Popular United States Collector Gold Coins
The smallest coin in U.S. history, the gold dollar was first introduced in 1849 amidst the California Gold Rush. Beginning in 1854, the coin employed the Indian Princess design of the Mint's chief engraver, James Longacre. The coin was struck at various Branch Mints throughout its tenure, presenting many varieties for a collector to include in a set.
Many of these gold dollars were widely circulated, providing collectors with very affordable specimens, while making full Mint State specimens a prize to aspire towards.
Struck from 1854 to 1889, this unusual denomination found a fair amount of use and circulation, but never for the ostensible purpose it was designed for. The American public welcomed the introduction of the three-cent postage stamp (reduced from the previous five cent rate), and the three-cent coin designed to facilitate its purchase. Congress hoped a $3 coin would be used to purchase full sheets of postage stamps and facilitate trade for rolls of the new 3¢ piece, but neither materialized during the 35 year history of the coin.
A little more than a half million of these coins were struck, including issues from the New Orleans, Dahlonega, and San Francisco branch mints. Given the relatively obscurity of the coin it's perhaps not surprising to find numerous dates and varieties (including proofs) that are genuinely rare in all grades. It's a coin that collectors are always proud to own, and one that numismatic investors can readily look to for a deep, foundational portfolio piece.
Introduced in 1908, Bela Lyon Pratt's design for the $2.5 and $5 gold coin remains one of the most innovative, unusual, and controversial designs in the entire history of United States coinage. The design elements of the coin are incuse, or sunken into the coin rather than raised. No other coin before or since has employed this type of strike, giving it a great "wow" factor when seen for the first time.
The coin also marked another first in U.S. coinage: Unlike earlier "Indian Princess" designs, this coin would be the first to offer an accurate depiction of a Native American. With only 15 date and mint combinations, a complete set is a goal attainable on most collector budgets.
While sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is most strongly associated with his design for the $20 Double Eagle coin, which endures today on every modern American Eagle gold coin, he is also the artist behind the contemporary $10 Eagle coin, struck from 1907 to 1933. The image of Liberty on the coin's obverse was borrowed from Saint-Gauden's portrayal of the Greek goddess Nike, adorned with a Native American war bonnet at Roosevelt's insistence.
The coin offers many options for collectors and investors, with dates and varieties readily available in high grades, combined with challenging issues for the serious collector and numismatic investor.
Widely hailed as the most beautiful and iconic coin in American history, the $20 Double Eagle struck from 1907 to 1933 is almost certainly the most storied, as well. With strong encouragement from President Theodore Roosevelt, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens set out with a stunningly ambitious idea for the new coin.
Mint officials howled in protest at early prototypes, designed in "ultra high relief" that required multiple strikes to be made on each coin. Even a compromised high relief version was deemed too impractical, after limited production in 1907-1908.
Fortunately, the design proved stunning even when struck to standard, traditional relief. As the largest denomination of gold coinage, the Double Eagle was not commonly carried in the pockets of the average citizen, but rather was used in business, banking, and trade - both domestic and international. This gave it an almost mythic symbolism that continues to endure to this day. The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle remains the most iconic and familiar gold coin in American coin collecting, with specimens running the gamut from near-bullion-value to the most valuable and elite coins to be held by any institution or individual.
Beginning in 1850, the U.S. Treasury introduced the $20 "Double Eagle" denomination in response to the vast new gold supply discovered in California. The coin proved important in international trade for payment of large sums of money.
Three types were produced in successive eras, until the design was retired in 1907 with the introduction of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. The Mint's chief engraver, John B. Longacre, designed the coin with an image of Liberty based on Roman sculpture.