1866-S Liberty Head Double Eagle. No Motto. AU-58 (PCGS). As one of the finest examples of this classic Liberty Head double eagle rarity that we have ever offered, this coin is extremely significant. It is a beautiful piece irrespective of date or issuing mint, with richly original surfaces that retain abundant mint luster. Well struck for this challenging issue, and exceptionally well preserved in all regards.</p><p>The story of the 1866-S No Motto double eagle starts five years earlier with the outbreak of hostilities after the separation from the Union of the Southern secessionist states. The nations morale was severely wounded and as an appeal during this time of national crisis, Reverend M.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania petitioned Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase urging the placement of a motto acknowledging "Almighty God in some form in our coins." Approving of this request, Chase instructed the director of the Mint to create designs and prepare patterns with various versions of the motto that he could take to Congress. Congress also thought kindly of the change and on April 22, 1864, they passed a law that specified the addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the newly created two-cent coin. The following year, Congress then instructed that the motto be added to all gold coins of suitable size -- that is, half eagles and larger -- starting in 1866.</p><p>The Philadelphia Mint began preparations in late 1865 for the change to the Motto reverse. The reverse dies were then shipped to San Francisco but because overland transit took over two months during that era, they did not arrive there until March. In the meantime, because the demand for coin, especially the double eagle, was strong on the West Coast, the San Francisco Mint went ahead with production of 1866 half dollars, half eagles, eagles, and double eagles using the older No Motto reverse dies on hand. Once the new dies arrived the old ones were swiftly retired, but not before somewhere around 120,000 No Motto double eagles were struck and released into circulation, where they remained for many years. This issue suffered a very high attrition rate and now the 1866-S No Motto double eagle is widely considered the second rarest San Francisco Mint issue of this denomination, ranking behind only the legendary 1861-S A.C. Paquet Reverse. The 200 or so known pieces are primarily in VF or EF condition, often with significant impairments or otherwise limited eye appeal. The issue is all but unknown in Mint State. As an uncommonly original and aesthetically pleasing Choice AU, the opportunity to acquire this coin may very well be a once in a lifetime event for the advanced double eagle collector.</p> PCGS# 8945. NGC ID: 269W. PCGS Population: 9; 7 finer (MS-62 finest). From the Fairmont Collection - JBR Set.