1866-S Coronet $20 Double Eagle, No Motto

Toward the end of 1861, as the reality of a long, terrible civil war became painfully evident, the nation turned to the Almighty with a revived fervor. Reflective of the people’s will, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase directed the Mint to prepare coin patterns inscribed with a reference to God.(1)

On April 22, 1864, Congress authorized the placement of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the new two-cent coin. The Act of March 3, 1865 specified the same motto be added starting in 1866 to coins of sufficient diameter to accommodate the inscription – this included silver coins larger than the dime, gold coins above three dollars, and the new Shield nickel.

In late 1865, the Philadelphia Mint manufactured and shipped obverse dies dated 1866 to San Francisco for use in the upcoming year. The reverse dies bearing the IN GOD WE TRUST motto were not ready, but the plan was to send them westward as soon as possible.(2)

With no certain date for the arrival of the With Motto dies, compounded by the clamor for double eagle coinage in the western states, the San Francisco Mint began striking double eagles in early 1866, utilizing the new 1866 obverse dies paired with old No Motto reverse dies. Half dollars, half eagles, and eagles, all without the motto, were also produced by the thousands at San Francisco.(3)

The new dies finally arrived in March and were placed into service immediately. Contemporary mintage documents do not specify how many of each double eagle variety were made in 1866, but researchers estimate 120,000 No Motto double eagles were struck,(4) along with 842,250 pieces that did feature the motto.

Today, PCGS estimates there are 307 examples of the 1866-S No Motto double eagles in existence.(5) In other words, 99.75% of the original mintage perished. This unusually low survivorship, some experts contend, is because the San Francisco Mint withheld a significant number of No Motto double eagles from circulation, and these were eventually destroyed.(6)

Fascinating Fact: Following the directive of Secretary Chase to prepare coin patterns containing a reference to God, various motto proposals were developed before the familiar IN GOD WE TRUST was chosen. Some of the other mottos under consideration were GOD OUR TRUST and OUR TRUST IS IN GOD.(7)

The 1866-S No Motto double eagle is heralded as the second rarest San Francisco twenty, trailing only the legendary 1861-S Paquet Reverse issue.(8) As the value trend charts below indicate, the supply of available examples in no way quenches the persistent scorching demand for this incredible coin.

Buyer’s Advice: Gold coin experts say the typical 1866-S No Motto double eagle is beset by deep bagmarks, weak strike, poor luster, and overall substandard eye appeal. Patient buyers who wait for a coin with at least above average eye appeal will be in a strong position when the time comes to sell.(9)

Estimated survivors in all grades: 307
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 6.3
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1866-S Coronet $20 Double Eagle, No Motto Historic value trends of the 1866-S Coronet $20 Double Eagle, No Motto
Trendline Avg = 36.14 BEST
Last updated 9-13-23
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1. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1866-S Liberty Double Eagle. No Motto.  Apr 2022 Auction.

2. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1866-S Liberty Double Eagle. No Motto.  Feb 2015 Auction.

3. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1866-S Liberty Double Eagle. No Motto.  Apr 2022 Auction.

4. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1866-S Liberty Double Eagle. No Motto.  Feb 2015 Auction.

5. PCGS.  1866-S $20 No Motto (Regular Strike).

6. Heritage Auctions.  1866-S $20 No Motto.  Jan 2008 Auction.

7. Heritage Auctions.  1866-S $20 No Motto.  Aug 2014 Auction.

8. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1866-S Liberty Double Eagle. No Motto.  Apr 2022 Auction.

9. PCGS.  1866-S $20 No Motto (Regular Strike).

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If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.