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.
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.