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What to Look for in U.S. $1 Gold Coins from 1849-1889

What to Look for in U.S. $1 Gold Coins from 1849-1889

Collecting pre-1933 United States $1 gold coins offers an exciting way to connect with history and build wealth. At the same time, assembling such a collection is a fun and rewarding venture. It helps if you know as much as possible about these coins before you start, though. The more you know, the easier it will be to recognize when it’s time to buy or sell your gold coins. Here’s what you need to know about the $1 gold coins that were produced between 1849 and 1889.

History of U.S. $1 Gold Coins Pre-1933

In 1791, Alexander Hamilton suggested that the U.S. mint legal-tender one-dollar coins in both gold and silver. However, Congress only followed through with the silver coins. Private issue coins were minted starting in 1831, but the U.S. Mint still wasn’t on board.

At various times, $1 gold coins were proposed, but each time, something prevented the gold dollars from being struck for circulation. However, this situation changed quickly with the massive influx of gold from the California Gold Rush, which began on January 24, 1848. In the end, although the U.S. produced gold coins earlier, the first one-dollar gold coins were struck as a regular issue in 1849.

However, the U.S. $1 gold coins were not destined to continue into the 1890s. The coins were so small they weren’t convenient to use. What’s more, many people used them for ornaments or gifts. This is evidenced by the decent number of $1 gold coins that have been drilled or “holed.” By 1890, Congress had passed legislation to abolish the gold dollar. In 1889, just before the Act passed, the mint stopped producing gold coins in the $1 denomination.

Then, in 1933, after the Great Depression hit, President Roosevelt signed executive order 6102, which required citizens to turn in gold coins to be melted. The only exceptions were that collectors were allowed to keep numismatic or collectible pre-1933 gold coins. Otherwise, they would likely all have been melted.

Types of Gold Dollars from 1849-1854

Only three types of U.S. $1 coins were produced for circulation by the government mint before 1933. Each was designed by the Mint Chief Engraver, a man named James B. Longacre. The first of those coins were minted in 1849. From then until 1889, the mint produced legal-tender $1 gold coins. The design type changed so that there ended up being three different types.

Liberty Head $1 Gold Coin, Type 1

Among the early, classic gold coins dated before 1933, the Liberty Head $1 gold coins were the first $1 gold coins to be made by the U.S. Mint for circulation. It was the smallest coin in the history of the U.S., yet it was extremely popular for everyday use. The following are the basic facts to know about these coins to recognize them and understand their value.

Basic FactsType 1 $1 Dollar Gold Coin

Years: 1849-1854
Denomination: $1
Size: 13mm diameter
Weight: 1.672 grams
Gold content: 0.04837 troy ounces
Edge: Reeded
Purity: .90 fine gold
Mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, Charlotte, Dahlonega

Description

In the type 1 design for the $1 gold coins, the Liberty head faces left. She wears a coronet bearing the word “Liberty” on her head. Thirteen stars encircle her image to represent the original 13 states. On the reverse, you will see the date and denomination within a wreath, which shows holly and berries. Engraved around this center is the name of the country, “United States of America.”

Varieties

The most important varieties of the Liberty Head Type 1 gold dollars are the open wreath and closed wreath. Originally designed with an open wreath, the 1849 coins can show a wreath with plenty of space between the wreath top and the number “1.”

However, the 1849 closed wreath $1 gold coins show the tops of the wreath nearly touching the number. The 1849-C open wreath is a highly sought-after coin, and the open wreath coins feature shorter sprigs on the wreath.

In addition, some of the 1849 coins are missing the tiny initial “L,” which was Longacre’s signature. This created two more varieties, the “With L” and the “No L.” Since With L Liberty Head coins are more common, the No L coins are more popular with coin collectors.

Value

Liberty Head $1 cold coins vary in value, like all other coins, based on several factors. If the coin is altered, damaged, or exceptionally worn, it will be worth the price of the gold content. In that case, you multiply the weight in troy ounces by the current price of gold.

However, if the coin is intact, its price will likely trade in the $200 range for more common coins in this series. A high-quality, fully uncirculated coin brings much more, of course. In addition, the rarer varieties are worth more. Because it is so hard for a non-expert to determine the grade, it is always best to talk to a coin professional about your coin. Then, for even further information on value, you could have the coin authenticated and graded by a coin grading company if it has not already been done.

If you are interested in selling any of your gold coins, make sure to check out our article discussing How to Sell Your Rare Coins or give us a call today.

 

$1 Indian Princess Head Gold Coin Type 2

In 1855, Longacre created a new design for the $1 gold coins. This coin, called type 2, featured an Indian Princess image. This coin was also just a bit larger than the type 1 coins. Because the princess on this coin was smaller than the type 3, it is often called the Indian Princess Small Head gold coin.

Basic FactsType 2 $1 Dollar Gold Coin

Years: 1854-1856
Denomination: $1
Size: 15mm diameter
Weight: 1.627 grams
Gold content: 0.04837 troy ounces
Edge: Reeded
Purity: .90 fine gold
Mints: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans, San Francisco

Description

The $1 gold coins called the type 2 Indian Princess Head feature Lady Liberty depicted as a Native American princess. The lady faces left and wears a feathered headdress. Around the image are the words “United States of America.”

On the reverse is an agricultural wreath that includes corn, cotton, wheat, and tobacco. Inside the wreath are the denomination and year, with “United States of America” around the outside of the wreath.

Varieties

The type 2 Indian Princess “Small Head” $1 gold coins were only struck for three years. During that time, poor strikes were common due to the high-relief design of the coin. High points on the date and center of the word “Dollar” tended to be weak. Yet, collectors love this type when looking for pre-1933 coins for sale, mainly because it is overall a rare type of coin.

Value

The type 2 Indian Princess coins are the scarcest of the $1 gold coins today. In fact, only about 2 million of the type two coins were ever struck. The rarest of these coins is the 1855-D (Dahlonega). Depending on the condition, this coin can range from a few thousands upwards of five figures if in certified uncirculated condition. The most common date status goes to two coins from the Philadelphia Mint – the 1854 and 1854 dates. Any type 2 coins from this series are rare and valuable if above the grade of MS-64.

 

$1 Indian Princess Head Gold Coin Type 3

The type 3 pre-1933 $1 gold coins have been called the “Large Head” Indian Princess owing to the fact that the head on this coin is larger than that on type 2.

Basic Facts$1 Type 3 Gold Coin

Years: 1856-1889
Denomination: $1
Size: 15mm diameter
Weight: 1.627 grams
Gold content: 0.0538 troy ounces
Edge: Reeded
Purity: .90 fine gold
Mints: Philadelphia, Dahlonega, Charlotte, San Francisco

Description

Longacre adjusted the design of the Type 2 Indian Princess coin for the second version, which was called Type 3, or Large Head Indian Princess. It was roughly the same image, but the relief was lowered, and the head was repositioned. The reverse is the same, with the agricultural wreath, date, and country.

Varieties

Four different varieties exist and have to do with the way the numbers were struck on the Indian Princess Type 3 coins. Some coins were minted with a closed 3 and some with an open 3 on the date of the coin. There are also two varieties with respect to the number “5.” There’s an upright or standard version and a slanted variety. Values vary based on the variety type and condition of the coins.

Value

Rarity, of course, has a huge bearing on price. Many of the Type 3 Indian Princess U.S. $1 gold coins were struck better than the Type 2 coins. However, at the Dahlonega Mint, quality control issues resulted in coins that were not struck well.

The two most common years were 1856 and 1862, but in other years, very few were minted. For example, 1875 was the lowest year, with only 400 gold dollars made. Two coins, the 1856-D and the 1861-D, are exceedingly rare and valued highly by collectors.

As for specific value, consider asking a coin dealer. The price can vary from melt value for coins with no collector’s value to hundreds or even thousands of dollars for rarer coins in excellent condition. For example, Coinweek cites the price at auction of an 1884 Indian Princess Type 2 in MS-69 condition as $25,850 in 2015. Granted, very few $1 coins are such a fine specimen, but they do exist, and can be quite valuable.

Do Coin Dealers Buy and Sell Pre-1933 Gold $1 Coins?

If you are wondering where you can buy or sell pre-1933 gold coins, you need to look no further than a trusted precious metals dealer. At Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, we have many $1 gold coins in our inventory and may be able to source a particular coin for you. Additionally, we’re frequent buyers of $1 gold coins and regularly purchase these coins in raw and certified condition; many from estate coin collections.

Talk to us today to learn more about what your coins are worth. Whether you are buying or selling, we are happy to help with all of your precious metal needs! Reach out via email or phone today to schedule your appointment with Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers!

Atlanta Gold and Coin Buyers

Tony Davis
Tony Davis