Gold Dollars, 1849-1889
A very powerful gold lobby and the public’s general distrust of paper currency led to the authorization of the $1 gold piece under the Act of March 3, 1849. Three main types of Gold Dollars were produced, all designed by James B. Longacre. These include:
1849-1854 Liberty Head Type
1854-1856 Indian, Small Head Type
1856-1889 Indian, Large Head Type
The first type, Type 1, was struck on small planchets and issued from 1849 to 1854 and portrayed a “Liberty” head with the denomination and date within a wreath on the reverse. In 1854, the second Type was introduced by increasing the diameter of the coin. Also, the Liberty head was abandoned in favor of a stylized female Indian head. In 1856, the Indian head was enlarged for the Type 3 Gold Dollar. Of the three types, the second is generally the scarcest, although each type does have its own scarcer dates. Gold Dollars were struck at the Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charlotte (North Carolina), Dahlonega (Georgia), and San Francisco Mints.
The 1875 Philadelphia Mint Gold Dollar has one of the lowest mintages (400 Business Strikes with 20 Proofs) of any regular issue U.S. gold coin, but it has appeared at auction more frequently than other low mintage dates, such as the 1863 (mintage 6,200). Because poor quality blanks were often used at those mints other than Philadelphia, it is particularly difficult to find attractive and well-struck branch mint Gold Dollars, particularly ones from the Charlotte and Dahlonega. Those coins that are considered very rare to extremely rare are 1849-C Open Wreath (of which only five are traced), the 1855-C and 1855-D Type 2 Gold Dollars, the 1856-D and 1861-D issues. Each of these aforementioned coins is extremely rare in About Uncirculated and virtually unheard of in uncirculated condition.