1861-S GOLD $20 LIBERTY - VERY TOUGH IN MINT STATEPCGS MS 60This magnificent 1861 Philadelphia Double Eagle was minted 157 years ago at the beginning of the Civil War. There were two major varieties of the 1861 Liberty Head $20 Gold Double Eagle. This common variety, and the ultra-rare ''Paquet Reverse'' variety. The common 1861-S Double Eagle is an affordable issue, which makes it a popular choice for collectors seeking an example of the Type-I design. Demand for this date is also popular with Civil War collectors who need this date for a Civil War set.
The first 19,250 double eagles coined in San Francisco early in 1861 had the special Paquet Reverse design. Once word was received to discontinue using that special reverse die, another 768,000 coins were minted with the normal Longacre reverse design. At the time they were struck, there were few if any collectors in San Francisco to preserve those coins, and virtually the entire mintage quietly slipped into the channels of commerce. The small number of Mint State coins known today, including the present example, survived purely as a matter of chance. For a denomination of such high value as a twenty dollar gold coin, the chance of survival is diminished further because of the significant face value of the coin. It was a lot of money at the time, and few could afford to have any similar pieces preserved for the future. The 1861 was widely hoarded along with other silver and gold coinage upon the outbreak of the Civil War and the simultaneous decision to stop paying out gold coinage at par in exchange for paper money. That said, Uncirculated survivors are scarce today, as in this PCGS MS60 example.