US Gold Coin Investments's rare gold coin gallery and rare coin encyclopedia featuring information and pictures on rare gold coins and certified rare coins of all types.
Gold Coins - Information about Gold Coins, Rare Gold Coins. US Gold Coin Investments is one of the largest gold coin dealers specializing in Gold Coins, Rare Gold Coins, Rare Coins and Silver Dollars.
The story of American gold coins begins with gold itself. Gold was one of the first elements discovered by Man, thanks to its distinctive, yellow color and metallic luster. Gold is a relatively inert metal, meaning that natural deposits enjoy a high level of purity. Gold is most commonly found mixed with quartz as veins and crystals, although other forms are known. Erosion of the earth creates what are known as placer deposits, where gold is exposed and concentrated in the form or dust, flakes, and nuggets. Placer deposits usually occur along the bed of a river, where the bright, yellow glint of gold caught the eye of early man.
Man soon discovered the interesting and useful qualities of gold. Pure gold is soft, malleable (easily hammered into any shape), and ductile (easily pulled into wires or hammered thin). Pure gold does not rust or tarnish, thus it retains its natural beauty, luster, and color throughout the ages. And, gold is rare, making it perfect as a store of value and a medium of exchange. Gold is used as money, in jewelry, as an electrical conductor, as a coating, and in innumerable other ways and fashions.
The value of gold derives from its desirability, its utility, and the amount of effort required in obtaining and processing the natural ore. Although more and more gold is being mined every day, demand for the metal has kept pace. As of this writing, uncertainty about the U.S. dollar and the American economy has driven the price of gold to highs not seen since the early 1980s. However, it is important to understand that the volatility of the price of gold is not due to the supply but to the strength or weakness of the currency to which it is tied. The real purchasing power of gold coins has remained virtually identical throughout history (to illustrate, one can guesstimate that an ounce of gold purchased the same number of loaves of bread a thousand years ago as it does today). The same cannot be said of paper money, because paper money has no intrinsic value and can be reproduced with ease.
Because pure gold is so soft, it is impractical for use as everyday money. Thus, certain other metals are alloyed with it to give it strength. The earliest American gold coins contained 91.6% gold and a mixture of copper and silver to make up the balance. If the silver content exceeded that of copper, the coin took on a greenish hue. If the copper content exceeded that of silver, the coin took on a more yellow appearance and, over time, would take on a reddish hue because of the oxidation of the copper. In 1834, the content of all American gold coins was changed to 90% gold, with copper and silver making up the additional 10%.
Gold has served as money or established in the monetary value of currencies longer than any other material. The use of gold coins was widespread in Europe by the fourth century B.C.
The earliest coins circulated in the United States were foreign coins, mostly silver and gold, brought from Europe. The Coinage Act in 1792 established an independent monetary system with the dollar as the basic United States monetary unit containing 24-3/4 grains of fine gold, based on the world price of $19.39 a troy ounce (480 grains). Congress changed the gold specification in 1834 and again in 1837, when it set the dollar price of gold at $20.67 an ounce.
In 1934, U.S. Citizens were prohibited from holding monetary gold in the United States; this was extended in 1961 to gold held abroad as well. The dollar price was ste at $35 per ounce in 1934. Use of gold in international trade was further restricted as the price rose. The government revalued it at $38 per ounce in 1972, then $42.22 in 1973. It has fluctuated widely over the past few years. All restrictions on holding gold were removed on December 31, 1974.
One Dollar Gold Coins
Coinage of the gold dollar was authorized by the Act of March 3, 1849. The weight was 25.8 grains, .900 fineness. The first type, struck until 1854, is known as the Liberty Head or small sized type (Type 1).
In 1854, the dollar coins were made larger in diameter and thinner. The design was changed to a feather headdress on a female, generally referred to as the Indian Princess Head or larger-sized type (Type 2). In 1856, the type was changed slightly by enlarging the size of the head (Type 3).
Designer James B. Longacre; weight 1.672 grams; composition .900 gold, .100 copper (net weight .04837 oz. pure gold); diameter 13mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans, San Francisco. More detail...
Authorized by the Act of April 2, 1792, quarter eagle weighed 67.5 grains, .9167 fineness until the weight was changed to 64.5 grains, .8992 fineness, by the act of June 28, 1834. The Act of January 18, 1837, established fineness at .900. Most dates before 1834 are rare. The first issue was struck in 1796; most of these had no stars on the obverse. Proofs of some dates prior to 1855 are known to exist, and all are rare.
Capped Bust to Right (1796 - 1807):Designer Robert Scot; weight 4.37 grams; composition .9167 gold, .0833 silver and copper; approx. diameter 20mm; reeded edge.
Classic Head, No Motto on Reverse (1834 - 1839):Designer William Kneass; weight 4.18 grams; composition .8992 gold, .1008 silver and copper (changed to .900 gold in 1837); diameter 18.2mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans. More detail...
The three-dollar gold piece was authorized by the Act of February 21, 1853. First struck in 1854, the coin was never popular with the general public and saw very little circulation. Today, some numismatists theorize that the $3 denomination would have been useful for purchasing postage stamps of the day (with their face value of 3c) or for acquiring 100 silver three-cent pieces ("trimes"), which were also in circulation at the time.
These gold coins changed hands in the East and Midwest until 1861, after which they disappeared from circulation; through the 1860s, fewer than 10,000 were struck annually. In 1874 and 1878, mintages were increased significantly in anticipation of the coins going into broader circulation. On the West Coast, the three-dollar gold piece did see circulation throughout the series' minting, though they probably weren't seen in change very often after the 1860s.
The head on the obverse represents an Indian princess with hair tightly curling over the neck, her head crowned with a circle of feathers (the band of which is inscribed LIBERTY). A wreath of tobacco, wheat, corn, and cotton occupies the field of the reverse, with the denomination and date within it. The coin weighs 77.4 grains, and was struck in .900 fine gold.
In the year 1854 only, the word DOLLARS is in much smaller letters than in later years. The 1856 Proof has DOLLARS in large letters cut over the same word in small letters. Restrikes of some years were made, particularly Proofs of 1865 and 1873.
Although these coins did not see extensive day-to-day circulation, collector interest was high, and many three-dollar gold pieces were saved by speculators beginning about 1879. As a result, Mint State examples are fairly numerous today. The 1870-S coin is unique, currently residing in the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection on loan to the American Numismatic Association.
Designer James B. Longacre; weight 5.015 grams; composition .900 gold, .100 copper (net weight .14512 oz. pure gold); diameter 20.5 mm; reeded edge; mints; Philadelphia, Dahlonega, New Orleans, San Francisco. More detail...
These pattern coins were first suggested by John A. Kasson, then U.S. envoy ex ordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Austria-Hungary. It was through the efforts W.W. Hubbell, who patented the alloy goloid (used in making another pattern piece, goloid metric dollar), that we have these beautiful and interesting coins.
The four-dollar Stella-so called because of the five-pointed star on the revers< was envisioned by Kasson as America's answer to various foreign gold coins popi in the international market. The British sovereign, Italy's 20 lire, and the 20 pesetas Spain were three such coins: each smaller than a U.S. five-dollar gold piece, th were used widely in international trade.
The Stella was one of many proposals made to Congress for an international tra coin, and one of only several that made it to pattern-coin form (others include t 1868 five-dollar piece and 1874 Bickford ten-dollar piece).
Odds were stacked against the Stella from the start. The denomination of fc U.S. dollars didn't match any of the coin's European counterparts, and at any rate t U.S. double eagle (twenty-dollar coin)-already used in international commerce was a more convenient medium of exchange. The Stella was never minted in quan ties for circulation. Those dated 1879 were struck for congressmen to examine. T 1880 coins were secretly made by Mint officials for sale to private collectors.
There are two distinct types in both years of issue. Charles E. Barber designed tl Flowing Hair type, and George T. Morgan the Coiled Hair. They were struck as pe terns in gold, aluminum, copper, and white metal. (Only those struck in gold are lis ed here.) It is likely that of the 1879-dated Flowing Hair Stellas, about 15 were strui in 1879, and the rest in 1880.
Precise mintage numbers are unknown. The estimates given below are based c surviving pieces, certified population reports, and auction records.
Some of the finest Stella specimens are housed in the National Numismat Collection in the Smithsonian Institution. Others are in private collections, and cro: the auction block from time to time. More detail...
The half eagle was the first gold coin actually struck for the United States. The five-dollar piece was authorized to be coined by the Act of April 2, 1792, and the first type weighed 135 grains, .9167 fineness. The Act of June 28, 1834, changed the weight to 129 grains, .8992 fineness. Fineness became .900 by the Act of January 18, 1837.
There are many varieties among the early dates, caused by changes in the number of stars and style of eagle, by overdates, and by differences in the size of figures in the dates. Those dated prior to 1807 do not bear any mark of value. The 1822 half eagle is considered one of the most valuable regular-issue coins of the entire United States series. Proofs of some dates prior to 1855 are known to exist, and all are rare. Commemorative and bullion $5 coins have been made at West Point since 1986 and 1994, respectively; thus this is the only U.S. denomination made at each of the eight mints.
CAPPED BUST TO RIGHT (1795 - 1807)
This type was struck from mid-1795 through early 1798, when the Small Eagle reverse was changed to the Large or "Heraldic" Eagle. Note that the 1795 and 1797 dates exist for both types, but that the Heraldic Eagle reverses of these dates were probably struck in 1798 using serviceable 1795 and 1797 dies. Designer Robert Scot; weight 8.75 grams; composition .9167 gold,.0833 silver and copper; appro*, diameter 25 mm; reeded edge.
CAPPED BUST TO LEFT (1807 - 1812) Designer John Reich; standards same as for previous issue.
CAPPED HEAD TO LEFT (1813 - 1834)
Large Diameter (1813-1829) Bold Relief (1813-1815)
Reduced Diameter (1829-1834) The half eagles dated 1829 (small date) through 1834 are smaller in diameter than the earlier pieces. They also have smaller letters, dates, and stars. Design modified by William Keass; standards same as before; diameter 23.8mm.
CLASSIC HEAD (1834 - 1838)
As on the quarter eagle of 1834, the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM was omitted from the new, reduced-size half eagle in 1834, to distinguish the old coins that had become worth more than face value. Designer William Kneass; weight 8.36 grams; composition (1834-1836) .8992 gold, .1008 silver and copper, (1837-1838) .900 gold; diameter 22.5 mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega.
LIBERTY HEAD (1839 - 1908) Variety 1 - No Motto Above Eagle (1839 - 1866) Designer Christian Gobrecht; weight 8.359 grams; composition .900 gold, . 100 copper (net weight .24187 oz. pure gold); diameter (1839-1840) 22.5 mm, (1840-1866) 21.6 mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans, San Francisco.
Variety 2 - Motto Above Eagle (1866 - 1908) Designer Christian Gobrecht; weight 8.359 grams; composition .900 gold,. 100 copper (net weight .24187 oz. pure gold); diameter 21.6 mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, Carson City, Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco.
INDIAN HEAD (1908-1929)
This type conforms to the quarter eagle of the same date. The sunken (incuse) designs and lettering make these two series unique in United States coinage. Designer Bela Lyon Pratt; weight 8.359 grams; composition .900 gold, . 100 copper (net weight .24187 02. pure gold); diameter 21.6 mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco.More detail...
Coinage authority including specified weights and fineness of the eagle conforms to that of the half eagle. The Small Eagle reverse was used until 1797, when the large Heraldic Eagle replaced it. The early dates have variations in the number of stars, the rarest date being 1798. Many of these early pieces show file scratches from the Mint's practice of adjusting planchet weight before coining. No eagles were struck dated 1805 to 1837. Proofs of some dates prior to 1855 are known to exist, and all are rare.
CAPPED BUST TO RIGHT (1795-1804) Small Eagle (1795-1797)
Heraldic Eagle (1797-1804)
Designer Robert Scot; weight 17.50 grams; composition .9167 gold, .0833 silver and copper; approx. diameter 33 mm; reeded edge.
LIBERTY HEAD, NO MOTTO ABOVE EAGLE (1838 -1866)
In 1838, the weight and diameter of the eagles were reduced and the obverse and reverse were redesigned. Liberty now faces left and the word LIBERTY is placed on the coronet. A more natural-appearing eagle is used on the reverse. The value, TEN D., is shown for the first time on this denomination. Designer Christian Gobrecht; weight 16.718 grams: composition .900 gold, .100 copper (net weight: .48375 oz.
pure gold): diameter 27 mm; reeded edge; mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans. San Francisco.
LIBERTY HEAD, MOTTO ABOVE EAGLE (1866-1907)
Standards as for No Motto variety; mints: Philadelphia, Carson City, Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco.
INDIAN HEAD (1907-1933)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, considered by many the greatest of modern sculptors, introduced a new high standard of art in United States coins evidenced by his eagle and double eagle types of 1907. The obverse of the eagle shows the head of Liberty crowned with an Indian war bonnet while an impressively majestic eagle dominates the reverse side. A departure from older standards is found on the edge of the piece, where 46 raised stars (48 stars in 1912 and later) are arranged signifying the states of the Union, instead of there being a lettered or reeded edge.
The first of these coins struck had no motto IN GOD WE TRUST as had the later issues, starting in 1908. President Theodore Roosevelt personally objected to the use of the Deity's name on coins. The motto was restored to the coins by an act of Congress in 1908. Designer Augustus Saint-Gaudens: standards same as for previous issue: edge: (1907-1911) 46 raised stars, (1912-1933) 48 raised stars: mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco.
Variety 1 - No Motto on Reverse (1907-1908)
Gem Uncirculated (MS-65) coins are rare and worth substantial premiums.
LIBERTY HEAD (1849-1907)
This largest denomination of all regular United States issues was authorized to be coined by the Act of March 3, 1849. Its weight was 516 grains, .900 fine. The 1849 double eagle is a unique pattern and reposes in the Smithsonian. The 1861 reverse
design by Anthony C. Paquet was withdrawn soon after being struck. Very few pieces are known. Designer James B. Longacre; weight 33.436 grams: composition .900 gold, .100 copper (net weight: .96750 02. pure gold): diameter 34 mm; reeded edge: mints: Philadelphia, Carson City, Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco.
Without Motto on Reverse (1849-1866)
Motto Above Eagle (1866-1876)
Many consider the twenty-dollar gold piece designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens to be the most beautiful U.S. coin. The first coins issued were slightly more than 12,000 high-relief pieces struck for general circulation. The relief is much higher than for later issues, and the date 1907 is in Roman numerals (MCMVII). A few of the Proof coins were made using the lettered-edge collar from the ultra high relief version. These can be distinguished by a pronounced bottom left serif on the N in UNUM, and other minor differences. High-relief Proofs are trial or experimental pieces. Flat-relief double eagles were issued later in 1907 with Arabic numerals, and continued through 1933.
The field of the rare, ultra high relief experimental pieces is excessively concave and connects directly with the edge without any border, giving it a sharp, knifelike appearance; Liberty's skirt shows two folds on the side of her right leg; the Capitol building in the background at left is very small; the sun, on the reverse side, has 14 rays, as opposed to the 13 rays on regular high-relief coins.
The Proof finish of 1908 and 1911 through 1915 coins was originally referred to as Sand Blast Proof by the Mint. Proof coins minted in 1909 and 1910 have a different finish described as Satin Proof. In addition, double eagles from 1907 through 1911 have 46 stars on the obverse; and from 1912 through 1933, 48 stars. Designer Augustus Saint-Gaudens; standards same as for previous issue; edge: E PLURIBUS UNUM with words divided by stars (one specimen of the high-relief variety with plain edge is known}; mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco.
Ultra High Relief Pattern, MCMVII (1907): Circulation Strike Mintage Estimated 18 - 22, less 2 melted.
1907, Ultra High Relief, Plain Edge (unique)
1907, Ultra High Relief. Lettered Edge
It seems reasonable to assume that MCMVII Ultra High Relief double eagles were struck on several different occasions, divided as follows: First Striking: Edge lettering style of 1906. Two specimens recorded. These would seem to be of special historical importance. As both show signs of handling, perhaps these were retained for a time at the artist's studio, although he cataloguer hesitates to add any more speculation to a scenario that already has quite a few unknowns. Second Striking: Regular edge lettering style, lettering in correct (right-side up) orientation. A candidate for being among the earlier pieces struck in February 1907, for it seems unlikely that coins with upside-down edge lettering would have passed muster. Third Striking: Regular edge lettering style, but with lettering inverted. Possibly struck after the Second Striking pieces, but how much later is not known. Final Striking: Plain edge. Cracked reverse die. A candidate for having been struck by George T. Morgan after "February 1907. Part of the Captain Andrew North Collection of Saint-Gaudens coinage displayed by Stack's at he 1956 ANA Convention, later widely cited.
[The order of the second and third striking is not known, but could be determined if a coin could be found with beginning traces of the die break that is evident on the final striking coin.
1907 $20 HIGH RELIEF: Circulation Strike Mintage 12,367. Proof Mintage Opinions vary, from none to 100 or more. Roman numerals High Relief. Saint-Gaudens regular issue. The MCMVII High Relief double eagle is a coin that everybody loves. More detail...
Courtesy Garrett and Guth: Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins Courtesy Q. David Bowers: A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins