How much was a gold $20 Double Eagle worth in the late 1800s?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Gam3rBlake, Dec 1, 2020.

  1. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    Was a gold double eagle something that people carried around with them regularly? Or was it too much money to carry around back then and used only for large purchases?

    Also why would anyone use a gold $10 Eagle or $20 Double Eagle if they could’ve used 20x Morgan dollars (or later Peace Dollars)?

    If anyone with knowledge on this could help me out I’d appreciate it.
    capthank and GoldFinger1969 like this.
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  3. potty dollar 1878

    potty dollar 1878 Well-Known Member

    People just liked gold coins more than silver dollars or paper money back then people would pay a small premium over the face value for gold coins I guess they know gold coins were valuable and more favorable.
    Gam3rBlake likes this.
  4. potty dollar 1878

    potty dollar 1878 Well-Known Member

    Yes the rich loved to use gold coins they were the workhorse of the economy back then they were spent and used very often for most things people didn't mind carrying them around they were heavy but they just had to continue using them. Imagine the rate cloths got ruined-holed because of carrying so much gold back then.
  5. potty dollar 1878

    potty dollar 1878 Well-Known Member

    what would you think they would rather do?grab and hand 20-10 silver dollars or give/throw one or a few gold coins and get it over with.
    Penny Luster likes this.
  6. l.cutler

    l.cutler Member

    I would say it depends on where you were. Not really something the average person would carry in the east, but maybe in the west. I have talked to several people who were born in the late 1800's to early 1900's and none had ever even seen a gold coin.
    Cheech9712 and Gam3rBlake like this.
  7. KSorbo

    KSorbo Well-Known Member

    It is my understanding that starting in the late 1870’s, gold, silver and paper money traded at par. Gold dollars had a slight premium for gifts and jewelry, but I’m not sure about other denominations. With a dollar a day having been considered good wages, I doubt that many people carried large denomination gold on a regular basis. More affluent people probably did.
    harrync and Gam3rBlake like this.
  8. SensibleSal66

    SensibleSal66 Casual Collector / error expert "in Training "

    I read a story in my Metal detecting Magazine of a saw mill owner who paid his workers a whole $5 a week in Gold $5 pieces . What a paycheck !!
    Gam3rBlake likes this.
  9. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    The rise and popularity of paper money post 1865, along with the lack of worn gold, kind of tells you the story. Most gold coins are very rare below VF grade. Couple this with the fact that gold wears more easily than most other metals, tells us they were not carried around very much.

    People like light paper IF they can trust it. With the US government issuing paper money after the Civil War versus local banks, trust rose and people simply stopped using gold very much. How may people like carrying around change today? I empty out my pockets every day into a jar, and I am an unusual one nowadays still using cash. Imagine what it would be like carrying around a pile of Morgans or double eagles? Your pants would get ruined quickly.
    Cheech9712 and harrync like this.
  10. tommyc03

    tommyc03 Senior Member

    Lest we forget...many preferred gold and silver over paper money as paper money was not trusted. There were also financial crisis in this time period, therefore the lack of trust in paper money and banks. Hoarding coins was also done as a preferable means to paper. A lot of this depends upon the certain time periods, not a blanket statement of 1800's.
    Chris Winkler and Good Cents like this.
  11. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    I think I read something about that!

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Gold circulate more in the west due to the California Gold Rush? I could’ve sworn I read that due to the influx of supply the Mint began making gold coins in the West which eventually led to the GOLD $50 Humbert Dollar. That thing is like 2.5 troy ounces of gold. It’s huge! But only circulated in the West.
    Chris Winkler and harrync like this.
  12. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    Well that’s kinda what I meant.

    Like you said: “People just liked gold coins more than silver..”

    So if I lived back then and was working full time and being paid a single $1 Morgan silver dollar for each day of work wouldn’t it make sense to take my $5 per week ($1 per day x 5 work days) and have it converted into a $5 half eagle so I’d have gold which you yourself said people preferred?
    SensibleSal66 likes this.
  13. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    The question isn’t so much about the trust in paper money but rather about why people used silver instead of gold.

    Let’s say I’m living in those times. I have a good job and make $20/month.

    If I am offered the choice between 20x $1 Morgan Silver Dollars or 8x $2.50 Gold quarter Eagles..

    Why would I pick the silver?

    Even if I did pick the silver..wasn’t it possible to go to the bank with $20 in Morgan Dollars and exchange them for $20 in Double Eagles/Eagles/Half Eagles etc.,? Similar to how today you can go to a bank with 5x $20 bills and ask to exchange it for a $100 bill or viceversa.

    $20 is $20 right? Both are legal tender right?

    But either way they’re both precious metals so paper money doesn’t really matter.
  14. The Eidolon

    The Eidolon Well-Known Member

    Seems like gold was more for storage of wealth than for everyday transactions. It might not always have been easy to get change for a gold $10 or $20 coin. Kind of like why some people prefer to carry multiple $20s instead of $100 bills today.

    Also, after 1873, the US was not on a bimetallic standard. As the value of silver dropped compared to gold, people might have been more and more reluctant to accept large quantities of silver coin for amounts normally paid in gold. Similar to why trade dollars were so unpopular within the US. Even though were legal tender for small payments (Under $5 I think...), they had much less than one dollar's worth of metal value at that time.
    slackaction1 likes this.
  15. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    It all depends on the situation. So, suppose you took your week's pay of a shiny $5 gold piece, and on the way home decided to stop at a saloon to wet your whistle. You walk up to the bar and order a glass of beer, and the bartender says "That'll be five cents." So you plunk down your gold coin, and the bartender gives you the longest stare before heaving a huge sigh, walking over to the till, and very slowly counting out your $4.95 change. Which you now get to carry home, instead of your $5 gold piece.

    My point being, converting all your money into high denomination gold makes it a lot harder to conduct most day-to-day transactions, at least without getting back huge piles of silver coin and annoying any business whose stock of small change you've just depleted. Gold coins were more convenient as a storehouse of health, but not as much for small daily transactions. Also agree that gold circulated more often in the west, where proximity to the gold mines and the elevated prices on the frontier made it more practical for daily use.
  16. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title]

    I doubt that $20 gold pieces got a lot of daily commerce back in the 1880s. I just plugged $20 into my inflation app on my phone for 1880 and it tells me the purchasing power would be the equivalent of $538 today. I don't walk around with that kind of money very often and I doubt many people do.

    As has been mentioned already, it would be hard for merchants to make change too.
    runninghorse1 likes this.
  17. Etcherman

    Etcherman Member

    Assuming you didn’t have to spend any of your pay, that makes sense
  18. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    I was thinking more like this.

    You get paid $20 a month and go to the bank to get say a $10 Gold Eagle & 10x $1 Morgan Dollars.

    You stop at the saloon to wet your whistle. The bartender says “That’ll be five cents”. You pull out one of your Morgan Dollars and the bartender chuckles and hands back your $0.95 change.

    Basically I was thinking of gold more as a store of extra money not so much as spending money.

    Like how people today keep most of their wealth in banks rather than in pockets.

    If I had saved up $100 over 5 years of work and it was my life savings wouldn’t I prefer 5x $20 double Eagles so I could take it with me easily if necessary?

    Again, more as a preservation of wealth & savings. I didn’t quite mean for spending money.
    Theodosius likes this.
  19. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    I don’t think most people spend ALL of their pay.

    Most people would’ve had some sort of savings, even if it was only a little bit.

    I was referring more towards gold coins as savings not as spending money.

    Like if I got paid $20 per month and spent $18 a month. I’d save $2 a month or $24 per year. I would want that money in gold.
  20. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Not super related to the discussion.

    I read somewhere that a weeks wages for a laborer back in 1880 or whatever was $10 in gold.

    a weeks wages for a laborer today is around $600-700.

    that $10 gold piece is now numismatically worth $600-700

    some things never change
  21. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    I think the reason people don’t carry around large amounts of money today is because of things like checks, credit cards and debit cards.

    You say $20 was $538 today. Today people buy things over $538 on a regular basis. Think of iPhones, TVs, cars, etc.,

    Sure I know they didn’t have those things back then but they did have expensive things.

    Im sure buying a nice pistol or hunting rifle would cost $20 no problem. Heck I read somewhere that a cow was $100 and a good horse was $75. So that’s 5x double Eagles for a single cow. But unlike today they had to use cash with no other options.
    Mainebill likes this.
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