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Image of United States, 20 Dollars, 1849 (Pattern)
 
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Materials: Gold
Measurement: Dia. 34 mm, Wt. 33.444 g
Source: Transfer from U.S. Mint
Note: Judd 117
 


United States, 20 Dollars, 1849 (Pattern)

The California gold rush quickly gave the United States not one new gold coin, but two: a tiny gold dollar at the lower end of the monetary spectrum, and a large double eagle, or twenty-dollar coin, at the upper end. Why did Americans need more gold denominations?

So much gold was now coming out of California that it was actually lowering the value of that metal against silver. Bullion dealers began buying up silver dollars and half dollars for melting and export, for they were now worth more than face value as bullion. A Congressman from North Carolina had an idea: If gold dollars were struck, to pass at par with the silver ones, it might ease some of the pressure on silver coinage.

His bill was introduced late in January 1849. At the last minute, a provision was added for an entirely new coin, a double eagle. Thus amended, the bill became law on March 3, 1849. The production of gold dollars swung into action fairly quickly, and coinage had gotten under way by early May.

But the double eagles took longer. James B. Longacre, the artist selected to design the new large coin, encountered initial opposition from Mint officials, and it was late December before the first two pattern double eagles could be struck. One disappeared long ago, leaving this as the only surviving gold pattern from 1849.
 
Related Events
1832: President Andrew Jackson vetoes the charter of Bank of United States, abolishing the institution.
1838: Branch mints open in Dahlonega, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., and New Orleans, La.
1848: Gold is discovered at John Sutter's mill in California.
1850: California is admitted to the Union as the 31st state.
1861: The U.S. Civil War begins when Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
 
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Bechtlers, 5 Dollars, 1834Oregon Exchange Company, 10 Dollars, 1849United States, 50 Dollars, 1877 (Pattern) 
 
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