The following is a re-post from the “Bowers on Collecting” column on Coin Update.
Eagles of this design were made continuously at the Philadelphia Mint from 1838 to 1907 and at other mints at separate intervals. The weight was specified at 258 grains consisting of 90 percent gold, equal to 0.48375 ounces of pure gold. Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the obverse depicts a female head facing left, her hair in a bun secured by a string of beads, wearing a coronet inscribed LIBERTY. Stars surround, and the date is below. The reverse shows an eagle with a shield on its breast perched on an olive branch holding three arrows. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is inscribed around the perimeter.
The Liberty head used on $10 gold coins in 1838 and early 1839 is slightly differently styled from that used beginning in October 1839, continuing to the end of the series. The most prominent difference can be noted in the shape of the neck truncation and the relation of star six to the coronet point 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 evident on the new version by the eagle having shorter and more delicate claws. This modification was used thereafter on Philadelphia Mint coins but not on those of the branch mints.
The addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to the reverse in 1866 constituted a new type. For the Without Motto type, mintages were continuous at the Philadelphia Mint from 1838 to 1865 and at the San Francisco Mint from 1854 to 1866. In addition, pieces were produced at the New Orleans Mint intermittently between 1841 and 1906.
Eagles of this type offer many interesting and curious die variations. Such varieties include the two portrait types, variations in date logotype placement, and variations in mintmarks. Within most (but not all) years, the same size date was used for all dies except for 1842 (Large and Small Date), 1850 (Large and Small Date), and 1854-0 (Large and Small Date).
Date numerals for eagles of 1838 and 1839 were entered into working dies by hand. For the dates 1840 to 1866, a four-digit logotype was used. In some instances — 1847 is an example — the different depths to which the logotype was punched into the working die created interesting differences in spacing.
The $10 dies of 1840, 1841, and some 1842 are all Small Date, with the numerals small and with the “4” (without crosslet at the right of the crossbar). All other dates of the 1840s use a crosslet “4.”
Among eagles dated 1846, those of the Philadelphia Mint are Small Date, and those of New Orleans are Large Date. For 1856 logotypes, two four-digit punches were made, one with a “regular” “6” and the other with a “fallen” “6.” There are many dates with repunchings varying from slight to dramatic. Dies of 1843 to 1849 are particularly fertile hunting grounds.
Throughout the Liberty Head series of the With Motto years from 1866 to 1907, mintages were again continuous at the Philadelphia Mint. For most years from 1866 through 1878, mintages were small, followed by a tremendous surge 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, mintage was extensive at the San Francisco Mint. The New Orleans Mint struck eagles intermittently from 1879 to 1906, the Carson City Mint for many of the years 1870 to 1893, and the Denver Mint in 1906 and 1907. The Guide Book lists the mintage number for each year and mintmark, which you will find very helpful should you decide to collect Liberty Head $10 gold coins.