In 1877, the $20 Liberty Double Eagle was modified for the third and last time. Miss Liberty's portrait on the obverse was refined, now showing more delicate detail in the face and hair. On the reverse, the spelling of the value was changed from "TWENTY D." to "TWENTY DOLLARS." Type 3 Double Eagles were minted in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Carson City; they were also struck in New Orleans in 1879 only, and in Denver for just two years, 1906 and 1907. The last $20 Liberty Double Eagle gold coins were struck in 1907. In that year, Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a new design for the $20 gold piece, one that would reflect America as a dominant world leader.
The obverse features a classic Greek rendition of Lady Liberty; the head of Liberty facing left, with hair tied in a bun and curls flowing down to the base of the bust. She is wearing a coronet inscribed with LIBERTY. Thirteen stars surround the bust with the date positioned below.
The reverse depicts a fearless eagle with wings extended to their full span holding an olive branch and arrows.
A total of three different types of $20 Liberties were minted. Depending upon the date and type, other pieces of information are listed on the reverse:
Type I coins do not feature the motto 'IN GOD WE TRUST' and the denomination is written as "Twenty D."
The 'IN GOD WE TRUST' motto was added to the reverse in 1866, resulting in the Type II design. Reverse: M.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, PA, spearheaded this change by asking Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to include the motto on the nation's coins. Another Type II design change involved altering the shape of the shield on the reverse from straight to curved in the ornate rococo style of the day.
In 1877, the denomination was changed to read 'TWENTY DOLLARS' instead of 'TWENTY D.' This is the only difference between Type II and Type III $20 Liberty gold coins.
Following the discovery of vast quantities of gold in California, the Treasury Department decided to create a new denomination called the double eagle, for it was twice the size of the previous highest denomination, the eagle. First minted for circulation in 1850, production of $20 pieces was continued through the year 1933. Vast quantities were minted of certain dates, as they served as a convenient way to convert gold bullion into coinage form. Double eagles facilitated international transactions of large value in an era in which foreign governments and commercial interests were wary of accepting paper money.
$20 Liberty Double Eagles:
Designer: James Barton Longacre
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Diameter: 34 mm
Mints: Philadelphia, Carson City, New Orleans, and San Francisco
Three different design variations
Type 1. No Motto (1849-1866)
Type 2. With Motto (1866-1876), "TWENTY D." on Reverse
Type 3. With Motto (1877-1907), The design change that brought about the Type 3 Double Eagle was the denomination. Denomination went from TWENTY D. to TWENTY DOLLARS.