Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
The first gold dollars coined in the United States were those produced in 1831 by the Bechtler Family from its own dies and using native Georgia and North Carolina gold. Learn More...
Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
The first gold dollars coined in the United States were those produced in 1831 by the Bechtler Family from its own dies and using native Georgia and North Carolina gold. A federal coin of this value was proposed in 1836, at which time pattern pieces were struck, but the plan soon faded away. It was not until the rich discoveries of gold in California in 1848-49 that the idea of a federal gold dollar coin was finally embraced by Congress. Chief Engraver James B. Longacre prepared the dies for this coin, which debuted in the spring of 1849. For the coin's obverse he utilized a reduction of the Liberty bust shared with the mighty double eagle coin, both pieces having been authorized by legislation passed March 3, 1849. The reverse featured a simple wreath enclosing the coin's date and value.
These first gold dollars were only 12.7mm in diameter, and the coins were easily dropped and lost. Therefore, a new version debuted in 1854 which was slightly thinner and enlarged to 14.3mm in diameter. These proved satisfactory, and this size was retained through the end of the series in 1889. Longacre replaced his tiara-wearing Liberty with one displaying a Native American headdress, and the wreath on the coin's reverse was broadened at the same time. While attractive, this type proved to not strike up very well, and it was replaced just two years later. A larger portrait of Liberty was adopted, Longacre simply making a reduction of the image he'd created for the three-dollar piece in 1854. This bust was shallower in relief, and the resulting coins struck up much better. This third type of gold dollar was coined annually through 1889, at which time the gold dollar denomination was declared obsolete and stricken from the U. S. Mint's roster.
Gold dollars are rich in varieties, yet most of them are fairly minor. The Small Head, Open Wreath and Closed Wreath subtypes of 1849 are not true varieties, and NGC will attribute these at no additional cost. The same is true of the transitional 1854 gold dollars that were coined in two different types. In addition to these basic subtypes, NGC will attribute several true varieties under its VarietyPlus Service and requires payment of the additional VarietyPlus fee. Some of these have FS numbers from The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins. Those not attributed by FS numbers have been assigned VarietyPlus (VP) numbers by NGC. Most of these are cross-referenced to their equivalent Breen numbers within the VarietyPlus table.
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