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Pre-1933 Gold Coins

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The History of Pre-1933 Classic Gold Coins

1796 to 1849, The Years of Scarcity

The use of Spanish Gold Coins continued long after the U.S. Mint starting striking it's own gold coins. The result was the Capped Bust Gold struck between 1796 and 1834, the Classic Head Gold minted between 1834 and 1838, and the first Liberty Head Gold coins struck up to 1849 were all minted in relatively small numbers. As a result, these first U.S. gold coins are highly coveted by numismatists today. During this period, the $10 Gold Eagle was the largest denomination struck, augmented by the $2.50 Quarter Eagle and the $5 Half Eagle.


Valuable Branch Mint Gold

Many people aren't aware that the United States had two Gold Rushes before gold was discovered in California, which were centered near Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia. Small Mints were established in these two cities in order to begin the minting of the newly mined gold into coins. Only small gold coins, the $1 Indian Princess, the $2.50 Quarter Eagle and the $5 Half Eagle, were struck at the Mints in Charlotte and Dahlonega between 1838 and 1860. These coins were virtually all released into circulation and are incredibly scarce today, as are gold coins struck in New Orleans between 1838 and 1906.


California Gold Rush Coins

Everything changed with the discovery of gold in California in 1848. A continuous stream of the precious, yellow metal began flowing into the mint in 1849. As a result, two new denominations were born: the $1 gold and the $20 Gold Double Eagle. The Double Eagle was the largest circulating gold coin struck by the Mint until 1933.


Until 1907, the design of U.S. Gold coins, with a few minor alterations, featured Lady Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse, designed by Christian Gobrecht. At the end of the Civil War, the motto, "In God We Trust," was added to the design on the reverse.


The Roosevelt Saint-Gaudens Revolution

Late in Theodore Roosevelt's term as president, he set his sights on remolding U.S. Gold coinage to represent America's new status as a world power. He felt the designs used since 1849 were bland and uninspired. He commissioned America's most famous sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design a new $10 Gold Indian and $20 Gold Double Eagle. The president was ecstatic with the Saint-Gaudens designs, declaring them to be the most beautiful gold coins struck since the days of Ancient Greece and Rome. In addition, Roosevelt engaged Bela Lyon Pratt to redesign the $2.50 and $5 gold coins with a never before used incuse design, which is struck below the surface of the coins.

$1 Gold Dollars


Pre-1933 One Dollar Gold Coins were struck between 1849 and 1889. Three varieties were minted; these are known as Type I (1849-1854), Type II (1854¬-1856) and Type III (1856-1889).

$2.5 Gold Quarter Eagles


Pre-1933 Two And Half Dollar Gold Quarter Eagles were minted between 1796 and 1929. These are the Capped Bust varieties (1796-1834), the Classic Head (1834-1839), the Liberty Head (1840-1907), and the Indian (1908-1929).

$3 and $4 Gold Dollars


Pre-1933 Three Dollar Gold Coins were struck between 1854 and 1889 in a design featuring an Indian Princess.

$5 Gold Half Eagles


Pre-1933 Five Dollar Half Eagles were minted between 1795 and 1929. These are the Capped Bust varieties (1795-1834), the Classic Head (1834-1838), the Liberty Head (1839-1907), and the Indian (1908-1929).

$10 Gold Eagles


Pre-1933 Ten Dollar Gold Coins were minted between 1795 and 1933. These are the Capped Bust (1796-1797), the Heraldic Eagle (1797-1804), the Liberty Head (1838-1907), and the Indian (1907-1933).

$20 Gold Double Eagles


Pre-1933 Twenty Dollar Gold Double Eagles were minted between 1849 and 1933. These are the Liberty Head (1849-1907) and the Saint-Gaudens (1907-1933).