US Gold Coin Types from 1849 intended for Circulation

US Gold Coin Types from 1849
to 1933 Intended for circulation
by Arno Safran
With discoveries of gold deposits at Sutter Mill
along the American River near Sacramento, CA in
1848 and the subsequent gold rush, silver coins
rose above face value, the Government decided
to authorize the striking of a $1.00 and $20.00
denomination in 1849.
The 1849 Coronet stylized Liberty Head
$1.00 gold piece was designed by
James Barton Longacre.
The $1.00 gold coin was the first
Federal US coin to show the date
on the reverse.
The 1849 $1.00 gold piece showing the
closed wreath graded MS-61 by NGC.
While only one $20 gold piece was struck in 1849,
(and it resides at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.),
some 688,567 $1.00 gold coins were coined at the
Philadelphia Mint alone and are collectible in two
varieties, the open wreath and
. closed wreath.
Reverses of the 1849 gold dollar showing
the open wreath (scarcer) and closed
wreath (more common).
In 1854 the new Mint Director James Ross
Snowden replaced Robert Maskell Patterson and
decided to “improve” some of our coinage. The
$1.00 gold coin was enlarged from 12.7 mm to
14.3 mm and the planchet reduced in thickness
The 1849 Type 1 and 1854 Type 2
$1.00 gold pieces side by side.
James Ross Snowden
The 1854 Type 2 $1.00 gold is not rare. The mintage
was 783,943. The strong demand as a three year type
keeps the cost high. For that reason, AU-58 appears to be
the grade of choice but many certified AU-58 specimens
are overgraded and undesirable. That is why one must
grade the coin before you buy the slab.
An 1854 $1.00 gold Type 2 graded AU-58 by
NGC. This was the nicest of thirty
specimens seen at the FUN Show.
Many of the Type II dollars issued in 1854, ’55 &
’56-S had problems. The dates struck up unevenly
with occasional blurred images. The result was a
new larger, broader head type first issued in 1856.
An 1856 Type 3 Gold dollar graded MS-61
by NGC. With $1.00 gold coins, I have
found MS-61’s surprisingly attractive.
The total P Mint mintage of the 1856 $1.00 gold
piece was 1,762, 936. Like the large cent, two
different punches were used to make the 5 in the
1856 gold dollars; an upright 5 (scarce) and
slanted 5 (common)
An 1856 upright 5 gold $1.00 graded MS-61
by NGC. It may be underrated variety as
only an estimated 33,660 were minted.
The two 1856 gold $1.00 reverses
showing slanted 5 and upright 5.
Unlike the gold dollar denomination, the $2.50
Quarter Eagle Liberty type (1840-1907) remained
ostensibly the same. The obverse was designed by
Christian Gobrecht, the reverse by John Reich.
An 1879 Liberty $2.50, grading AU-58 by
PCGS. The mintage for this Philadelphia
Mint issue was 89,960 but the date isn’t
particularly scarce, let alone rare.
Perhaps the most unusual gold denomination is
the $3.00 gold piece. It’s diameter was 20.5 mm
and was authorized to ease the purchase of
one hundred 3¢ postage stamps.
An 1878 $3.00 gold piece graded AU-58 by
NGC. With a mintage of 82,304, this is the
second most common. Most dates are in
the low four figures and are rare.
The Gobrecht designed Liberty $5.00
Half eagle was issued from 1839 through
1908 with the Philadelphia mint issues being
the most common. During its long run, the
diameter was reduced from 22.5 mm (183940) to 20.5 mm (1840 to 1908) There were
two major varieties, the no motto above
eagle (1839-1866) and the with motto, IN
GOD WE TRUST (1866-1908). As $5.00 had a
lot of spending power during the 19th
Century, this denomination was among the
most used of our gold series which is why
many of the dates before 1878 are fairly
expensive in the higher grades (AU-MS-65).
The 1908 Liberty $5.00 Gold piece had a
mintage of 421,874. This specimen was graded
MS-62 by NGC yet despite its nice original color,
it has a number of surface blemishes. It sells for
a fraction of what an MS-63 or higher graded
specimens would cost today.
After a hiatus of some 34 years in
which the $10 Eagle was suspended, it
was resurrected in 1838 with the same
Gobrecht Coronet Liberty obverse and
John Reich eagle reverse as seen on the
$2.50 and $5.00 gold coins. Like its $5.00
counterpart, the motto IN GOD WE Trust
was placed above the eagle beginning
with the 1866 dated issues. Affordable
prices begin with the 1874 issue.
Like the 1908 $5.00 Liberty, the 1907 $10.00
Eagle is a transitional date as a new design type
was introduced later the same year.
A 1907 $10 gold Liberty graded MS-62 by
NGC; a nice specimen for the grade and
not costly. The mintage was 1,203,899.
The resplendent $20 Gold Liberty
A 1907 Coronet Type 3 $20.00 gold Double eagle graded
MS-63 by NGC. The mintage was 1,451,786. The
obverses of these larger coins tended to receive more
surface scrapes than the reverses. MS-64’s have far
fewer scuff marks but they are quite expensive.
Between 1850 and 1907
Longacre’s Coronet Liberty with
ornate Shield reverse adorned the
$20.00 Double Eagle. During that
time frame, three minor reverse
modifications occurred; the no
motto with Twenty D., the with motto
with Twenty D. and the with motto
with TWENTY DOLLARS. From 1877 on
dates tend to become less expensive.
President Theodore Roosevelt (19011909) was dissatisfied with our coinage
designs and consulted with the noted
sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens on ways
to imbue our coins with fine art and
functionality at the same time. The result
was the beautiful Striding Liberty Double
Eagle introduced in 1907, (the final year of
the Liberty design). The new coin was
struck first in high relief with Roman
numerals and later that year with Arabic
numerals in lower relief. The latter version
is easily the more affordable and
The Sculptor
Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Saint-Gaudens’ Striding Liberty
A 1907 Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Piece graded
MS-62 by NGC; a better than average specimen
for this grade. The mintage was 361,667.
Saint-Gaudens also prepared the new
Indian Headdress design for the $10 Eagle.
A 1907 $10 Eagle. 239,406 were minted.
This specimen was graded MS-61 by NGC
and is remarkably free of blemishes.
Saint-Gaudens died later in 1907 but he had many
students and admirers who continued his tradition.
One of them was Bela Lyon Pratt who redesigned
the $5.00 & $2.50 gold pieces.
The 1908 incuse Indian head $5.00 design of Bela Lyon
Pratt in its first year of issue. 577,845 were minted in
Philadelphia. This one was graded MS-61 by IGC and
was the sharpest of those seen in that grade.
The Indian $2.50 quarter Eagle was
struck from 1908 until 1929.
A 1926 Indian $2½ Quarter eagle; one of the many
common dates with a mintage of 446,000. This
specimen was graded MS-61 by NGC and was
acquired at the SCNA Convention.
The transition from the 19th to the 20th Century
style gold pieces provided three transitional dates;
1907 for the $10 & $20 and 1908 for the $5.00
The 1908 $5.00 Liberty and Indian Head
The 1908 Liberty and Indian $5.00 reverses
The 1907 Liberty and Indian $10 obverses
The 1907 Liberty and Indian $10 reverses
The 1907 Liberty and Saint-Gaudens
The 1907 Liberty and “Saint” $20 reverses
In 1908, over President Roosevelt’s objections, the
motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST” was placed on the
$10.00 and $20.00 gold pieces.
A 1909-S $20.00 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
showing the motto on the reverse above the sun.
The Saint Gaudens $20 reverses; At left, a1907
no motto and at right, 1909-S with motto.
A basic Liberty Gold set
From $1.00 to $20 Gold Liberty
A Liberty Gold Obverse Type Set
featuring the three $1 types
A Liberty Gold Reverse Type Set
featuring the three $1.00 types
Purchasing Power Then & Now
$1.00 in 1854 would be worth $25.00.
$2.50 in 1879 would be worth $53.00.
$2.50 in 1926 would be worth $30.00.
$3.00 in 1878 would be worth $65.00.
$5.00 in 1908 would be worth $115.00.
$10.00 in 1907 would be worth $222.00.
$20.00 in 1907 would be worth $445.00.
A Basic set of 20th Century Gold
From $2.50 to $20.00
A basic set of 20th Century gold
From $2.50 to $20.00
A basic 20th Century gold Type Set
Gold has always been a special commodity
and on coins the yellow metal brings out the
best in the engraver’s art
The End
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