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1869 $20 Liberty – A Rare Gem Type II


Gem Type II $20 Liberty Double Eagles, the Rarest of all Late-19th-Century Gold Coins

1869 $20 Liberty PCGS MS66. Image is courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

“Unobtainable,” “scarce beyond belief,” and “flat-out impossible” are some of the phrases you may hear on your quest to find a Gem Type II $20 Liberty Double Eagle. A very high-grade Type II is the rarest of the Liberty denominations, save for the first year $10 Liberties. The 1869 that graces the cover of this issue of the PCGS Rare Coin Market Report is a glowing example of its rarity and physical presence. Off-the-charts luster, deep orange, purple, and yellow colors make this a true Gem in every sense of the word. Just one MS66 and one MS67 are finer for the entire type – both are common-date coins and not as a rare as this coin.

So how did an entire U.S. gold coin type become so much more difficult to acquire than its counterparts? Well, for the Type Is, that question is easily answered; the shipwreck hoards gave the numismatic community hundreds of high-end and well-preserved Type I early San Francisco Double Eagles. Even outside of shipwreck coins, there are three Type I $20s that are finer than this coin, making Gem Type IIs rarer than Type Is. For Type IIIs, it’s a numbers game, with millions of gold coins being produced instead thousands, it was bound that some would get saved and preserved. With a mintage of 175,130, the 1869 is generally considered a low-mintage coin. Considering many of the Type IIs were sent overseas and then in the 1930s fell victim to the Treasury’s large melting plan, it is easy to see why the Type IIs did not survive.

When building a collection of coins, focus on owning great coins for what they are: coins that shock and awe. Stretch, be uncomfortable… If you are buying the right coins, it just might make your collecting experience so much better.

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Liberty Double Eagles (1849-1907)