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The Story of Pre-1933 Gold Double Eagle Coins

Published on 12/20/2021 by APMEX

The obverse and reverse of a classic Pre-1933 Gold Double Eagle, set on a red background.

Double Eagles are one of the most popular Gold coins with collectors and investors. Double Eagles are valued because of their historical context and beauty. To understand their popularity, it is essential to know the importance of pre-1933 Gold, the designer's role, and the idea behind the iconic design. The 1933 Double Gold Eagle is a coin sought-after by people from all over the world. Pre-1933 $20 Gold Double Eagles have a unique, bold and patriotic design that embodies the nation's ideals.


The History and Importance of Pre-1933 Gold

"Pre-1933 Gold" refers to any legal tender Gold bullion coins produced before the year 1933. The year 1933 is an important date in the history of Gold as it marked the end of Gold coins in circulation in the United States.

Evolution of Gold Content

To better understand the importance of pre-1933 Gold, it is crucial to know the progression of Gold content in coins over the centuries. The history behind pre-1933 U.S. Gold coins starts back at the end of the 18th century when the Coinage Act of 1792 was passed, which was a piece of legislation approved to begin the production of U.S. coinage. This Act allowed three things to occur – newly established U.S. Mints could begin producing coins, decided what coins would be produced, and determined their denominations.

Two years after the Coinage Act of 1792 was passed, the first U.S. Gold coins were released from the newly formed mints. For the early years of the 19th century, the U.S. Mint primarily focused on producing Silver coins until the 1830s when Gold coins were more widely produced and circulated, including the American Gold Eagle, Half Eagle and Quarter Eagle. At this time, the Gold content in coins was more or less equal to the coin's intrinsic value. By the time of the California Gold Rush in the late 1840s, the production of U.S. Gold coins was kicked into overdrive.

Executive Order 6102

Gold coins continued on the rise until the Great Depression when the U.S. Government claimed the hoarding of Gold was stalling the country's economic growth and, therefore, worsening the depression. The nation was facing the fast decline of the economy along with the piling financial stress from the earlier years of the depression and looking toward the Franklin administration to fix these problems. To correct this downward trend, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 into effect on April 5, 1933.

Executive Order 6102, along with the help of the Emergency Banking Act of 1933, separated the national currency from the Gold standard for the first time in the nation's history. The Order prohibited the owning of Gol coins, bullion and certificates within the United States. This limit on Gold ownership would remain in effect until 1974. After signing this Executive Order, all Gold owned by U.S. citizens was required to be returned to the Federal Reserve to be melted down in exchange for small amounts of cash. Those caught in violation of Order 6102 could be fined up to $10,000, receive up to ten years in prison – or both.

The Executive Order meant the remaining pre-1933 Gold was illegally kept in secret as the majority of the Gold in the nation was melted down and repurposed. Due to smaller quantities of pre-1933 Gold in existence today, these Gold coins are great additions to any collection. Depending on the condition and year of the Gold coin, the coins could be worth much more than the actual Gold content itself – 1933 Double Eagles, specifically, being the rarest. For example, in June 2021, at Sotheby's Auction, a 1933 Gold Double Eagle in BU condition sold for more than $18 million.


The Birth of the Gold Double Eagle

President Theodore Roosevelt tapped Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design Gold coins during a renaissance in coinage as Roosevelt thought many coins in that era were unattractive. He wanted coins remembered for embodying the national identity and the United States' growing preeminence on the world stage. The turn of the century was a critical time for the United States because much of the country was undergoing post-Civil War reconstruction.

Saint-Gaudens received his first commission in New York and would later produce some of the finest monuments and sculptures throughout the United States. Saint-Gaudens' name is synonymous with artistic ingenuity and uniqueness. He sculpted significant projects, including Diana's Copper statue, the General Sherman Monument in New York City, and several bronze monuments devoted to President Abraham Lincoln.

Revered for his work as a sculptor and architect, Saint-Gaudens was commissioned to redesign America's coins with Roosevelt's vision of expressing the nation's identity through art. Many numismatic experts view the $20 Gold Double Eagle as the most beautiful coin ever minted because the design is perfectly symbolic, capturing the details of national pride in a time of both transition and leading the frontier. Augustus Saint-Gaudens died shortly after designing the Double Eagle in 1907.


The Gold Double Eagle Design

The design on Gaudens' Double Eagle garnered praise from the public upon its release and still receives a high amount of praise today from collectors and investors around the globe. The obverse depicts a statuesque and confident Lady Liberty moving forward with a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. Liberty's robe is symbolic of ancient Greek and Roman ideals. The coin displays the United States Capitol in the background, symbolizing achievement through representative democracy. This Gold coinage is an homage to the nation's growth and the country leading the way on the world stage.

The reverse depicts an American Bald Eagle, the most significant symbol of freedom and strength. Inscribed on the edge of the Gold Double Eagle is the motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM." The eagle and motto combined to make the Gold coin definitively American.

Other Facts About the Pre-1933 Gold Double Eagle

The United States Mint struck four variations of the $20 Gold Double Eagles in 1907. The first two variations were ultra-high relief. Difficulties arose in processing this 34 mm version because minting technology was relatively in its infancy. The cost of producing a 34 mm coin was arduous and expensive.

The second variation, the 27 mm version, had no authority to be struck. The third and fourth variations of the coin received a relief reduction by the mint that made it more suitable for mass production. The 34 mm Gold Double Eagles, with lower relief, became a staple for the American people during that era even after the 1933 executive order signed by the President.

The infamous 1933 Executive Order 6102 to return all Gold coins to the Treasury was both unprecedented and unexpected. The Gold Double Eagles were the most popular of the Gold coins in circulation during that time and are the most popular coins of the surviving Pre-1933 Gold coins.

Purchasing Pre-1933 Gold Double Eagles at APMEX

Due to the rising rarity of pre-1933 U.S. Gold coins, their availabilities at APMEX can be limited. Pre-1933 Gold coins have been out of production for more than 80 years, eliminating a steady stream of coins, meaning when they are sold out - they are truly sold out. Adding this rarity to the high demands for these Gold Double Eagles gives customers even more of a reason to act fast when they find one of these rare coins for their collections.

When in stock, buying Pre-1933 Gold online with APMEX guarantees top-quality products and delivery. If you experience any problems while placing your order, we are happy to help. Our team of highly trained customer service associates can answer any questions you may have by email or telephone. Our APMEX team can be reached at (800) 375-9006 or service@APMEX.com.

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