The double eagle, or twenty-dollar gold piece, was first issued in 1850; its congressional authorization a response to the increasing amount of gold available as the result of the California Gold Rush. The resulting Liberty Head double eagle, designed by Mint Engraver James Longacre, were struck for the remainder of the 19th century, though the design was modified several times. The double eagle, due to its very high face value, equivalent to several hundred dollars today, did not widely circulate, but was the coin most often used for large international transactions, in which settlement was to be in gold. In the West, where gold or silver coins were preferred to paper money—use of which was illegal in California in the aftermath of the Gold Rush—the coins saw some circulation.
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