The $20 gold coin shown here is the only known specimen of its kind and is among the rarest of United States coins. It owes its
existence, in part, to the discovery of gold in California in 1848, of which the famous Sutter's Mill discovery was but the beginning. The California Gold Rush created a steady flow of gold, part of which reached the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Instead of striking gold in traditional $1
pieces, the Mint decided to also issue larger denominations. In February 1849,Congress authorized the striking of $20 gold coins, which were created by the very talented Chief-Engraver James Barton Longacre. This coin is one of two trial patterns struck on March 12, 1850, even though it bears the date 1849. The second pattern has never been found. This coin inaugurated the series of gold 20 dollars, nicknamed "double eagles", which were issued from 1850 to 1907. The term "double eagle" is derived from the fact that the $10 coin is called an "eagle".
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