Congress authorized the twenty dollar gold piece or double eagle in response to the increased supply of gold that resulted from the California gold rush. The vast increases in the amount of gold available made this large coin practical. Prior to the authorization of the twenty dollar coin, the half eagle or five dollar gold piece had been the most favored U.S. gold coin with the largest mintages. After the double eagle was authorized in 1849, the twenty dollar gold piece became the coin of choice for large financial transactions.
The first twenty dollar gold coins, which collectors call the “Type I” pieces, did not have the motto, “In God we trust,” and the face value was marked as “TWENTY D.” Subsequent types would have the motto, and the value would be defined as “TWENTY DOLLARS.”
The magnificent coin pictured above is among the more than 5,000 pieces that were salvaged from the wreck of the SS Central America. The ship foundered 160 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina on September 12, 1857. It was carrying a large cash of gold coins along with 597 passengers and crew. Only 162 survived.
In September 1986 a salvage team discovered the wreck and was able to recover the treasure. Over 5,000 of these beautiful coins were recovered, many of them in high grades of preservation. This piece is among the better examples available, although the coin is by no means rare in this state of preservation. It is indeed a pleasure for a collector to own a mid 19th century U.S. coin in this state of preservation.