, one by
Longacre and the second by Anthony C. Paquet in 1861 only. (Paquet's
lettering was taller and narrower than the lettering used by Longacre.)
Know what your Coronet $20 double eagle gold coin
is worth today
The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse design in
mid-1866 for the type of 1866 to 1876, with examples of both mottoless
and motto-bearing designs struck during the transition year.
The denomination was expanded to read TWENTY DOLLARS on the type of
1877 to 1907. This reverse type remained in use through the remainder
of the series. A new reverse hub was introduced in 1900 and used for
the remainder of the series. The back of the eagle's head is smooth,
compared to the earlier hubs depicting an eagle with slightly
Collectors collecting by type could select examples from each of
these periods to have a complete set. However, a greater challenge
exists when one looks at each period in greater detail.
Many contemporary collectors and catalogers who collect by the
reverse design types ignore significant changes made to the obverse
over the years. By seeking these obverse variations, collectors can
expand their collecting horizons.
Staff members of the American Numismatic Association Certification
Service noticed in 1978 what had always been there but
unnoticed. liberty was actually spelled llberty on the coins of 1850
The die sinker punched two Ls into the coronet rather than an LI.
Despite more than 100 years of study, no one had noticed the
misspelling, or had reported it if they had discovered the problem.
A new obverse was introduced in 1859, with liberty spelled
correctly. Longacre's J.B.L. designer's initials were moved slightly,
and other minor changes were made to the obverse design.
A new, slightly modified obverse was introduced in 1877, the same
year the reverse denomination was spelled out in full. The most
obvious changes are the positioning of the stars and head.
All told, the series comprises at least three distinct obverses and
five distinct reverses.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: