Over the decades, Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries has handled every U.S. gold dollar issue, including the ultra-rare 1849-C “Open Wreath.” We specialize in higher-grade Mint State and Proof issues and cater to numismatists looking for just the “right” coins for their collections. View our gold dollar inventory now. >
The History of Gold Dollars
With the California Gold Rush of 1849, the need for additional denominations of gold coins became apparent. As a result, the U.S. Congress authorized two new gold denominations that year: the gold dollar and the double eagle ($20 gold piece). Physically speaking, gold dollars are the smallest U.S. coins and were struck every year from 1849 through 1889. Five different U.S. mints contributed to their mintage: Philadelphia; San Francisco; Dahlonega, Georgia; New Orleans; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Three basic designs were issued for this denomination:
Type I Gold Dollar Coins — Issued 1849–1854. This type features James Longacre’s Liberty Head design on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse. With a composition of 90 percent gold and 10 percent copper, these coins weigh 1.672 g with a diameter of 13 mm. These were the smallest U.S. coins (diameter-wise) ever produced.
Type II Gold Dollar Coins — Issued 1854–1856. This design, also by James Longacre, features an obverse with an Indian princess and a modified wreath on the reverse. The diameter of the coins was increased to 15 mm, while the weight remained at 1.672 g.
Type III Gold Dollar Coins— Issued 1856–1889. The Indian head was modified and slightly enlarged beginning in 1856. The weight and diameter are identical to the Type II design.
For most years, sufficient quantities of these coins were minted, which makes nearly all dates rather easily obtainable for a determined collector. The Charlotte and Dahlonega dates, however, are much more difficult to find and more expensive than those struck at the other mints. Plus, coins from these two mints were often crudely struck, causing the more perfect, higher-quality specimens to be quite difficult to obtain. Otherwise, just a few dates of U.S. gold dollars could be considered “rare,” thus costing princely sums. The 1849-C with the“Open Wreath” design (less than a half dozen reported) tops this list. Other“pricey” dates include:
- 1875 (Mintage: a mere 400 pieces!)
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