Collecting $10 Liberties by Type and Mint Mark
January 21, 2013
by Dana Samuelson (American Gold Exchange)
The $10 Liberty Head Eagle, minted from 1838 to 1907, is one of the longest running series of coins in U.S. mint history. Completing a full set by collecting an example of every date and mint mark is a virtual impossibility in today’s market. 177 coins were minted during this long run (not including major and minor varieties) and there are many rarities within the series. Collecting an example of each of these classic U.S. gold coins by type and mint of origin, however, is surprisingly easy and offers the collector a wide swath of U.S. history in the process.
During the time of their issue, the United States evolved from a primitive wild western era country to a burgeoning modern era world power. Let’s look at mints that produced these coins to put their production into historical perspective.
$10 Liberty Head Eagle, No Motto (1838-1866) Almost Uncirculated
The $10 Liberty Eagle, No Motto, was minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco literally back in the Wild West and horse and buggy days of the United States. These mostly pre-Civil War era coins are between 147 and 175 years old today and pre-date almost every modern convenience we now take for granted.
The Philadelphia Mint opened in 1793 and first struck gold coins in 1795. Its history as the countries premiere mint was well established by the time the $10 Liberty Head Eagle was authorized by congress in 1838. Because of it’s location in the middle of the eastern seaboard and proximity to the leading population centers of New York, Boston, Washington D.C and others, the Philadelphia mint was responsible for the majority of the country’s coinage in pre-Civil War days. It makes sense then that the majority of No Motto $10 Liberty Eagles both by years of issue and total coins minted were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
In almost uncirculated condition there are 11 years of Philadelphia minted coins that are easily collected. They are 1847, 1849, 1851, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1857, 1859, 1860 and 1861.
The New Orleans Mint was established in 1838, one of three branch mints to open that year (the other two being the Charlotte Mint in Charlotte,North Carolina and the Dahlonega mint in Dahlonega, Georgia.) The New Orleans Mint first struck $10 Liberty Eagles in 1841 and did so continuously through 1860. The New Orleans Mint closed due to the Civil War. It reopened in 1879 and remained the country’s most southern mint until closing permanently in 1909. The New Orleans Mint still stands today near the banks of the mighty Mississippi River at the north end of the fabled French Quarter. It is now a museum.
Like Charlotte and Dahlonega, the New Orleans Mint was a regional mint, striking coins as needed for currency in the region on a yearly basis. Annual mintages of coins varied from year to year based on economic needs. In almost uncirculated condition there are five years of New Orleans minted coins that are available at relatively modest prices. They are 1843, 1847, 1851, 1853 and 1858.
While privately made gold coins were traded on the west coast of the U.S. in the 1840’s, it wasn’t until after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1849 and the ensuing California gold rush (which brought an onslaught of people from literally around the world seeking to get rich quick in the gold fields) that the U.S. Mint in San Francisco was established in 1854. The abundance of gold and the sudden need for official coins in the region were driving factors in the mints establishment. During this first year the San Francisco Mint struck 123,826 $10 Liberty Head Eagles. This was by far the largest mintage for $10 Eagles at this mint until 1879, when the mint struck 224,000. Most $10 Liberty Head Eagle mintages between 1855 and 1878 were much lower, usually under 15,000 coins. By contrast, mintages for $20 Double Eagles for many of these same years were between 500,000 and 1,000,000 coins, multiples of the $10 Eagle mintages.
There were only 13 years of issue for San Francisco minted No Motto Liberty Head Eagles. Today there are only three years of issue that are available at relatively modest prices; they are 1854, 1856, and 1857.
Liberty Head Eagle, With Motto (1866–1907) Uncirculated Condition
Beginning in 1866 the motto “In God We Trust” was added to all U.S. coins that were large enough to accommodate it. While the $10 Liberty Eagle, With Motto, continued to be minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco, it was also minted in Carson City and Denver, when those mints were established in 1870 and 1906 respectively.
After the discovery of the Comstock Lode near Carson City, Nevada in the late 1860’s, the city’s founding father Abraham Curry successfully lobbied the U.S. government to establish a mint there. The Carson City Mint first struck coins in 1870 and did so until closing just 23 years later in 1893. This mint was a truly regional mint and it only made enough coins to satisfy currency demand in the area, so mintages of Carson City gold coins were unusually low when compared to other mint production rates. Only 1891 had a mintage over 100,000 coins, most other years were under 10,000. Today the 1891 $10 Liberty Eagle is the only modestly priced Carson City $10 gold coin.
Almost every With Motto Liberty Head Eagle minted between 1866 and 1879 is a rarity in modern times with three exceptions from the Philadelphia Mint, which are the 1874, 1878 and 1879 issues. For the remaining years of issue for the series, 1880 – 1907, the coins minted at Philadelphia, San Francisco and to a degree New Orleans, become much more readily available with many affordable choices in uncirculated condition. Collecting a complete set of coins in uncirculated condition from 1890 to 1907, from all five mints that struck coins during these years (P, S, O, CC, and D) is both affordable and doable.
And that brings us to the last mint to strike the Liberty Head Eagle, With Motto, the Denver Mint. Like the areas around the San Francisco and Carson City Mints, gold was discovered in the Denver area in 1858. The ensuing gold rush was dubbed the Pikes Peak gold rush, after the fabled mountain in the vicinity that all could see from far and wide. The gold harvested between 1859 and 1863 was privately minted into coins by Clark, Gruber and Company until the U.S. government bought them out and established an assay office there in 1863. It wasn’t until many years later though, in 1896, that the building that has become the Denver Mint was authorized and finally built. Coining began in February of 1906.
$10 Liberty Head Eagles were only minted in Denver for two years, 1906 and 1907. The Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens inspired Indian Head design change in late 1907 ended the long reign of the Liberty Head gold coinage permanently. Fortunately for collectors, mintages for these two years were relatively high at 981,100 for 1906 and 1,030,000 for 1907. Both of these issues are easily obtained in uncirculated condition today at modest prices. The “D” mint mark is the only mint mark to appear on coins minted at two different mints, the Dahlonega Mint from 1838 to 1861 and Denver Mint from 1906 to 2013.
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