The Gold Dollar: A Small Coin With a Huge Impact
Gold Dollar Sets
To novice and experienced coin collectors alike, the famed Silver Dollar is the quintessential one-dollar coin. Unbeknownst to many, the United States also struck a one-dollar coin in gold. The inspiration for a Gold Dollar actually dates back to the 18th century, but the coin did not come to fruition until the California Gold Rush. The denomination was immensely popular during this era; Gold Dollar mintages dwarfed those of its silver cousin. However, after the Civil War, the coin fell out of favor. The Gold Dollar was largely kept around for novelty purposes until the late 1880s, when it was finally discontinued altogether.
The Gold Dollar’s lifespan stretched from 1849 through 1889, during which the coin underwent two significant design changes. The result is three distinct Gold Dollar types, each of which is highly collectible in its own right.
This month we’re pleased to present you with three-coin Gold Dollar sets with each of the three design types represented. Furthermore, every coin is dated between 1850 and 1889, the peak of the California Gold Rush.
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
The idea of a gold one-dollar coin dates back to 1791, when Alexander Hamilton suggested the U.S. Mint strike this denomination in both gold and silver. Congress did not agree and only authorized the silver version in the Mint Act of 1792. The concept was revisited in the 1830s, when gold was discovered in the Appalachian Mountains. During this time, a North Carolina private minter by the name of Christopher Bechtler released his own Gold Dollars made from locally-sourced metal. This prompted the U.S. Mint to briefly reconsider issuing an official Gold Dollar.
All of this changed with the discovery of gold in California. In 1848 and 1849, an enormous amount of the yellow metal was entering the marketplace (and the U.S. Mint for conversion into coinage). This situation renewed calls for additional gold denominations, including a one-dollar piece. Congress authorized the Gold Dollar swiftly, and the U.S. Mint quickly assigned the task of designing the coin to James B. Longacre.
Longacre’s first Gold Dollar motif featured a portrait of Liberty wearing a coronet on the obverse, while the reverse displayed a wreath surrounding the date and denomination.
This version is known as the ‘Type 1’ and was produced from 1849 through 1854. The obverse of this coin was virtually identical to that of the Double Eagle, which was also introduced in 1849. The public reacted favorably to the design. It was regarded as pleasant and very attractive. Although there was one major complaint: the coin was too small. At just 12.7 mm in diameter, the gold dollar was quite difficult to handle.
Longacre decided the solution was to make the Gold Dollar larger, yet thinner. Not only was the coin made larger, but the obverse and reverse designs were tweaked. The obverse portrait showed a native American princess, while the reverse displayed a new, modified wreath. The revamped design, known as the ‘Type 2,’ fixed one issue, but created another.
The new, thinner Gold Dollar was definitely bigger (14.3 mm vs 12.7 mm) but was plagued by weak strikes. The high points, date, and two “Ls” in “DOLLAR” are usually seen with incomplete definition. The Type 2 would only last from 1854 to 1856, as Longacre was forced to redesign the coin yet again.
The third and final Gold Dollar version, known as the ‘Type 3,’ was introduced in 1856. It was the same diameter as the Type 2, but the design format was changed in order to strike the coin evenly. Its design is virtually identical to the Three Dollar Gold piece of 1854-1856. Longacre’s modifications proved largely successful; most Type 3 Gold Dollars (especially those produced in Philadelphia) are superbly struck, with virtually complete design detail.
As a circulating coin, the Gold Dollar was much more popular than its silver cousin in the 1850s. Even though some complained the coin was too small, it was much lighter and more convenient than the bulky silver dollar. Numismatists can tell if the coin was used extensively, as many Gold Dollars from this era are heavily worn. A typical specimen from this era is most likely to grade Very Fine 20 to perhaps Extremely Fine 40.
Despite being a staple of daily commerce in the 1850s, the Gold Dollar faded into obscurity after the Civil War. Thanks to the powerful Nevada silver lobby, Gold Dollar production dropped off and Silver Dollar mintages skyrocketed during this period. The Gold Dollar eventually turned into more of a novelty piece than an everyday unit of exchange. For this reason, Gold Dollars from the 1870s and 1880s typically possess minimal wear or no signs of circulation whatsoever.
Almost immediately after the denomination was phased out in 1889, the Gold Dollar became a popular collectible. This trend continues to this day. Collectors are attracted to the Gold Dollar for its affordable price point, attractive design and intriguing backstory. The fact it was issued in three different types makes it even more alluring.
VALUATION AND THE CURRENT OFFERING
Put simply, the Gold Dollar is a remarkable value in light of its rarity and historical importance. It enjoys tremendous demand from numerous collector groups including Gold Rush specialists and type collectors. The story behind its creation (and multiple subsequent revisions) is fascinating, yet examples can be had in excellent condition for $300-$800 per coin!
We were able to assemble a small group of Gold Dollar sets containing the following coins:
- Type 1 Gold Dollar struck between 1850 and 1854. This was the first iteration of the denomination, which had to be redesigned due to complaints that it was small and difficult to handle.
- Type 2 Gold Dollar struck between 1854 and 1855. This version was James Longacre’s enlarged, yet problem-prone design. The Type 2 Gold Dollar is one of the rarest and shortest-lived coinage types. It was only struck between 1854 and 1856.
- Type 3 Gold Dollar struck between 1856 and 1859. Although this type was struck until 1889, the coins in these sets are dated from the Gold Rush era. These earlier dates are scarcer than the most common Type 3 dates (1862, 1874 and 1889).
Each coin in the three-coin set is graded About Uncirculated 50 or better by PCGS or NGC. The coins are dated between 1850 and 1859, which means they were struck during the height of the California Gold Rush.
In addition to their deep history and fascinating backstory, these coins carry an outstanding value.
|Number of Sets||Price Guide Value||Your Price|
|43||$1,875||Call for pricing & availability|
Call 800-831-0007, or send me an email to add these fascinating coins to your portfolio!
*Prices listed include shipping, handling and insurance, but prices are subject to change due to market fluctuation and product availability.