What To Know About Collecting Gold Dollars

September 28, 2017 3 min read

What To Know About Collecting Gold Dollars

In terms of popularity, gold coins minted prior to 1933 are favored by collectors and investors across the globe. Of particular interest is the United States gold dollar, which was struck at five different mints in three distinctive types in the years 1849 through 1889. There are different methodologies of collecting, as this particular denomination is preferred by many collectors throughout the generations.

The three types of gold dollars, as well as a brief history and description are as follows:


  1. Type One (Liberty Head), 1849-1854

The Type One Liberty Head dollars are the most popular, in terms of collecting. This particular coin was produced at the following mints: Philadelphia Mint (1849-1854), the Charlotte Mint (1849-1853), the Dahlonega Mint (1849-1854), the New Orleans Mint (1849-1853), and the San Francisco Mint (1854 only). There are two subtypes, only for 1849, which consist of an Open Wreath and a Closed Wreath.

Of the Type One dollars, the 1849-C Open Wreath is considered a rarity, with only five known coins remaining. Aside from this coin, they are not difficult to collect, with the exception of many Charlotte and Dahlonega issues, which are rare to very rare in Uncirculated. While most collectors prefer the single high-grade Type One from Philadelphia, a few coins are found in grades MS68 and MS69. Collectors looking for a lower grade, more affordable coin can seek and MS64 or MS65.


  1. Type Two (Indian Head, Small Portrait), 1854-1856

The Type Two was produced in Philadelphia during 1854 and 1855, and at the branch mints for one year only – in 1855 at the three Southern mints and 1856 in San Francisco. Most popular are the Southern issues, with the rarest being the 1855-D. In higher grades, the Type Two dollar is both rare and expensive, regardless of the branch, and the 1855-C and 1855-D are practically nonexistent above grade MS62. The most affordable issues are the  Philadelphia 1854 or 1855, in grades up to MS63


  1. Type Three(Indian Head, Large Portrait), 1856-1889

Produced from 1856 to 1889, this is the longest lived issue, and was produced at the Philadelphia Mint from 1856 through 1889, the Charlotte Mint (1857 and 1859 only), the Dahlonega Mint (1856-1861), and in San Francisco (1857-1860 and 1870).

Struck by the Confederate States of America, the 1861-D is the rarest Type Three gold dollar, as well as the most well-known. However, the Philadelphia issues produced during the 1880’s are an affordable choice through grades M65 to MS66, and can be found as high as MS68.

In terms of mints, the production of United States gold dollars are as follows:

  • Philadelphia –With 41 basic issues, gold coins were struck from this mint from 1849 to 1889, with the scarcest issues being the 1863 and the 1875.
  • San Francisco –At this particular facility, only seven issues were produced. Many gold dollars from this mint are difficult to locate higher than properly graded MS62 to MS63.
  • Charlotte –With the highly rare 1849-C Open Wreath, nine issues exist from this mint. The rarest in properly graded MS61 and above are the 1855-C and 1857-C.
  • Dahlonega – There are a total of thirteen issues from this mint, with the rarest being the 1855-D and the 1861-D.
  • New Orleans – With a total of six issues, none are considered rare.


In terms of years, the two most difficult issues to locate are 1863 and 1875, as they are one-issue years, only made in Philadelphia. Due to its issue during the Civil War, the 1863 is both popular and scarce. For the 1875 issue, its business strike mintage was limited to 400 coins, of which as many as 100 are known. When collecting gold dollars by year, be sure to include at least one from each branch, be consistent with the grading, and stay within the EF-45-AU55 range for a circulated set. If collecting sets within the higher grades, avoid over purchasing the more common dates.

With the absolute rarity of the 1849-C Open Wreath coins (only 5 of which are known), it can be truly difficult to acquire a fully complete set. It is easier to collect gold dollars in circulated grades than in Uncirculated, as quite a few are considered extremely rare in properly graded Uncirculated.