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Liberty Head Gold Dollars (1849-1854)

1854 Gold Dollar

Prior to gold dollars being issued in 1849, private minters supplied miners with a means of converting their oar and gold dust into currency. However, since the coins produced were variable in fineness and often counterfeited, a bill was introduced in 1844 for the government to make gold dollars. Mint Director Robert Patterson was opposed. He lied when he claimed that there was no public demand for these Gold Dollar coins. The truth is that Patterson did not want James Longacre making new dies because it might interfere with his friend Franklin Peale’s medal-making business that was being run out of the Mint. Patterson hoped that Longacre’s job would be abolished if new coinage was not needed. Despite Patterson’s objections, Longacre prevailed and made the new dies for the gold dollar. It became an alternative to the silver dollar.

James B. Longacre designed three gold dollar types. The first was the Liberty Head that was minted from 1849 to 1854. The obverse shows Liberty facing left. On her head is a coronet inscribed LIBERTY in incuse letters. Her hair is combed back into a hair knot. Loose hair encircles her head beneath the coronet, and several curls hang down her neck. Encircling her head are thirteen six-pointed stars. Dentils are near the edge on both sides of the coin. The reverse has an open wreath of berries tied in a bow at the bottom. A large numeral one is near the top. The word DOLLAR is underneath, and the date is below the denomination. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is in an arc around the wreath. The mintmark is below the knot of the bow.

One thousand coins were struck on May 8, 1849. Today these are known as the No L variety because Longacre’s initial did not appear on the coin. Since the dies quickly cracked, new ones were prepared with the motif slightly redesigned. Most Type 1 gold dollars were struck in Philadelphia. These are the most common coins of the type today. They were also minted in the branch mints, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The coins from these mints are much rarer than those of Philadelphia. The 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar is the rarest with only four examples known today. While most dates and mints are available in circulated condition, only Philadelphia specimens are easily obtainable in mint state.

Varieties include the 1849 (Philadelphia) Open and Close Wreath, Small and Large Head, With L and No L; the 1849-C Open and Close Wreath; and the 1849-D and O with Open Wreath. Proof Type 1 gold dollar coins are almost non-existent with only 2 known from 1850.

Weight: 1.672 grams
Composition: .900 gold, .100 silver
Net weight: .04837 AGW
Diameter: 13 millimeters
Edge: reeded


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