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Proof Gold Dollars - Proof Gold Coins
Proof Gold Dollar

United States Proof One Dollar Gold Coins: Beginning in 1854, proof one dollar gold coins were struck almost continuously through 1889. Utilizing designs by Chief Engraver of the Mint James B. Longacre, three distinct types were produced. These are the Liberty Head (Type 1), the Indian Princess Head, Small Head (Type 2) and the Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). The original Type 1 pieces were a tiny 13mm in diameter and had to be modified to better facilitate the minting process as well as to differentiate them from small silver coins also in circulation. In 1854, Type 2 pieces were issued and enlarged to 15mm. On the Type 2, the obverse design was changed to that of an Indian Princess but the height of relief on the coin proved problematic and the design was again modified in 1856 with the Type 3.

Of the 39 issues comprising this series, the vast majority of dates vary from challenging to extremely difficult to virtually impossible to locate. In stark contrast, the final issues from the late 1880’s are some of the most readily available and affordable U.S. proof gold coins.

With the above in mind, this fascinating series seems to be underpriced and overlooked in today’s marketplace relative to their larger denomination brethren of similar rarity. Miniscule mintages, low survival rates, a Civil War subset, and a lengthy run all combine to make this series extremely fascinating and may prove in the future to be quite the opportunity for those serious collectors/investors who choose to pursue it.

 

DATE
NOTES
Proof 1849 Gold Dollar
1849 $1 Liberty Head (Type 1) No L, Open Wreath. Survival estimates for this issue are subjective but consensus places the number at a half dozen or less. One piece resides in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and the rest are in private hands and rarely ever seen at auction. The lone certified piece is one graded PF-64 CAM by NGC.
Proof 1850 Gold Dollar
1850 $1 Liberty Head (Type 1). It is believed that a complete proof set was struck in 1850. The only confirmed piece known has been graded PR-60 by PCGS. It last traded in 1995 at the Long Beach Auction and was sold for $7,480.
Proof 1854 Gold Dollar, Type 1
1854 $1 Liberty Head (Type 1). Only one piece is confirmed and it resides in the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation Collection. Another piece was reportedly sent in 1854 to Bremen, Germany but has never surfaced and cannot be confirmed.
Proof 1854 Gold Dollar, Type 2
1854 $1 Indian Princess Head, Small Head (Type 2). As of this writing only four of these are known. Two are held in museum collections and the other two reside in private collections.
Proof 1855 Gold Dollar
1855 $1 Indian Princess Head, Small Head (Type 2). While still an extreme rarity like the other early $1 gold proofs, this issue has shown up in recent years at auction and is always a very popular coin. It is estimated between 8 and 10 are known. Included in the population are many famous pedigrees including the Pittman, Clapp-Eliasberg-Trompeter, ANS Collection, Starr, Bareford, and the Norman Stack Type Set examples. The Pittman example traded hands in January 2008 at the Heritage FUN Auction for in excess of $373,000.
Proof 1856 Gold Dollar
1856 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3) Slant 5. There are two varieties known for the 1856 $1 gold issue, the Slant 5 and Upright 5, and as of this writing all known proofs of this year are of the Slant 5 variety. As with other early $1 gold proofs, no exact mintage data is available but survival estimates place the population of this coin at less than 10 known. Thus, this is yet another extremely rare and desirable coin from the $1 gold series.
Proof 1857 Gold Dollar
1857 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). As with other early $1 gold coins, no exact mintage data is available for proofs from this year. Survival estimates are from 8 to 10 pieces known in all grades. Due to the extreme rarity of this and other early Type 3 proofs, any offering of these issues must be strongly considered by the serious collector/investor.
Proof 1858 Gold Dollar
1858 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Though not seen at auction more frequently than the 1856 or 1857 issues, the 1858 is considered to be more readily available based on survival estimates ranging from 18-20 pieces known. Obviously, far from plentiful, this still is an extremely rare coin by any qualification. Unbelievably, at one time the famed Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection contained four examples.
Proof 1859 Gold Dollar
1859 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Unlike its predecessors, the 1859 has a known mintage of 80 pieces. It is believed that a good number of these have been melted and prevailing opinion is that some 20 or less remain today. Several of these reside in permanent collections such as the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Therefore, this is yet another early $1 gold proof that is rarely offered and highly treasured by the private collector/investor.
Proof 1860 Gold Dollar
1860 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). While the number of proof gold dollars minted nearly doubled from the previous year, this coin is very scarce. Survival estimates for this issue number from 35-40 pieces making it a very rare and desirable coin and its appearance in the market and at auction is no more frequent than earlier issues despite what the population would suggest.
Proof 1861 Gold Dollar
1861 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Despite the eruption of the American Civil War, the mint again produced proof $1 gold coins elevating this issue forever to a place of honor amongst numismatists. Civil War coinage, especially gold coinage, is always popular and in demand with collectors/investors. The vast majority of the pieces minted presumably found the melting pot as the surviving population estimates are only in the 35-40 range. That data makes this issue not terribly different from the 1862 issue which had a mintage of only 35. It is quite remarkable with the tenor of the times in the United States that any of these pieces survived at all.
Proof 1862 Gold Dollar
1862 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). The second Civil War proof gold dollar was produced in considerably smaller numbers than its 1861 counterpart but surviving population estimates are not dramatically different with some 20-25 of these remaining. Civil War coinage, particularly gold coinage, is always popular and in demand and thus makes this already scarce issue even more desirable and seemingly undervalued. The 1862 issue marked the first year of use for the Proof only obverse die which was employed from 1862 to 1873 and then once again in 1875 and 1876. The die is easily recognizable by the polished-out feathers found in the front of the headdress.
Proof 1863 Gold Dollar
1863 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). With the outcome of the Civil War still very much in doubt, the third Civil War proof gold dollar was minted in greater numbers than had been produced in 1862. Like earlier issues, survival estimates are between 25-30 pieces remaining in existence. Civil War coinage, particularly gold coinage, is always popular and in demand and this rare and desirable issue is no exception.
Proof 1864 Gold Dollar
1864 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). As the Civil War raged on, the fourth Civil War proof gold dollar was minted in exactly the same numbers as the prior year. Survival estimates place the remaining population of this issue at less than 20 pieces in all grades making it yet another very difficult and rare piece to obtain for the collector/investor. It should be noted that the famed Eliasberg Collection lacked this date. Remarkably, two examples now reside in the Smithsonian Institution as part of the National Numismatic Collection. Civil War coinage, particularly gold coinage, is always popular and in demand and this rare and desirable issue is no exception.
Proof 1865 Gold Dollar
1865 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Mercifully the Civil War concluded in 1865 and the Union was preserved. The fifth and final Civil War proof gold dollar has the lowest mintage of any in the sub-series with a mere 25 produced. Of that original mintage, less than 20 are believed to exist despite grading service populations that exceed this number. Re-submissions would explain the disparity in the figures. Also, many business strikes exhibit proof-like qualities making identification difficult. Civil War coinage, particularly gold coinage, is always popular and in demand and this rare and desirable issue is no exception.
Proof 1866 Gold Dollar
1866 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). The first post-Civil War $1 proof gold dollar issue has a mintage of 30 with estimates of surviving pieces in the 20-25 range despite total populations from the grading services in excess of those numbers. This is an anomaly due to resubmissions as well as the existence of fully proof-like business strikes just as occurred in 1865. Lint marks and cameo surfaces are the norm for this date.
Proof 1867 Gold Dollar
1867 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Of the original mintage it is estimated that less than half still remain in existence today. Of that number, very few have traded in the past 10-15 years at auction as this is another proof gold dollar rarely seen offered. The majority of the pieces still found are in less than gem grade but are found with deeply mirrored surfaces.
Proof 1868 Gold Dollar

1868 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). As with many other $1 proof gold issues from this era there are highly mirrored business strikes which make assessing the proofs challenging and skews some of the population figures supplied by the major grading services. The general consensus seems to be that less than 20 of these remain and genuine proofs will exhibit a medal alignment with the reverse appearing rotated 180 degrees. This point has been noted by experts Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth as well as David Akers in their respective texts.

Proof 1869 Gold Dollar

1869 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Another extremely rare and seldom offered proof gold dollar, the 1869 has a surviving population estimated to be a mere 15-18 pieces in all grades. Many of the surviving pieces exhibit raised die scratches on the reverse. When seen, this issue is commonly in less than gem proof condition with just a lone example achieving that grade at PCGS.

Proof 1870 Gold Dollar
1870 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). With 20 or so believed to still exist today, the 1870 issue holds its own with the other very rare coins in this series. Rarely ever seen offered, this is yet another proof gold dollar that seems significantly undervalued relative to its scarcity. Some examples of this date will exhibit deeply mirrored surfaces revealing raised lines from heavy die polishing.
Proof 1871 Gold Dollar
1871 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Approximately half of the original mintage is estimated to survive to this day. This number may be too generous as this issue very rarely finds its way into auctions and is seldom seen traded. When seen it is found in less than gem condition save a lone example graded PF-68 by NGC.
Proof 1872 Gold Dollar
1872 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). The 1872 dollar is very much like the other issues of the late 1860s and early 1870s in that proofs and business strikes are often confused and any population reports from the grading services must be examined with a somewhat skeptical eye. Survival estimates are in the 20-25 range for this issue but it is seen at auction a bit more than some of its fellow low population Type 3 pieces. Having said that, by any measurement this is another extremely scarce coin.
Proof 1873 Gold Dollar
1873 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3) Close 3. With a surviving population of just 10-15 pieces, this issue is rarely offered for sale. Several of the survivors are in permanent collections making the task of acquiring an example even more arduous. Several mirrored proof like business strikes are known so great care must be taken in properly identifying a proof. True proofs of this year will commonly display tiny lint marks and planchet defects on both the obverse and reverse. It also should be noted that all proofs from 1873 are of the Close 3 variety.
Proof 1874 Gold Dollar
1874 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Continuing with the theme of this series, this Type 3 proof is exceedingly rare with a surviving population of just 10-12 pieces. Only a handful of these have traded at auction in the past 15 years so opportunities to acquire an example are few and far between. Of the survivors, 2 are held in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution further reducing chances for the private collector/investor to own one.
Proof 1875 Gold Dollar
1875 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). With a mintage of only 400 business strikes, this coin is a challenge for the collector in any condition and this date is one of the most popular from the series. In the proof issues, only 15-17 are believed to survive. As with other gold dollars from this period, business strikes often exhibit proof like qualities. However, identification is possible by noting a small protrusion found below the chin on the obverse of all business strikes.
Proof 1876 Gold Dollar
1876 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type3). This issue, while still very rare, is seen at auction a bit more than its predecessors. The surviving population is estimated to be between 25-30 pieces making this date somewhat more available than others from this era. True proofs from this year will be found deeply mirrored and will exhibit deep orange coloring.
Proof 1877 Gold Dollar
1877 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type3). In 1877 the United States Mint reverted back to form and reduced production of gold proof dollars by more than half from the previous year. Just 13-14 of this original number are believed to remain today adding this issue to the long list of quite rare gold dollar proofs. One of these pieces, in PF-63 condition, resides in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Proof 1878 Proof Gold Dollar
1878 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Not unlike the other early to mid Type 3 dates, this is another issue with a surviving population of 12-15 coins that is rarely if ever seen offered. Light to heavy die lines are commonly found on the known examples resulting from excessive die polishing.
Proof 1879 Gold Dollar
1879 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Of the original mintage, 18-21 are believed remain in existence. This is another very rare proof gold dollar that is difficult to identify as many business strikes from this year are deeply mirrored. True proofs will be discernible by heavy die polishing on both the obverse and reverse.
Proof 1880 Gold Dollar
1880 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). This is an interesting issue as both business strikes and proofs were struck from the same dies. Therefore, gold dollars minted in 1880 are classified into three categories. The first two, business strikes and proofs, are quite obvious. The third classification encompasses all of the examples caught in between which cannot be conclusively determined. Survival estimates for this coin are between 23-26 examples.
Proof 1881 Gold Dollar
1881 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Some 45-50 examples of this issue are estimated to remain from the original mintage. This issue is another of the proof gold dollar series that is difficult to distinguish from business strikes. Noted gold expert David Akers, reports that proofs can be identified by a small unfinished area in the die between the lower left part of the D in Dollar and the wreath.
Proof 1882 Gold Dollar
1882 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). This is the first issue from the proof gold dollar series that can be found with any degree of frequency. Survival estimates are more generous than its earlier siblings with some 80 pieces believed to exist and several examples may turn up in a given year at auction. It should be noted that irregular rims can occasionally be found on this issue.
Proof 1883 Gold Dollar
1883 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). The demand for proof coinage continued to grow in 1883 and the mintage of proof gold dollars was increased again. Even with the larger mintage, however, survival estimates and frequency of sightings within the hobby are essentially the same as the 1882 issue. It should be noted, many of these examples exhibit a repunched 3 on the date.
Proof 1884 Gold Dollar
1884 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). In 1884, mintage of proof gold dollars increased dramatically. Accordingly, the number of surviving pieces jumped as well with estimates in the 135-145 range. Still a scarce coin, this issue can be found with some relative frequency in major auctions. A repunched 18 can be seen on the date.
Proof 1885 Gold Dollar
1885 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). This issue is frequently seen at auction and has a surviving population believed to be numbered between 225-250 pieces. There are business strikes from this year with proof-like qualities so the astute collector/investor will want to require an example with deeply mirrored surfaces and orange-peel coloring. This issue can be located in various proof grades.
Proof 1886 Gold Dollar
1886 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). As with all other late date proof gold dollars in the series, this issue has a mintage in excess of 1,000 pieces. However, survival estimates are less than the 1885 issue and are in the 140-150 range making this year a bit more difficult to locate. In a given year, several examples will commonly come into the marketplace.
Proof 1887 Gold Dollar

1887 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). It is estimated that 210-215 examples of this issue remain in existence today making this another proof gold dollar that appears on the market with some degree of frequency. Examples can be located across most grades as well. Accordingly, it is one of the more affordable issues from the series. 1887 NGC PF68 CAM, 1887 NGC PF68 CAM

Proof 1888 Gold Dollar
1888 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). Far from being common, within the context of this series the 1888 is one of the most readily available issues with surviving numbers estimated to be between 255-265 examples. As with many other gold dollar issues, business strikes from this year are often confused with proof coinage.
Proof 1889 Gold Dollar
1889 $1 Indian Princess Head, Large Head (Type 3). The 1889 issue represents the largest and final mintage for a proof gold dollar which would suggest it is the most common date seen. However, the survival estimate for this year is significantly less than the 1888 issue at just 145-150 coins. This indicates that many of these may have either entered circulation or found the melting pot as interest in this series waned and economic times dictated. Therefore, it is more in line with the proofs from the middle 1880’s in terms of scarcity. Proof dollars from this year are frequently seen with partially polished-out feathers and cameo devices.
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