Three Dollar Gold Pieces, 1854-1889
Designed by James B. Longacre, Three-Dollar Gold Pieces were authorized on February 21, 1853, virtually escaping notice when included in a subsidiary silver coinage bill presented to Congress. This coin served little useful purpose, except for redemption at the post office for 100 stamps, and was a generally unpopular coin. Even so, the Three-Dollar Gold Piece was minted for 35 years, usually in limited numbers.
The Three-Dollar gold series is one of the most popular of all gold series to acquire by advanced collectors and investors. This is due in part to the fact that of the 81 issues minted in both Proof and Business strikes, only one coin’s mintage exceeds 100,000 pieces. In fact, 73 coins, or 90%, have an original mintage of less than 10,000 pieces! This relative rarity does not indicate, however, that most of these coins cannot be acquired. To the contrary, most coins are at least available in About Uncirculated condition, with many available in Uncirculated and unimpaired Proof condition.
The Three-Dollar gold piece is also popular with those attempting to acquire a basic example of each gold denomination, such as a twelve-piece gold Type set. An 1874 or 1878 is usually the date an investor purchases typically after has acquired a four-piece Liberty and a four-piece Indian Type set, and has either acquired two or three of the One Dollar Gold pieces.
All Three-Dollar Gold Pieces are scarce, particularly in Mint State. Only slightly more than 500,000 coins of all dates and mintmarks were produced. Particularly rare are the 1854-D, the 1865, the 1870-S, and the proof-only original issues of 1873 and the 1875. There is a confirmed branch mint Proof coin struck at San Francisco in 1855 that is one of the great rarities in the entire U.S. gold series. Finally, only one example of the legendary 1870-S $3 Gold Piece is known today and is permanently impounded in the Bass Research Foundation, although a second specimen was rumored to have been placed in the cornerstone of the old San Francisco Mint.