Coin Specifications

Category: Liberty Head $20 (1850-1907)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 1,042,500
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 33.4400g
AGW: 0.9675oz
Melt Value: $1253.11 (11/19/2017)
Diameter: 34mm
Edge: Reeded
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1865 S $20 MS obverse 1865 S $20 MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

When the Brother Jonathan smashed against a large rock and sank on July 30, 1865 off the coast of Crescent City, California, it was not only gold coins that were lost. That may be all that we remember today, but 219 people also slipped beneath the waves. General George Wright, who was to assume his new post at Fort Vancouver, Anson Henry, governor of the Washington Territory, eight prostitutes (or 'soiled doves' in the vernacular of the day), were among the more colorful passengers that lost there lives that fateful day. Additionally, $300,000-$500,000 in cargo went down, 346 barrels of whiskey, $200,000 in payroll for U.S. troops at Fort Vancouver, and more than $100,000 in jewelry and cash in the purser's safe. Many of the gold bars carried on the steamship were recovered between 1916 and the early 1930s. But only in the past few years have high grade double eagles been recovered and entered the numismatic marketplace.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 11/23/2016

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1865 S $20 MS
Base $ 1850 1950 2150 2375 2650 3050 3550 4350 6250 7250 8750 11750 16750 24450 33500 65000 - - - -
$ - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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Total Graded: 1420
Low Grade: F
Average Grade: 55
High Grade: 66

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
9/10/1993 NGC AU 55   Heritage Auctions NGC East Coast Expo Bullet Sale #114, 114/Lot# 989 $1,540.00
6/30/1999 NGC MS 62   Teletrade Auction 1181, 1181/Lot# 1965 $3,798.00
2/11/2007 NGC MS 62   Goldberg February 11-14, 2007 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 39/Lot# 2523 $5,520.00
2/28/2008 NGC MS 61   David Lawrence Rare Coins Thursday - Internet Auction # 226, 232/Lot# 6658 $4,524.10
12/3/2009 PCGS AU 50   Bonhams Coins and Banknotes, 17760/Lot# 1282 $1,872.00
3/24/2013 NGC Details VF Details  Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131314/Lot# 20632 $1,768.38
9/25/2013 NGC VF 25   Heritage Auctions 2013 September 25 - 29 US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(8), 1189/Lot# 9686 $1,938.75
6/27/2014 NGC MS 60   Stack's Bowers June 2014 Baltimore, 6021/Lot# 2645 $8,812.50
6/29/2014 PCGS AU 53   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 06/29/2014, 187/Lot# 202538 $3,500.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1865 $20 MS S
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 58
Points: 3952
Owner: ftrifilio5
Grade: AU 50
Points: 3033
Owner: G & R coins
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NGC Certifies Newly-Retrieved Gold

11/1/2003 — Thirty-eight gold double eagles of the San Francisco Mint have been certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation as having come from the final dive on Brother Jonathan, a steamship lost to the sea in 1865.
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