A Brief Pre-1933 Gold Coin History: $10 Gold Eagles
The $10 Gold Eagle, minted by the United States Mint from 1795-1933, was the largest denomination authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792. The Eagle had a value of $10 and served as the base unit for all U.S. Gold coin denominations.
When the first Eagle design was produced, the intention was to have the same number of stars on the coin’s obverse as there were states in the Union. At that time, there were 16 states, so that idea was abandoned and instead 13 stars were used, celebrating the original colonies. Additionally, the original reverse design of an eagle holding a wreath proved unpopular and was replaced by the heraldic eagle we know today.
Gold Eagles were struck in three main designs: Turban Head (1795-1804), Liberty Head (1838-1907) and Indian Head (1907-1933). These coins were not used heavily on everyday transactions and many dates are still available in choice condition. Another factor adding to the popularity of this issue is the fact that most of the coins issued before 1805 may have been melted as many times the value of the metal was worth more than the dollar face value.
In 1804, as the price of Gold continued to rise, President Thomas Jefferson ended production of Gold Eagles and did not resume until 1838, after Congress decreased the Gold content. Four 1804-dated Eagles were struck in 1834 for special sets intended for foreign potentates. These coins differ from the Gold Eagles actually struck in 1804 in the way the “4” in the date is styled. The “Plain 4” coins are among the most valuable U.S. coins.
Many of the branch mint coins have much lower mintages than the Philadelphia-minted coins, adding to their value. Gold mined from the areas of Carson City, NV, New Orleans, LA and San Francisco, CA, was available in less quantity, therefore fewer coins tended to be struck from those mints.
The Gold Act of 1934 prohibited most ownership of Gold and required Americans to turn in any Gold to the government. This resulted in many coins to be melted, further adding to the scarcity of many dates in the series. Rising Precious Metals prices have also increased the value of the Gold Eagle, making them highly sought after today.