What Does MCMLXXXVI Mean on My Gold Coin?

Roman Numerals on United States Coins

1986 $50 Gold American Eagle Bullion Coin
1986 $50 Gold American Eagle Bullion Coin Heritage Auction Galleries, www.ha.com

One of the first United States gold coins to use Roman Numerals was the 1907 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. The artist who designed this coin, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, led an effort to revive the artistic aspect of United States coinage. He wanted to give our coinage a more "classical" look and feel. Therefore, he used Roman numerals to indicate the coin's date.

In 1986 the United States Mint started producing gold coins to appeal to precious metal bullion investors. They decided to revive the classic design of Augusta Saint-Gaudens twenty-dollar gold coins. During the first few years of the American Eagle gold bullion coin program, the U.S. Mint did not use standard dates on the coins. Instead, the date was given in Roman numerals.

Symbol I V X L C D M
Value 1 5 10 50 100 500 1,000

Roman Numerals to Arabic Numeral Conversion

Here is a breakdown of the dates on these gold coins and their corresponding years in our more familiar Arabic numerals:

Roman Numerals

Western or

Coin Series



$20 Saint Gaudens (Standing Liberty) $20 Gold



$5, $10, $25, $50 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins



$5, $10, $25, $50 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins



$5, $10, $25, $50 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins



$5, $10, $25, $50 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins



$5, $10, $25, $50 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins



$5, $10, $25, $50 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins



$20 Ultra High Relief Gold Coin

Beginning in 1992, the dates on U.S. gold coins began appearing in normal digits on all United States coins.

Classic U.S. Gold Coins With No Date

In 1907, the U.S. Mint issued high and ultra-high relief double eagle gold coins designed by legendary sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. These coins also had Roman numeral dates, which appear as MCMVII. The 1907 twenty-dollar gold coins with Roman numerals are scarce and were minted in several varieties.

The ultra-high relief coin with the plain edge is unique and is valued at $3 million. Twenty-two ultra-high relief 1907 coins were produced with a lettered edge and are valued at $2.5 million. In addition, 12,367 high relief coins with a Roman Numeral date were made, and values range from $9,000 - $25,000.

American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins

When the American Eagle gold bullion coins were first issued, the designers tried to reproduce Augustus Saint-Gaudens' original design. This included specifying the date using Roman numerals. Just as in the original series the use of Roman numerals in the date was short-lived. Beginning with the coins issued in 1992, Western or Arabic numerals were used to indicate the date of production.

The 2009 Ultra-High Relief Saint-Gaudens Gold Coin

The U.S. Mint issued a special one-year Ultra-High Relief Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle (twenty-dollar gold piece) in 2009. This coin has the date in Roman numerals as MMIX. This gold coin is a tribute to the original ultra-high relief double eagles first issued in 1907. The "tails" sides of these coins differ from the American Eagles described above. Double eagle gold coins have the denomination spelled out as TWENTY DOLLARS.

Why Aren't Roman Numerals Used Anymore?

Although there isn't a law that dictates the use of Arabic or Roman Numerals, the artists at the United States Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, may use whatever numerals they see fit. Mainly, Roman numerals were used as a means of artistic expression. Unfortunately, most people in the United States cannot translate Roman numerals in their heads. Therefore, the trend has been to use Arabic numerals since that is the standard numbering system of the United States. However, someday another artist at The United States Mint may choose to use Roman numerals once again.