The $3 Gold “Princess”—True Investment Royalty
$3 Gold Princess
The $3 Gold “Princess” is one of America’s scarcest and most fascinating gold coins. While the coin never caught on with the general public, it has been a coveted collectible since the 19th century. Investors are attracted to the coin due to its unusual denomination, extreme rarity, connection to the California Gold Rush, and highly attractive design. It’s no surprise the $3 gold piece has been popular for over 100 years.
The $3 “Princesses” we have available today are currently selling at some of the lowest prices in 15 years—in fact, they’re trading for less than half their all-time peak! Because these coins were minted in very low numbers and later melted in large volumes, they are very difficult to find at an affordable price. If your U.S. gold collection is missing the $3 piece, now is the time to pounce.
History of the $3 “Princess”
The $3 “Princess” can trace its roots to 1845, when the Federal Government authorized the very first postage stamps. The price per stamp was initially five cents, but this rate was considered too high. To spur stamp purchases, the unit price was lowered to three cents in 1851. Simultaneously, a three-cent silver coin was introduced to make buying stamps easier. The price reduction helped postage stamps gain traction with the public. As a result, usage flourished in the early and mid-1850s. The U.S. Mint followed suit by striking over 35 million three-cent silver coins from 1851 to 1853.
Given the popularity of three-cent stamps and their corresponding silver coins, politicians contemplated a $3 gold coin. Not only would the coin help facilitate buying sheets of stamps, but bankers could also use them to trade for rolls of three-cent coins. And because the California Gold Rush was in full swing, a massive amount of the yellow metal was flowing in from the West. To make use of this new influx of gold, the Mint introduced three new gold coins: the Gold Dollar, the $20 Double Eagle, and the $3 Gold Piece.
Once Congress approved the new $3 gold piece in early 1853, U.S. Mint Chief Engraver James Longacre began work on the coin’s design. He faced a challenge with the $3 coin: it needed to stand out from the $2.50 Quarter Eagle and $5 Half Eagle. His proposed solution was twofold. First, he used a completely unique motif that would clearly stand out from the $2.50 and $5 Liberty gold coins. The $3 coin would feature a female Native American wearing a feather headdress—hence the “Princess” nickname. Secondly, Longacre made the $3 gold piece large and flat. Despite being 61% lighter than the Half Eagle, the $3 piece is almost identical in diameter (20.5mm vs 21.65mm).
Production began in 1854 and started strong—over 30% of all $3 coins ever struck were minted this year. Unfortunately, these large mintages were the result of wishful thinking, not actual demand. The public largely rejected the coin, deeming it too similar in size to the Half Eagle. It has also been questioned whether the average American typically bought sheets of stamps—after all, $3 was still a sizeable amount of money at the time. In the following years, mintages slumped tremendously, never to return to their 1854 levels.
Despite the lukewarm reception, the Philadelphia Mint continued to produce $3 coins for another 35 years. Mintages were anemic—in many years, fewer than 5,000 pieces were struck. Dies for the $3 coin were sent to the branch mints repeatedly in the 1850s and 1860s, but they refused to strike the coins. Demand was so low that in 1875 and 1876, only a small number of proofs were made for collectors. No coins were made for circulation. According to Mint records, 49,087 $3 pieces were melted in the 1890s.
While the average American had little use for the coin, early coin dealers were already touting them as collectibles. Philadelphia-based firms would buy the coins at face value from the Mint and sell them to collectors throughout the country. Since the coins were almost never seen in circulation, they had a novelty factor and traded for a premium outside of Philadelphia. The $3 piece was also a popular component in jewelry. Today, many surviving specimens show evidence of mounting, solder, and polishing.
Finally, in 1889, the $3 gold piece was quietly discontinued with a paltry mintage of 2,300 pieces. Now officially obsolete, the coin’s value as a collectible began to climb. In the 1920s, for example, most 19th century gold coins were only worth face value, but $3 pieces were already trading for sizeable premiums. U.S. gold coin collecting was still in its infancy, but the $3 “Princess” was one of the first items to be actively pursued by numismatists.
The $3 “Princess”: A Needle in the Haystack
Thanks to the limited production run and subsequent melting, the $3 “Princess” is the rarest U.S. gold coin made for circulation. Most U.S. gold coin series have common and scarce issues, but every date in the $3 series is rare. Over 36 years of production, only 538,174 pieces were struck. To put this in perspective, 538,174 coins might have represented a month’s worth of $5 Half Eagle production during that same era. Furthermore, the mintages only tell half the story, as a substantial percentage of $3 coins were later destroyed.
A typical $3 Princess exhibits moderate wear, mishandling, and/or signs of jewelry use. Grades of Very Fine and Extremely Fine are most often seen. For example, the unique 1870-S $3 coin—estimated to be worth several million dollars—is Extremely Fine with light cleaning, engraving, and evidence of having been mounted. Mint State $3 “Princesses” without evidence of wear are very scarce and represent the minority of all survivors.
As such a rare coin, $3 gold pieces can experience supply shocks and wild price swings. Around 12 to 15 years ago, another major numismatic firm decided to promote $3 “Princesses.” They knew the story would resonate with their client base—the challenge was finding enough supply. Sure enough, within a year, the market’s supply of $3 pieces had run dry, and prices jumped considerably. MS61s appreciated by 35% in less than a year, while MS62s posted an astounding 70% spike!
Luckily for today’s buyers, $3 gold pieces have settled to the lowest prices in over a decade. These historic coins just recently corrected in price within the past 60 to 90 days—presenting you with a limited window of opportunity to add them to your portfolio!
When NGC first started tracking $3 gold piece values in 2005, MS61s were worth over $4,000 per coin, and MS62s were fetching over $5,000 per coin. Since the early 2000s, $3 “Princesses” have regularly fluctuated in value, reaching prices as high as $8,880 per coin for MS62s. Over the past few years, MS61s have been fetching in the high $2,000s per coin, and MS62s have traded in the low to mid-$3,000s per coin.
Buy $3 “Princesses” for the Lowest Prices in Over a Decade!
Today, you can invest in Uncirculated $3 Gold “Princesses” at significantly lower levels than recent prices—and less than half their peak values! Furthermore, we secured a small group with an unusual variety of dates. The 1878 is the most frequently-encountered issue, but we acquired a small number of 1874 and 1854 pieces. These two dates are much scarcer; however, ASI readers who purchase multi-date sets will have a rare opportunity to own all three dates!
Coins Available for Purchase
|MS61: Please call for pricing*
MS62: Please call for pricing*
Our choice of date and FREE shipping
1974 & 1878
|MS61: Please call for pricing*
MS62: Please call for pricing*
Receive an 1878 and 1874. The 1874 is 2-3x rarer,
but you will get it at the same price as the 1878.
1878, 1874, 1854
MS61: Please call for pricing*
Available quantities for this month’s Spotlight coin are much lower than the coins we typically offer. $3 “Princesses” are extremely difficult to source, and we were only able to locate a small number of coins for ASI readers. The selection we have today is substantially lower than our normal offers, but because these coins are currently selling for the best prices we’ve seen in over a decade, we knew this would be something you’d absolutely want to consider for your portfolio!
If you are interested in purchasing $3 gold pieces—especially the multi-coin sets—you absolutely must act now. We don’t expect these singles and sets to last long, so please call us at 800-831-0007 or email us to secure your $3 “Princesses” while our supply lasts.
*Prices subject to change based on market fluctuation and product availability. Prices reflected are for cash, check, or bank wire. Offer expires Friday, November 3, 2017.