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Bowers on Collecting: Liberty Head $ 10 Gold Coins (1838-1907)

The following is a re-post from Q. David Bowers’ weekly “Bowers on Collecting” column on the coin update.

Eagles of this design were continuously manufactured at the Philadelphia Mint and other mints at separate intervals from 1838 to 1907. The weight was given as 258 grains, which consist of 90 percent gold, which corresponds to 0.48375 ounces of pure gold. Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the front shows a female head to the left, her hair in a knot fastened by a pearl necklace, wearing a crown with the inscription FREEDOM. Stars surround and the date is below. The reverse shows an eagle with a shield on its chest, sitting on an olive branch and holding three arrows. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is inscribed around the circumference.

The Liberty head used on $ 10 gold coins in 1838 and early 1839 is designed slightly differently than the one used from October 1839 through the end of the series. The most noticeable difference can be seen in the shape of the neck stump and the ratio of star six to the tip of the crown and star 13 to the tip of the neck. In 1848 there was a minor modification to the back of Miss Liberty’s hair. In 1859 there was a minor revision of the reverse hub, most noticeable in the new version by the eagle with shorter and more delicate claws. This modification was subsequently used on coins of the Philadelphia Mint, but not on those of the branch mints.

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The addition of the motto WE TRUST IN GOD on the reverse formed a new type in 1866. For the type without a motto, the Philadelphia Mint from 1838 to 1865 and the San Francisco Mint from 1854 to 1866 minted continuously. In addition, pieces were temporarily made in the New Orleans Mint between 1841 and 1906.

Eagles of this type offer many interesting and curious types of dice. These variants include the two portrait types, variations in the placement of the date logo, and variations in mint marks. For most (but not all) years, the same date size was used for all matrices, with the exception of 1842 (large and small dates), 1850 (large and small dates), and 1854-0 (large and small dates).

Date numbers for eagles from 1838 and 1839 were hand-entered into work stamps. A four-digit lettering was used for the years 1840 to 1866. In some cases – 1847 is an example – the different depths at which the logo was punched into the working die resulted in interesting differences in spacing.

The $ 10 stamps from 1840, 1841 and some of the 1842 are all with a small date, with small digits and with the “4” (without a cross to the right of the crossbar). All other dates from the 1840s use a cross “4”.

Among the 1846 eagles are the Philadelphia Mint Small Date and the New Orleans Large Date. Two four-digit stamps were produced for 1856 logos, one with a “normal” “6” and the other with a “fallen” “6”. There are many dates with reunchings that vary from mild to dramatic. The deaths from 1843 to 1849 are particularly fertile hunting grounds.

During the entire Liberty Head series of the With-Motto years from 1866 to 1907, the minting in the Philadelphia Mint continued again continuously. For most of the years from 1866 to 1878, coinage was low, followed by a huge spike in 1879 – the first year that $ 10 gold coins circulated in the East and Midwest since the early days of the Civil War. During the span, the San Francisco Mint’s coinage was extensive. The New Orleans Mint intermittently minted eagles from 1879 to 1906, the Carson City Mint for many from 1870 to 1893, and the Denver Mint in 1906 and 1907. The Guide Book lists the mint number for each year and mint mark you made you will find it very helpful if you decide to collect Liberty Head 10 dollar gold coins.

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