WHERE DID ALL THE GOLD COINS GO?
Twice in our nation's history, gold coins were melted by the government. These two government meltdowns transformed U.S.
gold coinage from common monetary units into excellent long-term numismatic investments.
The first melting occurred in 1834 when the gold content of U.S. coins was reduced and nearly all gold coins minted from the
period 1795 to 1834 were melted because their intrinsic value exceeded their face value.
The second melting resulted from the great Gold Confiscation of 1933, when 90% to 95% of all U.S. gold coins held by
individuals, banks, and the Treasury were recalled, thrown into huge melting pots, and poured into lifeless 100-ounce and
400-ounce gold bars. Franklin Roosevelt's gold confiscation order of 1933 saw the end of regular issue, legal tender U.S. gold
Of the surviving populations of coins left today, not all are actually actively traded on the market. Many have been hoarded in
complete sets or long-term investment portfolios.
$20 Liberty Double Eagle - Type I
Designer: James B. Longacre
Face Value: $20.00 ; Minted: 1850 -1866
Precious Metal Content: .96750 oz.
Pure Gold ; Diameter: 34mm
They were produced in three mints:
- Philadelphia 1850 - 1865
- New Orleans 1850 - 1861
- San Francisco 1854 - 1866
Until 1849, the U.S. Mint produced only $2.50, $5 and $10 coins. The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill and the ensuing
California gold rush, however, soon prompted Congress to authorize the mintage of the legendary $20 Double Eagle.
In January 1850, the first regular production Liberty Double Eagles were struck.
Over the years, this coin was produced in three types:
Type I, the "No Motto" variety, was minted from 1849 to 1866.
Type II, bearing the designation "Twenty D" on the reverse, was minted from 1866 to 1876, followed by the most common
variety, Type III (1877-1907), with "Twenty Dollars" fully spelled out. This historic coin offers the highest gold content of any
regular issue U.S. gold coin of its era and possesses one of the most arresting reverses on any United States coin: a
dauntless eagle, its wings fully spread. The obverse bears a classical Greek rendition of Lady Liberty.
A special Double Eagle Type I is the 1861-S Paquet Reverse, depicted below.
There are only 90 to 100 known in existence.
Type I Liberty Head Double Eagles : Rarity Rankings
|Selected Double Eagle Type I coins have been recovered from S.S. Central and S.S. Republic. Call
For more information regarding coins retrieved from S.S. Republic click on Odyssey.
1850 Baldwin & Co. ten dollar
If it is true that every great coin has a great
story behind it then this coin must be one of
the greatest treasures of all time, as its
history is filled with political intrigue, deceit
and deception, high art, monumental rarity,
the legends of the American West and,
ultimately, vindication. To call it a numi-
smatic classic would be to understate the
importance of this coin. It is believed to be
the finest example of this magnificent 19th
The story of this coin begins in 1848 with the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill. The word of the bonanza spread like wildfire and
the great Gold Rush was on as treasure seekers across the nation and around the world came to seek their fortune.
There was a tremendous coin shortage in the West in the mid-19th century, and private Mint ventures sprang up all over the San
Francisco area in 1849-50. One of those Mints was the firm of F. D. Kohler & Company. When statehood came to California in
1850 Mr. Kohler anticipated being appointed as State Assayer. On March 15 of that year he sold his business and equipment to
George C. Baldwin and Thomas C. Holman. On May 1 the following ad appeared from Baldwin & Co.:
Successors to F. D. Kohler & Co.
Assayers, refiners and coiners
Manufacturers of jewelry, etc.
George C. Baldwin and Thos. S. Holman
All kinds of engraving. Our coins redeemable on presentation.
Baldwin and Holman hired Albert Kuner to design their new coins and engrave the dies. Kuner was the die-maker for Moffat &
Co. and was generally regarded as the premier artist of his day when it came to design and execution of die work. For the
Baldwin & Co. 1850 $5 gold piece Kuner stuck to the standard design of the day, which was the Federal coinage "Liberty Head"
motif of Christian Gobrecht. For the $10 Baldwin & Co. piece, though, Kuner went into creative overdrive, manufacturing a
beautiful kinetic masterpiece known today as the "Cowboy" or "Horseman" $10 gold piece.
It is unknown how many of the "Horseman" $10 pieces were struck, but extremely few survived due to a scandal that took place in
March of 1851. A do-gooder with self-promotional motives named James King (who went by the pretentious name of James King
of William) informed anyone who would listen that Baldwin & Co. gold pieces were underweight (and therefore overvalued). The
press learned through a private assay that the specific coins James King had submitted were indeed 26 cents underweight (true
value $9.74) and wrote scathing editorials about it. The Pacific News, on April 9, 1851 reported:
The Gold Coin Swindle
It is perhaps a matter of no especial wonder that the community feels outraged because of the fact that nearly all of the gold coin
put in circulation by the private manufacturing establishments is short of weight. A citizen last evening went to Baldwin's
establishment, and, presenting two of their own Twenty Dollar gold pieces, asked their redemption in silver. These were taken,
and thirty-eight dollars returned.
This is about as cool and direct a piece of shaving as has come under our eye, touching the short-weight gold coin swindle. Why
should the community suffer this to go on longer? Why not refuse every dollar of Baldwin's coin as well as that of every other that
is not of full value and redeemed on demand. A bank bill is worth no more than the bare paper upon which its pretty picture is
printed, except from the fact that securities are pledged for its redemption. So also with Baldwin's coin. It is worth no more than
the actual value of the gold when compared with the government standard.
In the instance we refer to there was a loss of five per-cent, and as Baldwin's establishment has an immense deal of coin in
circulation the proprietors must make a very neat little speculation out of the country and ultimately amass wealth at the expense
of the honest and industrious citizens. The only way to stop this swindle seems to be to refuse the coin altogether, not only that
issued from Baldwin's mint, but from every other that proves a short weight and not to be redeemed on presentation.
By mid-April of 1851 Baldwin and his new partner (a Mr. Bagley) left California and James King of William and his cohorts,
including other bankers, bought up the Baldwin gold coins at 80 cents on the dollar. These coins were redeemed with other
assayers, most notably Augustus Humbert, for melting and recoinage. By the end of 1851 the Baldwin gold coins of 1850-51
were seldom seen; today, all are extremely rare.
Were the Baldwin coins truly underweight? Philadelphia Mint assays done in the same year (1851) showed the Baldwin $10
pieces to contain $9.96 worth of gold, which was almost exactly the same amount as was found in the highly touted gold coins of
Moffat & Co. Similar results were found for other private Mints' coinage, such as Dubosq & Co. and Dunbar & Co. Even so, the
damage had been done, and well over 99% of the Baldwin coinage was lost to numismatists forever.
It is now 150 years later, and the "Horseman" $10 stands alone in many ways. The design is truly unique in the purest meaning
of the word (one of a kind) and the coin is considered by most numismatists to be the most original, attractive and desirable of all
the private gold issues.
As a rarity the coin is legendary. A "Horseman" $10 gold piece was a cornerstone of such great collections as Zabriskie,
Raymond, Garrett, Beck and Eliasberg. This particular example has been theorized by numismatic historians to be a "special"
coin; i. e., possibly kept as a memento by the Baldwin family or one of his associates.
Is it the finest extant? It is impossible to say, although it is unquestionably the finest example known to us or to other experts we
have questioned. When it was catalogued in the collection of Harry W. Bass, Jr., it was noted that "the present coin eclipses in
quality both the Garrett specimen and the Eliasberg specimen."
Perhaps even more significant than its "finest extant" status is what is unquestioned about the coin. It is beautiful! To quote once
again from the Bass collection catalogue: "…an artistic masterpiece, a joy to behold." Few coins in the world offer so much in the
way of historical significance, rarity, condition, desirability, beauty and eye appeal. An artistic masterpiece, indeed!