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US Gold Coins Before 1933

By Edited May 16, 2015 2 2

History of Dollar Eagles 

Coinage of the gold dollar was authorized on March 3, 1849. The Dollar Eagle weight was 1.672 grams with .04837 ounces of pure gold.

The first type, struck until 1854, is known as the Liberty Head or small-sized type (Type 1). In 1854, the dollar coins were made larger in diameter and thinner and the design was changed to a feather headdress on a female,. This 1854 design is called the Indian Princess Head or large-sized type (Type 2).

In 1856, a slight change enlarged the head size resulting in Type 3.

Summary of Dollar Eagle Types:
• Liberty Head (1849-1854)
• Indian Princess Head, Small Head (1854-1856)
• Indian Princess Head, Large Head (1856-1889)

Historical Background for Quarter Eagles

Authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, the Quarter Eagle was first struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1796. However, the run was short lived and low mintage. No Quarter Eagles were even issued between 1809 and 1820. and continued low mintages resumed until 1834. Earlier Quarter Eagles issue dates are therefore extremely rare.

The Quarter Eagle went through 6 designs in its history. The composition was also modified by the US Mint through the years. The first issue of the Quarter Eagle was struck from .9167-fine gold. In 1834, its composition changed to .8992-fine gold. In 1837, Congress raised the gold-purity of the Quarter Eagle to .900-fine gold where is remained until the coin was discontinued in 1929.

Summary of Quarter Eagle Types:
• Capped Bust to Right (1796-1807)
• Capped Bust to Left (1808)
• --No Issue-- (1809-1820)
• Capped Head to Left (1821-1834)
• Classic Head, No Motto (1834-1839)
• Liberty Head (1840-1907) 
• Indian Head (1908-1929)

Background of the $5 Liberty Gold Coin

The $5 Liberty is unique as the only coin in U.S. history to be produced at all seven federal mints but prior to 1838, all Half Eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

Like the Quarter Eagle of half it's value, the design, composition, and weight of the Half Eagle was changed many times throughout its production history. The original coin, featuring Robert Scot's design, weighed 8.75 grams and had a gold purity of .9167. However, from 1837 and until the Half Eagle was discontinued in 1929, it was struck from .900-fine gold.

The 7 Half Eagle Types:
• Capped Bust Right (1795-1807) 
• Capped Bust Left (1807-1812) 
• Capped Head Left (1813-1834)
• Classic Head (1834-1838) 
• Liberty Head No Motto (1839-1866)
• Liberty Head with Motto (1866-1908) 
• Indian Head (1908-1929)

Historical Background of the $10 Gold Eagle

With a face value of $10, the Gold Eagle served as the base unit of denomination for all gold coinage in the United States for nearly 140 years and it was one of the most widely circulated coins. 

Gold Eagles were struck by the U.S. Mint from 1795 until 1933, when all U.S. gold coins were recalled per the executive order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

For 54 years Eagles were the largest gold coin denomination produced by the U.S. Mint. until the introduction of the $20 Double Eagle gold coin in 1849.

The 6 Eagle Types:
• Capped Bust To Right Small Eagle (1795-1797)
• Capped Bust To Right Heraldic Eagle (1797-1804)
• Liberty Head No Motto (1838-1866)
• Liberty Head Motto (1866-1907)
• Indian Head No Motto (1907-1908) 
• Indian Head Motto (1908-1933)

Double Gold Eagle Historical Background 

The California Gold Rush, starting in 1848, provided the impetus for a larger gold coin. In 1849 a limited number of $20 gold coins called Double Eagles were struck and production was ramped up in 1850. Double Eagles were produced until 1933 when all Gold coins were recalled. Throughout the 84-year production run, there was only one major obverse designs change - from the Liberty Head (Coronet) to the Saint Gaudens. The Saint Gaudens Double Eagle is named for Augustus Saint Gaudens the renowned artist and sculptor who created the magnificent "Striding Liberty" design for the obverse, considered by many collectors to be one of the most beautiful coin designs ever created.

The 4 Double Eagle Types:
• Liberty Head No Motto (1849-1866)
• Liberty Head Motto (1866-1876)
• Saint Gaudens No Motto (1907-1908) 
• Saint Gaudens Motto (1908-1933)



Feb 10, 2012 11:05pm
Great article I just started getting into the gold coins, I'm a real copper collector from way back. The gold is so much more fun to hold. Thumbs up from me!
Feb 11, 2012 1:29am
Nice article. I could read these all day long. I love gold. Even watching it on TV. I grew up on the dust of a former gold rush town (Fairview) in the Canadian desert.
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