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The 1849 Double Eagle

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I was just looking at the Report of the Director of the Mint, January 29, 1850 and it's pretty interesting stuff (if you are a detail guy like myself anyway). As you may know, 1849 (the period this report covers) was a very interesting time in numismatic history. There were 4 branch mints (New Orleans, Charlotte, Dahlonega and Philadelphia) with the bulk of production at the workhorse in Philly. There was a huge gold rush in California, yet the total gold production was not as high as in 1847 (that would change soon enough). Of note, the totals in 1847 were mostly deposits of foreign coins to be recoined, while the deposits in 1849 were native production representing an increase in the total gold in circulation. The amount of gold from California grew from $44,177 in 1848 to $6,147,519 in 1849! The other interesting thing about 1849 was the introduction of two new denominations: the gold dollar and double eagle (my favorite!), and while there were 936,789 gold dollars produced between the four mints, there were no double eagles produced. As the mint director states, "I regret to say, that in consequence of difficulties in the execution of the dies, double-eagles have not yet been coined." This bears out the fact that the 2 pattern 1849 double eagles (one of which is lost and the other is in the Smithsonian) were not struck until March 12, 1850, or about 6 weeks after this report was issued. And thus we have the birth of a legend!


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