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Denver Coins --> United States Coins --> Obsolete United State coins -->  United States Gold Eagle

Denver Gold and Silver Exchange
5475 Leetsdale Dr Suite 210
Denver, Colorado 80246

Monday - Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Sundays by Appointment Only
Call anytime - leave a message: Main Number: 303-333-1411

The 1932 Eagle, designed by Augustus Saint-GaudensThe eagle is a base-unit of denomination issued only for gold coinage by the United States Mint. It has been obsolete as a circulating denomination since 1933. The eagle was the largest of the four main decimal base-units of denomination used for circulating coinage in the United States prior to 1933, the year when gold was withdrawn from circulation. These four main base-units of denomination were the cent, the dime, the dollar, and the eagle, where a dime is 10 cents, a dollar is 10 dimes, and an eagle is 10 dollars. The eagle base-unit of denomination served as the basis of the gold quarter-eagle, the gold half-eagle, the eagle, and the double-eagle coins.

With the exceptions of the gold dollar coin, the gold three-dollar coin, the three-cent nickel, and the five-cent nickel, the unit of denomination of coinage prior to 1933 was conceptually linked to the precious or semi-precious metal that comprised a majority of the alloy used in that coin. In this regard the United States followed long-standing European practice of different base-unit denominations for different precious and semi-precious metals. In the United States, the cent was the base-unit of denomination in copper. The dime and dollar were the base-units of denomination in silver. The eagle was the base-unit of denomination in gold. A $10 eagle in 1800 would have the equivalent purchasing power of $128.25 today.

Years of production, and composition

Quarter eagles were issued for circulation by the United States Mint from 1796 until 1929; half eagles from 1795 until 1929; eagles from 1795 to 1933; and double eagles from 1850 to 1933, although for each of these ranges of years there were occasional gaps in production. The diameter of quarter eagles was 17 mm; of half eagles 21 mm; of eagles 27 mm; and of double eagles 34 mm.

Originally the purity of all circulating gold coins in the United States was the traditional English crown gold standard of 22 karats (11 parts gold to 1 part alloy). The weight of quarter eagles was 67.5 troy grains (4.37 g); of half eagles 135 troy grains (8.75 g); of eagles 270 troy grains (17.5 g). This resulted in a gold content of 0.516 troy ounces for the eagle.

In 1834, the mint value of silver to gold of 15:1 (6.11% silver) was changed to 16:1 (5.73% silver) and the metal weight-content standards for both gold and silver coins changed, because at the old ratio and content, it was profitable to export and melt U.S gold coins. Also, the gold proportion was dropped from 22 karats (.9167 fine) to 21.58 kt (.8992 fine).

In 1837 a small change in the fineness of the gold (increased to exactly .900 fine) was made, and all silver was completely removed (this was in keeping with English tradition, where gold sovereigns then (and now) contained no silver). The new 1837 standard for the eagle was 258 troy grains (16.718 g) of .900 fine gold (with the alloy remainder for all U.S. coins after 1837, to .100 copper and no silver), with other coins proportionately sized.[1] The 1837 standard resulted in a gold content of only 0.9675 troy ounces of gold per double eagle and 0.48375 troy ounces for the eagle. It would be used for all circulating gold coins until U.S. gold coin circulation was halted in 1933.

Starting in 1984, the United States Mint at West Point has issued American Gold Eagles, with the pre-1834 22 kt crown gold composition restored, to the general public as commemoratives. These eagles, like the 1/4 ounce American Eagle gold bullion coins denominated as $10 (see below), are technically legal tender but do not circulate as such since their value is considerably greater.

The commemorative bullion eagle coins have a composition which again includes 3% silver (the rest being copper), which is more silver than the post-1837 circulating gold American coins (which had none), but less silver than the pre-1837 American gold coin alloys, which were about 6% silver (as noted). Because the commemorative bullion coins are guaranteed to have higher and exact fractions of a troy ounce gold content (i.e., exactly 0.5000 troy ounces for the eagle), they might be expected to differ in dimension from their historical counterparts. However, the 22 kt composition and re-addition of silver results in a very similar coin volume, even with the increased gold content, and thus the bullion coin diameters are close to the same as the historical diameters, to within 1.3 mm, depending on the coin.

Proposed $100 "Union" coin

During the 1850s following the discovery of gold in California, an additional fifth base-unit of denomination was proposed, called a "union" whose value would have been 10 eagles or, equivalently, 100 dollars. Although patterns of half-union gold coins were minted and presented for inspection to Congress [2], Congress did not pass a law that authorized the minting of union-denominated and half-union-denominated coins for circulation because the double-eagle coin was viewed as a substantial sum of money for the general public at the time and a half-union or union coin would primarily have circulated only among banks and other financial institutions. They were also perceived as being unwieldy, weighing in at around 2 ounces. Despite this absence of a half-union coin for general circulation, a single issue of a gold commemorative $50 coin was minted in 1915. Although technically still legal tender, the numismatic value vastly exceeds their face value. These coins are generally held either by coin collectors, investors, or museums.

List of designs

* Turban Head 17951804
o Turban Head, small eagle 17951797
o Turban Head, large eagle 17971804
* Liberty Head (Coronet) 18381907
o Coronet, without motto 18381866
o Coronet, with motto 18661907
* Indian Head 19071933

American Eagle: silver, gold and platinum bullion coins

The United States' circulating eagle denomination from the late 18th century to first third of the 20th century should not be confused with the American Eagle bullion coins which are manufactured from silver (since 1986), gold (since 1986) or platinum (since 1997). Bullion coins carry a nominal face value, but their value is mainly dictated by their troy weight and the current precious metal price.

In particular, unlike the later (post 1837) eagle coins, the bullion gold American Eagle coins are composed of the older (pre-1834) 22 kt (.9166 fine = 91.66%) crown gold standard rather than the later 0.900 gold/0.100 copper alloy, and have again changed the non-gold remainder to the traditional alloy of 3.00% silver and 5.333% copper. In addition, the bullion gold coins contain exactly 1.00 troy ounce per gold per double eagle, 0.500 troy ounce gold content per half-eagle, and so on.

Rare eagle coin

A rare $10 Eagle gold coin was acquired by a private collector for $5 million. The coin was a diplomatic gift for United States President Andrew Jackson on his trade missions to Asia. The coin is dated 1804, but in reality it was struck later in 1834 at the Philadelphia Mint.

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