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Image of United States, 10 Dollars, 1838
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Materials: Gold
Measurement: Dia. 27.2 mm; Wt. 16.724 g
Source: Transfer from U.S. Mint
Note: Breen 1; Breen Encyclopedia 6849

United States, 10 Dollars, 1838

The gold British sovereigns that James Smithson bequeathed to the United States were melted down and re-struck as American coins. Some of the gold went into the reissue of the ten-dollar piece, or eagle. There were other factors at work, of course, including two Acts of Congress that reduced the weight and fineness of all United States gold coins, in an effort to keep them in circulation.

The resumption of eagle coinage was ordered in July 1838, and between seven and eight thousand of the coins, the first eagles struck since 1804, were minted at the beginning of December. Smithson’s legacy played a role: the knowledge that a massive amount of bullion was on its way across the Atlantic fostered the decision to resume the eagle, the largest existing American denomination.

Christian Gobrecht was responsible for the designs on the resumed eagle coinage. His left-facing Liberty sported a coronet (there is a copper cent, also by Gobrecht, with a nearly identical arrangement), while the rounded tip of the truncation points to the "1" in the date.

A simple eagle with shield appears on the reverse. The obverse design was modified slightly in 1839, the truncation now being centered above the date. A handful of proofs, specimen coins of record or for VIPs, was also struck. Three have been reliably reported, and a fourth is rumored.
Related Events
1812: The United States declares war on England to ensure free trade and American rights.
1815: Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo and abdicates as French emperor.
1835: Englishman James Smithson leaves his fortune to the people of the United States for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge."
1836: Texas wins independence from Mexico and declares itself a republic.
1848: The United State wins Mexican War and acquires large landholdings in the West and Southwest.
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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