The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 17, April 20, 2014, Article 5


John and Nancy Wilson submitted this review of the new book by Bowers and Galiette on the U.S. Liberty Head Double Eagles. Thanks! -Editor

U.S._Liberty_Head_Double_Eagles,_cover U. S. Liberty Head $20 Double Eagles, The Gilded Age of Coinage, By: Q. David Bowers, with Robert Galiette, 2014, Published by Stack’s Bowers Galleries, Reviewed by John and Nancy Wilson

The U.S. Liberty Head $20 Double Eagles, The Gilded Age of Coinage is a hardbound reference with 376 pages. It has 60 Chapters covering the 60-year period from the discovery of gold in California in 1848 to 1907. Interspersed throughout the book you will find hundreds of photographs and illustrations in color and black and white. The Foreword by Mr. Galiette talks about the importance of this sixty year period in our young country. The Introduction by Mr. Bowers gives you a synopsis of what you will find in the following chapters.

This book covers most of the financial events which occurred in the United States during that 60 year period. It also gives interesting tidbits of information relating to life in America during that time. The interests and fads during that period are also described. In 1858 numismatics became popular. The numismatic related events such as the paper money issued by both the North and South are discussed. Large photographs of most of the finest double eagles by date are shown. The other moneys of the period are also shown in their context in history.

The authors cover an interesting period of U. S. financial history which we had never heard of before reading this book. It is the 1869 speculation which resulted in the first “Black Friday.” It seems that speculators, Jay Gould, James Fisk and President Grant’s brother-in-law Abel Corbin, attempted to corner the available supply of gold and drive up its value. Instead of that happening the Secretary of the Treasury, George Boutwell, entered the market and sold gold held by the government. The price fell and the speculators lost many tens of millions of dollars which they never paid back.

Surprisingly, much of the corruption which occurred in the U.S. during these years is explained in detail. We have never seen much of this information in any of our reading covering this period. The Credit Mobilier scandal uncovered during the 1872 election showed how the railroads hired this company to build the rail lines across American and bill the railroads at inflated prices, to which the railroads added a “management fee” and then submitted the invoices to the government for payment.

It also explains how the Coinage Act of 1873, which we are all familiar with, was affected by the panic of 1873 which was the result of too much debt because of the cost of railroad construction in the preceding five years. For great information on the Credit Mobilier go to this site:

This book explains the numismatic events of the period from an economic perspective we normally do not hear about. Both Q. David Bowers and his associate, Robert Galiette has a very interesting way of presenting this information which makes the reasons for the numismatic events so logical in economic terms.

The causes of the financial panic of 1893 which lead to the collapse of the stock market in June of that year were explained in detail. 1893 also was the year the Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago. It is probable that the lack of sales of numismatic items at the fair could be traced to the financial panic and depression of 1893 which continued into 1894. 1893 was also the year that Augustus G. Heaton’s book on branch mint coins was published. Until that time collectors only concerned themselves with the date on the coin and ignored the mint completely. He made the case for collecting coins by mint as well as by date.

The gold double eagle was the main gold coin in the government’s hoard used to back up the huge amount of paper money it had issued. This hoard was increased in 1899 by the gold streaming in from Cripple Creek, the Klondike and the large number of double eagles returning from Europe.

The authors noted some of the large collections being formed at the time including the Brand and Garrett collections. The parallels between economics and numismatics have never been made clearer.

The “Epilogue” by Mr. Galiette talks about the transition from the $20 Liberty Head to the Saint-Gaudens $20 and a lot more. Elections, Wars, Coinage Productions, The Gold Reserve Act, Laws Coinage, Collectors and their Collections, Survival Rates of Double Eagles and lots more. This book is very interesting and presents numismatics from a new perspective.

The authors talk about “Follow the Money” as it pertains to the Double Eagle and the in-depth economic history during this sixty year period. We recommend that you “spend a little money” and buy this fascinating and interesting reference that covers a subject in a manner that would be of interest to dealers, collectors, investors and anyone else interested in our economic history.

Anyone reading this review before May 1, 2014 can order an early preview copy for $35 by contacting Jen Meers at or by phone at (866) 811-1804 or by mail at, StacksBowers, P. O. Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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