Dollar Gold - Longacre's Three Dollar Gold (1854 - 1889):
Of all the gold coin series, Longacre's Three Dollar Gold
is in many ways the least complex. There was just one major
design, the Indian Princess motif, and the coins were produced
continuously from 1854 to 1889. In the first year a variety
was made in that all the coins have the word DOLLARS in small
letters, and in 1873 there were Open and Closed 3’s
in the date.
James Longacre designed the
Three Dollar Gold coin using the Indian Princess for his main
device. He had to create a motif for the Three Dollar Gold
coin that would be distinctly different from the quarter and
half eagle coronet designs. The design, similar to his Gold
Dollar Large Head, shows a Caucasian Liberty facing left in
profile wearing a stylized headdress. Inscribed on the headband
is LIBERTY. She is surrounded by the words UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA. In using the Indian Princess design, Longacre felt
that he was creating something that was uniquely American
rather than an adoption from the classics. How ironic, from
a modern perspective, that Longacre choose a Native American
theme to be emblematic of Liberty considering the treatment
they received at the hands of the white man. The reverse of
the Three Dollar Gold piece shows an open wreath of corn,
cotton, wheat, and tobacco tied at the bottom with a bow.
The denomination 3 appears at the top center of the wreath,
with DOLLARS and the date below within the wreath. Longacre
liked the wreath design so much that he adopted it for use
on the small cent of 1856.
In 1851 a law was passed that
authorized a three cent piece and also made the postage rate
three cents. Two years later a new law was passed authorizing
a light weight silver three cent coin and Three Dollar Gold
coin. Evidently lawmakers believed that the gold coin would
be useful to buy rolls of three cent coins and sheets of stamps.
Its closeness to the quarter eagle, which was widely used,
made the denomination somewhat illogical, and the public proved
indifferent to them.
In 1854 the first and largest
mintage was produced. Many were saved as souvenirs. Others
briefly circulated and ended up being used for jewelry. Only
1854 had smaller letters in DOLLARS. The other dates all have
large letters for the denomination. Mintages were limited
after 1854. The 1873 issue had two varieties, an open 3, which
was the original, and a closed 3. In 1872 dies with closed
3 were made for all denominations. Chief Coiner Snowden complained
that the 3 could easily be taken for an 8. New dies were prepared
with open 3’s.
Mintages for the Three Dollar
Gold range from a high of 138,000 in 1854 to 500 in 1881,
although the mintage of the 1873 Close 3 is unknown. In their
population reports, the two major grading services show a
combined total of 110 pieces certified, but this number does
not account for resubmissions and crossovers.