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Image of United States, 20 Dollars, 1854
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Materials: Gold
Measurement: Dia. 34.3 mm; Wt. 33.440 g
Note: Proof; Breen 7170

United States, 20 Dollars, 1854

The sheer size of the California gold strike altered the nature of American numismatics. It was not only that mintage figures dramatically increased; the actual range of denominations increased as well.

Prior to 1849, there had been three gold coins: the quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle (or $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00 coins). By 1854, three more had been added, a dollar, a three-dollar piece, and a double eagle, or twenty-dollar coin.

Artist James Barton Longacre designed all three of the new coins. The double eagle was the most popular. For its obverse, Longacre employed a simple head of Liberty, wearing a coronet. Stars surrounded the head of the goddess, and the date appeared below. The reverse depicted a somewhat ornate representation of an eagle, a "glory" of stars and rays above, the national motto to either side.

In 1854, the United States created a new branch mint in San Francisco to deal with the fruits of the gold rush. It was intended to replace a whole galaxy of private California mints that had created a variety of local coins.

This double eagle was the first coin the new federal mint struck. Below the eagle, each coin from the new branch Mint bore a distinctive small "S." This distinguished the coin from ones struck in Philadelphia, which had no such mark, and ones struck at New Orleans, which had an "O."
Related Events
1833: England abolishes slavery in the British Empire.
1846: The United States wins the Mexican War and acquires large landholdings in the West and Southwest.
1848: The United States wins the Mexican War and acquires large landholdings in the West and Southwest.
1854: The U.S. Mint opens a new branch in San Francisco.
1861: U.S. Civil War begins when Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
Legendary Firsts The following objects are in this section.
Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling, "1652" (struck 1667-1674)First United States Silver Dollar, 1794Great Britain, Sovereign, 1838
Massachusetts, "twenty shillings," 1690Brasher Doubloon, 1787United States, 5 Dollars, 1838
Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776United States, 20 Dollars, 1854United States, 10 Dollars, 1838
Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817 
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