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Five Dollar Half Eagle Gold Coin

Mint:
U.S. Mint, Charlotte
Physical Description:
gold (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 21.8 mm; x 27/32 in
Object Name:
coin
Place Made:
United States: North Carolina, Charlotte
Country:
United States
City:
United States: North Carolina, Charlotte
Province:
United States: North Carolina
Political area:
United States
Date made:
1852
Description:
The half eagle, or $5 coin, was the first gold coin actually struck for the United States. The $5 gold piece was authorized by the Act of April 2, 1792, and the weights and fineness for gold coins were revised with statutes during the 1830s. The occasion for new laws was the discovery of gold in North Carolina and Georgia. Prior to 1830, the scarcity of precious metals was one reason why there was less than one U.S. coin per capita in the United States. Foreign coins, paper bank notes, and privately issued tokens served as money for transactions.
The development of the newly discovered gold fields was encouraged with a law in 1834 that effectively put the United States on a gold standard. Branch mints in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dahlonega, Georgia were established in 1838 to handle the new gold near the source. Dies were manufactured in Philadelphia and transported to the functioning branch mints in Charlotte (1838-1861) and Dahlonega (1838-1861). Both branch mints handled only gold coins.TR*317527
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Credit Line:
Hauck, Frederick A.
ID Number:
NU*255927.0112
Catalog number:
NU85579
Accession number:
255927
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

10 Dollar Miners Bank Coin, 1849

Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Object Name:
coin
Place made:
United States: California
Place of issue:
United States: California
Date made:
1849
Description:
This ten dollar gold coin was minted by the Miners Bank of San Francisco in 1849. James Marshall’s 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill kicked off the California gold rush and changed the wealth and reach of the nation, as suddenly gold was in abundant supply and the population was shifting westward. With the plentiful gold, private companies sprang up to supply coinage for the growing population and burgeoning economy. One such company was the Miners Bank, founded in 1849. The bank issued both coins and notes, but when the coins were assayed at only .866 fineness they soon fell into disfavor and could only be redeemed at a 20% discount. Many of the coins were melted down and remade into official U.S. slugs. On the obverse, or front, is an eagle with spread wings and a breast shield, with 13 stars and “California” also printed above. On the reverse is printed “Miners, Bank” at the top and “Ten. D.” in the center, with “San Francisco” below and two stars in the center.
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
American Enterprise
ID Number:
NU*283645.1279
Accession number:
283645
Catalog number:
68.159.1159
283645.1279
See more items in:
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
American Enterprise
Exhibition:
American Enterprise
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

Brashler Doubloon, United States, 1787

Brasher Doubloon, 1787
Designer:
Brasher, Ephraim
Engraver:
Brasher, Ephraim
Maker:
Brasher, Ephraim
Physical Description:
gold (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: .2 cm x 3.1 cm; 3/32 in x 1 7/32 in
Object Name:
coin
Place made:
United States: New York, New York
City:
United States: New York, New York
Province:
United States: New York
Country:
United States
Political area:
United States
Date made:
1787
Description:
Sunrise over mountians and water
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Numismatics
Coins
Publication title:
Zoomable Image and Details
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/flash/exhibition_theme.cfm?coincode=1_05
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
US Mint Coll.
ID Number:
1988.0063.0070
Accession number:
1988.0063
Catalog number:
1988.0063.0070
1988.0063.0070
See more items in:
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

United States, 20 Dollars, 1907 (experimental)

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: .2 cm x 2.7 cm; 3/32 in x 1 1/16 in
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1907
Description:
Someone once observed that a giraffe was a horse designed by a committee. The same might be said of this coin: what had seemed a good idea around a table in the boardroom proved to be an interesting but spectacular flop as it neared production.
The coin resulted from a project that President Theodore Roosevelt began in 1905 to redesign American coinage. He commissioned sculptor August Saint-Gaudens to create the new designs, and Saint-Gaudens developed a plan for an ultra-high relief $20 coin. The coin here, which appears to have been struck early in 1907, followed Saint-Gaudens' basic designs, but there the similarities ended.
This experimental coin contained twenty dollars' worth of gold, but it was squeezed into a coin the width of a ten-dollar piece. The discrepancy was handled by making the patterns much thicker than ordinary coins. Staff at the Mint wondered whether it was possible to decrease the diameter to have the best of both worlds: a coin in glorious high relief that didn't take quite as many blows of the press to create. The experiment failed. Although the patterns were unacceptable for commerce, word of their existence leaked out to the collecting community. An exasperated Mint Director wanted them called in and melted down. Somehow two escaped. Both are in the Smithsonian Collection.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Government Transfer: US DOTT, USM
ID Number:
1985.0441.2100
Catalog number:
1985.0441.2100
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

20.00 Dollar, Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle (High Relief), 1907

Obverse designer:
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: wt. 33.436 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1907
Description:
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to lead an effort to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens developed a design that many consider the most beautiful American coin ever conceived. Work on the production version of the coin progressed through the winter and spring of 1907. Sadly, the artist himself now suffered from cancer, and would die of the disease at the beginning of August.
It was left to his assistant, Henry Hering, to finish the work his master had begun. And Hering would be dogged every step of the way by a jealous competitor, Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber.
Towards the end of December 1907, this new, very beautiful gold coin entered circulation. It was closely based on Saint-Gaudens's original concept, complete with the forward-striding Liberty and the eagle in flight. But Henry Hering had lowered the relief by a small but crucial extent. The coin still could not be struck, once, on a high-speed press. But it could be struck, thrice, on a slower-speed machine.
Under Hering's directions, and over Barber's objections, slightly more than twelve thousand "high relief" double eagles were minted in Philadelphia during the final weeks of 1907. Saint-Gaudens, Henry Hering, and Theodore Roosevelt had proved that a high-relief American coin could be made. Having won the battle, Roosevelt may have tired of the war. He had a good deal else on his mind, including upcoming elections, and the voyage of America's Great White Fleet around the world.
In 1905, inspired by the high relief of ancient Greek coins, President Theodore Roosevelt asked eminent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens died in 1907, but not before giving the nation what many consider to be the most artistic American coin ever made – the Saint-Gaudens double eagle.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Delano, F A
ID Number:
NU*166178.0006
Accession number:
166178
Catalog number:
43817
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

United States, 5 Dollars, 1838

Mint:
U.S. Mint, Charlotte
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 22.3 mm; wt. 8.308 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States: North Carolina, Charlotte
Date made:
1838
Description:
To process the gold and silver being mined in new locations, the federal government passed legislation to open three new branch mints in 1835: in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The first two would only strike coins from local gold. The third would mint coins from silver as well as from gold, because those two metals were pouring into the Crescent City from Latin America.
All three branch facilities opened their doors in 1838. The New Orleans Mint was a success from the very beginning. The other two suffered growing pains but finally reached full production in the 1850s. All three closed during the Civil War, but New Orleans eventually reopened in 1879 and remained a major player in the country's monetary system until the first decade of the twentieth century. Charlotte and Dahlonega stayed closed.
A way was sought to distinguish the products of these new mints from those of the original one. Philadelphia had never marked its coins-there had been no need, with no other coiners in existence. But now a way was devised to show which coins came from where.
A mint mark, consisting of a single letter, would be placed on each of the products of the branch Mints-an O for New Orleans, a D for Dahlonega, and a C for Charlotte. The mint marks briefly appeared on the coins' obverse, but then they were relegated to the reverse, where they remained.
Collectors call the 1838 Charlotte half eagle a "one-year type": coins of this design with the obverse mint mark were only struck during that single year. There were about seventeen thousand of them, compared with over a quarter million at Philadelphia.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
ID Number:
1984.1046.0372
Accession number:
1984.1046
Catalog number:
1984.1046.0372
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

10 Dollars, United States, 1907

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: .2 cm x 2.7 cm; 3/32 in x 1 1/16 in
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1907
Description:
In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to lead an effort to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens developed a design that many consider the most beautiful American coin ever conceived. In addition to this $20 coin, Saint-Gaudens also redesigned this $10 coin, or eagle. Although the design has always been considered subordinate to his design for the $20 coin, it deserves close scrutiny. It bears witness to the labors of a gifted artist, working in ill health and under great pressure, and creating beauty almost at his final moment.
Saint-Gaudens was working against time and knew it. By the time he turned his attention to the ten-dollar coin, he was already gravely ill, with only a few months to live. So he recycled some earlier ideas. He reused a head of Victory that he had originally created for the Sherman Monument in New York City, adding a war bonnet. The result was fanciful, and Saint-Gaudens's logical equation of Liberty with a Native American was no more convincing than Longacre's version on the Indian Head cent.
But from an artistic point of view, it worked. The eagle on the reverse was also recycled, this time from President Roosevelt's inaugural medal. The coin shown here was struck in modest quantity-about thirty-two thousand pieces. However, all but forty-two were ultimately melted down.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Government Transfer: US DOTT, USM
ID Number:
1985.0441.2097
Catalog number:
1985.0441.2097
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

United States, 20 Dollars, 1927

Mint:
U.S. Mint, Denver
Artist:
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: wt. 33.436 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1927
Description:
Numismatic legends can be contrived, or they can be accidental-objects that never started as legends but became legendary due to unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps all but a few members of a given mintage were destroyed, or hoarded in unsettled times and never recovered. Under these circumstances, legendary status will be acquired years after the actual creation of the object.
America's numismatic story embraces a number of accidental legends, but none, perhaps, is more fascinating than a double eagle, struck in Denver in 1927. When the 1927 Denver twenty-dollar gold piece was minted, there was absolutely nothing exceptional about the coin, or the circumstances of its creation.
The United States was firmly on the gold standard. Gold was still being mined in Alaska and the West, and the United States branch mints at Denver and San Francisco were expected to turn the yellow metal into gold coins, which they did. That year saw Denver producing 180,000 double eagles-a decline from the figure for previous years, but a perfectly acceptable mintage.
If matters had remained as they were when the coins were struck, they never would have become legendary. But matters did not remain the same. An economic downturn at the end of the 1920s turned into an economic collapse by the beginning of the 1930s; and a new President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, decided to take the country off the gold standard as one more way of combating the Depression.
Under the circumstances, most gold coins were called in and melted. Provisions were made for exempting collectibles, but few people thought of the recent gold issues as collectibles. So virtually all were turned in, the 1927 Denver double eagles along with the rest. And a once reasonably common twenty-dollar coin from Denver acquired legendary status. At present, this is one of fewer than a dozen that are known.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
ID Number:
1984.1046.0812
Catalog number:
1984.1046.0812
Accession number:
1984.1046
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

United States, 10 Dollars, 1908

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: wt. 16.721 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1908
Description:
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to lead an effort to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens developed a concept that many consider the most beautiful American coin ever conceived.
In addition to this $20 Dollar coin, Saint-Gaudens also redesigned the $10 coin, or eagle, but did not live to see this effort through to completion. With Saint-Gaudens's passing, the eagle project was entrusted to Chief Engraver Barber.
There was little he could do to bowdlerize the artist's original: Saint-Gaudens had put most of his efforts for high relief coinage into the double eagle. His ten-dollar piece offered modest innovations in terms of its relief, but it didn't awake Barber's opposition to the extent that the double eagle design had. The redesigned eagle was struck through early 1933, essentially in the form in which Saint-Gaudens had created it.
There was one innovation in mid-1908. Theodore Roosevelt frowned on the inclusion of the motto "In God We Trust," on American money. He said religion and commerce didn't mix. So neither the new double eagle nor the new eagle bore the traditional inscription for the first year or so. But Roosevelt would soon be on his way out of office and the motto was reinstituted on both coins. This coin is one of the earlier "godless" ones. When the motto returned, it appeared before the eagle's breast on the reverse.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Transfer: US Mint
ID Number:
1985.0441.1286
Catalog number:
1985.0441.1286
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

Oregon Exchange Company, 5 Dollars, 1849

Maker:
Oregon Exchange Company
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 22 mm; wt. 8.558 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States: Oregon
Date made:
1849
Description:
In 1848, the largest single gold rush in history was just getting under way in California. This event soon triggered a mass migration of fortune hunters from around the world. At the outset, much of the California gold was converted to coins by private minters in the San Francisco area. However, supplies of gold were also sent to Philadelphia where it was made into ordinary federal coins.
Smaller quantities of gold made it to various locations including Oregon. Between March and September, 1849, an entity calling itself the Oregon Exchange Company struck $10 and $5 coins, by hand, in Oregon City. Both denominations bore simple designs. Their obverses depicted a beaver, the fur-bearing mammal that had spurred the first interest in the region.
Above the animal, there were initials standing for the last names of the principal players in the operation. The initials O.T. or T.O. (both for Oregon Territory) and the date rounded out the obverse design. For the reverse, the name of the issuing authority and the denomination sufficed. Dies for the coins can still be seen at the Oregon Historical Society headquarters in Portland.
But the life of the Oregon mint was brief. The coiners set their products' weight above federal norms, and most of the Oregon coinage was melted down for profit. The mint ceased operation early in September 1849.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Government Transfer: US DOTT, USM
ID Number:
1985.0441.2217
Catalog number:
1985.0441.2217
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

Templeton Reid, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1830

Maker:
Templeton Reid
Physical Description:
gold (overall material)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 17.9 mm; wt. 3.910 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States: Georgia
Date made:
1830
Description:
Before the famous California gold rush, several important strikes were made in the East: in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The earliest took place in Mecklenburg County, N.C., in 1799, where a nugget weighing several pounds was discovered. Its finder used it as a doorstop until someone recognized it for what it was! Discoveries multiplied, and a federal branch Mint was eventually set up in Charlotte to process the metal into coinage.
Discoveries in Georgia and North Carolina in the 1820s received wide publicity, and a "gold fever" resulted. Thousands of people began trekking to the areas in search of instant wealth. Most returned home empty-handed, but successful prospectors found millions of dollars' worth of precious metal. What should they do with their new wealth? Many felt the Philadelphia Mint was too far away for safe travel, and the government wasn't ready to create other coining facilities.
A jack-of-all-trades named Templeton Reid had an answer: strike private gold coins, at a private mint. Reid had extensive experience as a watchmaker, gunsmith, and metalworker. In July 1830, he set up shop in the Georgia hamlet of Milledgeville, and began his brief career as private moneyer-the first since Ephraim Brasher.
Reid struck about a thousand of the $2.50 denomination. As with the larger $10 and $5 dollar denominations, most were later melted down and re-coined by the U.S. Mint. We can trace fewer than twenty-five survivors, including this one.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Lilly, Josiah K
ID Number:
NU*283645.1031
Accession number:
283645
Catalog number:
68.159.1183
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

1.00 Dollar, Flowing Hair Dollar, 1794

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Obverse designer:
Scot, Robert
Reverse designer:
Scot, Robert
Physical Description:
silver (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 38.90 mm; wt. 26.622 g
Object Name:
coin
Place Made:
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
City:
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Province:
United States: Pennsylvania
Country:
United States
Political area:
United States
Date made:
1794
Description:
The first silver dollars-and the first silver half dollars-were delivered on the same day, October 15, 1794. Chief coiner Henry Voigt was responsible for 5,300 half dollars that day, and they apparently went into commerce as soon as they were released.
The dollars were another matter. Precisely 1,758 of them were coined on the fifteenth, and they were immediately delivered to Mint Director David Rittenhouse for distribution to dignitaries as souvenirs.
The VIPs were not impressed with what they saw. The dollars were struck on the largest press the mint possessed, but the machine was originally intended for cents and half dollars. The only way it had proved adequate for striking the copper pattern was by striking the piece twice.
The impressions it gave with a single blow were weak, a situation not helped by the fact that the obverse die was damaged early on and had to be polished down along one part of its circumference. This resulted in its making an even weaker impression. So the new federal dollar was not a brilliant success. But it was a first-and sometimes that's success enough.
Precisely 1,758 of these silver dollars, the first ever minted for circulation by the United States, were coined on October 15, 1794. All were immediately delivered to the Mint Director for distribution to dignitaries as souvenirs. The largest press the mint possessed still was not big enough to give a strong impression with a single blow, hence the weak relief on these coins.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Chase Manhattan
ID Number:
1979.1263.00334
Accession number:
1979.1263
Catalog number:
01510
1979.1263.00334
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776 (proposed)

Maker:
Gallaudet, Elisha
Physical Description:
pewter (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 39.6 mm; wt. 15.981 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1776
Description:
The Continental Dollar was the first pattern struck for the United States of America. Most specimens were minted in pewter, but also known are three in silver and a dozen or so in brass. It is thought that the distinctive designs were suggested by Benjamin Franklin. The reverse design, featuring linked rings, was a plea for insurgent unity, something that the philosopher-scientist constantly brought to people's attention.
The obverse sundial motif with its Latin motto ("Fugio") is also characteristic of Franklin. The design is a rebus, and its component parts may be read as "time flies, so mind your business." This and other pewter specimens were apparently struck for the inspection of members of Congress, who would have to pass enabling legislation before the coinage could proceed.
Elisha Gallaudet, a New York engraver, was the person responsible for translating Franklin's concepts into metal. It is thought that he struck the coins at a makeshift private mint in Freehold, New Jersey. Earlier issues of Continental currency had included a bill worth a dollar. This practice was suspended in the spring of 1776, apparently because the Congress intended for a new, one-dollar coin to take its place.
Based on the Spanish-American piece of eight, the new Continental dollar was to serve as the linchpin of the entire monetary arrangement. The plan failed. The patriots were unable to obtain sufficient silver for the coinage, and by the time the enabling legislation had been passed, the value of Continental currency had begun its descent, emerging as almost worthless only a few years later. Tying a bullion coin to a depreciating currency was obviously a mistake.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
ID Number:
1991.0009.0104
Catalog number:
1991.0009.0104
91.09.104
Accession number:
1991.0009
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

Bechtlers, 5 Dollars, 1834

Mint:
Bechtlers
Obverse designer:
Bechtler, Alt Christoph
Reverse designer:
Bechtler, Alt Christoph
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 24.8 mm; wt. 8.993 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States: North Carolina
Date made:
1834
Description:
Like Templeton Reid, a family of German immigrants named Bechtler established a private mint to coin gold between 1830 and 1852. The head of the clan, Alt Christoph, started out in the Black Forest area where he was apprenticed as a goldsmith, silversmith, and gunsmith.
Already well into middle age, he decided to seek his fortune in America. The early spring of 1830 found him and his family in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, where they set up shop as jewelers and watchmakers. The shortage of coinage in that part of the South, the abundance of gold from the new discoveries, the near-impossibility of getting it safely to the Mint at Philadelphia, and Alt Christoph's experience as a metallurgist, set the conditions for an important event.
When local settlers were unsuccessful in petitioning Congress to establish a branch Mint, Alt Christoph created a private mint. He made his dies, punches, even his presses, himself. His coins were simple affairs, but they were of honest weight and good quality. His first gold coins began making their appearance in the summer of 1831.
Alt Christoph ran the Bechtler mint until 1840. He then retired, and the operation was taken over by his son, August, remaining at work until about 1852, when it finally closed. To the Bechtlers goes the distinction of issuing the first gold dollars. They were doing so as early as 1834; the federal government didn't get around to striking the denomination until 1849!
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
ID Number:
1991.0357.0143
Catalog number:
1991.0357.0143
Accession number:
1991.0357
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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United States, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1848

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 1.8 mm; 1/16 in
Object Name:
coin
Place Made:
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Province:
United States: California
Country:
United States
Political area:
United States
Date made:
1848
Description:
In 1848, the largest single gold rush in history was just getting under way in California. This event triggered a mass migration of fortune hunters from around the world. The territory had only recently passed into American hands as an outcome of U.S. victory in the Mexican War. The new California military governor Col. R. B. Mason sent 230 ounces of native bullion to the Secretary of War, who in turn passed the gold on to the Mint.
Much of this first shipment went into large, honorific medals Congress authorized for the winning American generals in the war, Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Scott's medal is in the Smithsonian Collection. The rest of the gold was used to make "quarter eagles," or 2½ dollar gold pieces. These became some of the most legendary coins in American numismatic history.
The basic design was standard: the head of Liberty was on one side, a somewhat bellicose eagle on the other. The mint had been striking quarter eagles with these designs for nearly a decade. But closer scrutiny showed that these coins had one odd feature: above the eagle on the reverse, the initials "CAL." These were added by means of a punch.
Precisely 1,389 quarter eagles marked with the CAL stamp were made. Less than 200 still exist. They bear poignant witness to the colorful history of the American West.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Lilly, J. K.
ID Number:
NU*283645.0185
Catalog number:
283645.0185
68.159.0072
Accession number:
283645
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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Templeton Reid, 5 Dollars, 1830

Maker:
Reid, Templeton
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 24 mm, wt. 7.996 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States: Georgia
Date made:
1830
Description:
Before the famous California gold rush, several important strikes were made in the East: in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The earliest took place in Mecklenburg County, N.C., in 1799, where a nugget weighing several pounds was discovered. Its finder used it as a doorstop until someone recognized it for what it was! Discoveries multiplied, and a federal branch Mint was eventually set up in Charlotte to process the metal into coinage.
Discoveries in Georgia and North Carolina in the 1820s received wide publicity, and a "gold fever" resulted. Thousands of people began trekking to the areas in search of instant wealth. Most returned home empty-handed, but successful prospectors found millions of dollars' worth of precious metal. What should they do with their new wealth? Many felt the Philadelphia Mint was too far away for safe travel, and the government wasn't ready to create other coining facilities.
A jack-of-all-trades named Templeton Reid had an answer: strike private gold coins, at a private mint. Reid had extensive experience as a watchmaker, gunsmith, and metalworker. In July 1830, he set up shop in the Georgia hamlet of Milledgeville, and began his brief career as private moneyer-the first since Ephraim Brasher.
His coins came in three denominations: ten dollars, five dollars, and two and one-half dollars, in recognition of "official" denominations. And he put slightly more gold into his products than the federal government did into its coins, just to be on the safe side. Although historians believe that Templeton Reid conducted business fairly, an unknown adversary, signing himself simply "no assayer," published several notices in newspapers complaining that the coins were not as represented.
Rumors spread and before long Reid was forced to close up the business.
He apparently planned to go to California to participate in the gold rush there, and even made dies with a California imprint. However there is no record of his having made the trip West.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
ID Number:
1991.0357.0126
Catalog number:
1991.0357.0126
Accession number:
1991.0357
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

United States, 5 Dollars, 1838

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 22.5 mm; wt. 8.361 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1838
Description:
This coin may be one of those minted from the bequest that James Smithson left to the United States for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. James Smithson was born in 1765 as the illegitimate son of Sir Hugh Smithson, later known as Sir Hugh Percy, Baronet, 1st Duke of Northumberland, K.G., and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate. Elizabeth Keate had been married to James Macie, and so Smithson first bore the name of James Lewis Macie.
His mother later married Mark Dickinson, by whom she had another son. When she died in 1800, he and his half-brother inherited a sizable estate. He changed his name at this time from "Macie" to "Smithson."
James Smithson died June 27, 1829, in Genoa, Italy. His will left his fortune to his nephew, son of his half-brother, but stipulated that if that nephew died without children (legitimate or illegitimate), the money should go "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The nephew, Henry Hungerford Dickinson, died without heirs in 1835, and Smithson's bequest was accepted in 1836 by the United States Congress.
James Smithson never visited the United States, and the reason for his generous bequest is unknown. The gift was the foundation grant for the Smithsonian Institution. The British gold coins in Smithson's bequest were quickly carried to the Philadelphia Mint, where they were melted down and recycled into American gold coins.
Most of the new coins were half eagles or five-dollar pieces. On the obverse, they have a left-facing Liberty head, her hair bound with a ribbon; on the reverse is a simple, unexceptional eagle with denomination.
The original design was the product of a German immigrant named John Reich, substantially altered by a second artist named William Kneass, tweaked again by another German immigrant, Christian Gobrecht. James Smithson's gold, now recycled into new, Americ
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
ID Number:
1985.0441.0293
Catalog number:
1985.0441.0293
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

Great Britain, Gold Sovereign, 1838

Ruler:
Victoria Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India
Maker:
American Type Founders Company
Great Britain
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 22 mm; wt. 7.981 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United Kingdom: Great Britain
Place made:
United Kingdom
Date made:
1838
Description:
This coin is one of those used to convey James Smithson's bequest to the United States for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. James Smithson was born in 1765 as the illegitimate son of Sir Hugh Smithson, later known as Sir Hugh Percy, Baronet, 1st Duke of Northumberland, K.G., and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate.
Elizabeth Keate had been married to James Macie, and so Smithson first bore the name of James Lewis Macie. His mother later married Mark Dickinson, by whom she had another son. When she died in 1800, he and his half-brother inherited a sizable estate. He changed his name at this time from "Macie" to "Smithson."
James Smithson died June 27, 1829, in Genoa, Italy. His will left his fortune to his nephew, son of his half-brother, but stipulated that if that nephew died without children (legitimate or illegitimate), the money should go "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."
The nephew, Henry Hungerford Dickinson, died without heirs in 1835, and Smithson's bequest was accepted in 1836 by the United States Congress. Smithson never visited the United States, and the reason for his generous bequest is unknown. The gift was the foundation grant for the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithson bequest consisted of 104,960 gold sovereigns. Presumably they all bore the head of the new Queen Victoria, who had acceded to the throne in 1837.
The United States insisted on new sovereigns rather than circulated ones for a very practical reason: the United States would get more gold that way. All but two coins were melted down, reminted as American coins, and spent. The last two originals are in the Smithsonian collection.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Transferred from United States Mint
ID Number:
1985.0441.1579
Catalog number:
1985.0441.1579
85.441.1579
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

United States, 20 Dollars, 1907 (pattern)

Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: .4 cm x 3.43 cm; 5/32 in x 1 11/32 in
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1907
Description:
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign American coinage. As Saint-Gaudens began work on the project, there was never any possibility that he would restrict himself to well-traveled artistic paths. Playing it safe was against his nature and that of the president for whom he toiled.
As a result of Saint-Gaudens's vision and Roosevelt's persistence, Americans got their most beautiful double eagle, one of the most artistic pieces of money ever struck. Instead of a head or a static, seated goddess, Saint-Gaudens's Lady Liberty strides towards us, the dawn at her back. She represents the morning of the Republic, full of possibilities and hope.
She bears a torch in her right hand, an olive branch in her left: offerings of freedom and peace. The law said that Saint-Gaudens had to use an eagle for his reverse design, and so he did. But what an eagle! Nothing like it had ever been seen before. The naturalistic bird, in such high relief that it threatens to soar out of the circular space that seeks to enclose it, is all movement and grace.
Saint-Gaudens and his patron surely knew that this coin was impossible to make in mass quantities. The high relief came at a high price: it took nine blows from the hydraulic coining press to strike each one. Charles E. Barber, the Mint's chief engraver, strenuously objected out of jealousy, but he had a point.
This is no way to make money for mass circulation. But to Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens, the chief engraver and other critics lacked vision. This ultra-high relief double eagle was intended to show what artistry and technology could do when afforded the chance. Fewer than two dozen of the ultra-high relief coins were minted, in February and March of 1907.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Government Transfer: US DOTT, USM
ID Number:
1985.0441.2098
Catalog number:
1985.0441.2098
Accession number:
1985.0441
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

20.00 Dollar, Twenty Dollar Coin, 1907

Obverse designer:
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Mint:
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description:
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements:
overall: dia. 34.2 mm; wt. 33.456 g
Object Name:
coin
Place of issue:
United States
Date made:
1907
Description:
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to lead an effort to redesign American coinage. Saint-Gaudens developed a design that many consider the most beautiful American coin ever conceived. Work on the production version of the coin progressed through the winter and spring of 1907. Sadly, the artist himself now suffered from cancer, and would die of the disease at the beginning of August.
It was left to his assistant, Henry Hering, to finish the work his master had begun. And Hering would be dogged every step of the way by a jealous competitor, Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber.
Towards the end of December 1907, this new, very beautiful gold coin entered circulation. It was closely based on Saint-Gaudens's original concept, complete with the forward-striding Liberty and the eagle in flight. But Henry Hering had lowered the relief by a small but crucial extent. The coin still could not be struck, once, on a high-speed press. But it could be struck, thrice, on a slower-speed machine.
Under Hering's directions, and over Barber's objections, slightly more than twelve thousand "high relief" double eagles were minted in Philadelphia during the final weeks of 1907. Saint-Gaudens, Henry Hering, and Theodore Roosevelt had proved that a high-relief American coin could be made. Having won the battle, Roosevelt may have tired of the war. He had a good deal else on his mind, including upcoming elections, and the voyage of America's Great White Fleet around the world.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Coins, Currency and Medals
Publication title:
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Credit Line:
Chase Manhattan
ID Number:
1979.1263.00803
Catalog number:
1979.1263.00803
01553
Accession number:
1979.1263
See more items in:
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Additional Online Media:

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