The first one-dollar gold coin was issued in 1849, more than half a century after the Coinage Act of 1792 but just one year after gold was discovered in California. James B. Longacre designed the coins, which were issued in three Types between 1849 and 1856. Coins in the first Type were just 12.7 mm in diameter, smaller than a contemporary dime. The coin’s size was increased to 14.3 mm in 1854.

The original Type 1 gold dollar featured a Liberty Head on one side and a wreath on the other. The most common Liberty Heads at that time were those minted in Philadelphia from 1851 to 1853, when almost 10 million coins were struck at that mint alone (some 12 million Type 1 coins were produced overall). But between 1859 and 1861, 8 million Liberty Heads were melted down so that the government could make other gold coins, which means that within a single decade, two-thirds of all Type 1 coins were lost.

Of the Liberty Heads, the rarest of the rare is undoubtedly the 1849C ("C" designates the mint in Charlotte, North Carolina) whose wreath on the coin’s reverse side is open at the top. The most counterfeited Liberty Heads are those purporting to have been minted in Philadelphia in 1853.

In 1854, a larger, so-called Indian Princess Head dollar was introduced (as it turns out, the portrait is probably not of an Indian Princess, but the name stuck). The first of these, minted from 1854 to 1856, are known as Type 2 and are usually referred to as Small Indian Princess Heads to differentiate them from the Type 3 Indian Princess Heads struck between 1856 and 1889. Coins in this latter group featured a larger head on the coin’s obverse, or front. All Type 2 coins are rare since they were only minted for three years in relatively low numbers.

Type 3 coins feature a very similar portrait on the front as the one on Type 2 coins, but it was enlarged and flattened to make the coin easier to strike. Of particular interest to collectors are the 1861 one-dollar gold coins minted in Dahlonega, Georgia. These were actually issued by the Confederacy after the Mint was seized. There is no accurate record of the number of coins struck, but some estimates put the number at as few as 1,250.

In addition to watching out for fakes (1853, 1854, 1855, and 1868 are the most commonly counterfeited years), gold-dollar coin collectors need to watch for evidence that a coin was used in jewelry. For a while, this was an especially popular practice with the original Liberty Heads. Look for solder marks, which dramatically decrease a coin’s value.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1852 $1 Type 1 Liberty Head Gold Dollar Coin United States 1853 Gold Dollar, Type 1, Vf Details, Hole, True Auction1851 $1 Dollar Liberty Head Gold Coin! U.s. Mint Pre 1933 Gold! Nr!1853 Gold Dollar1862 Indian Princess Gold Dollar Gem+ Uncirculated1855 Gold Dollar, $1 Indian Princess, Type 2, Avidly Pursued Choice Au Key Date!1851 Gold Dollar, $1 Liberty, Type 1, ** Free Shipping!1849 $1 Gold! One Dollar! Xf Details! Us Coin Lot #2351855 Type 2 Indian Princess Small Head Gold Dollar $1 1853 $1 Dollar Liberty Head Gold Coin! U.s. Mint Pre 1933 Gold! Nr!1862 Gold Dollar, $1 Indian Head Princess, Type 3, Tough Gold Coin, ** Free S/h!1856 $1 Gold Piece Scarce Type 3 Au+1854 1 Dollar Liberty Gold Coin In Very Fine Condition1800's Liberty Head Gold Dollar Love Token1849 Liberty Head 1 Dollar Gold Coin1856 $1 Dollar United States Indian Princess Gold Coin1849 $1 Gold Coin, Ex Jewelry1852 One Dollar Gold Piece ~ Ch/au Cleaned1851 $1 Gold Coin, Hole Ex Jewelry1855 Gold Dollar, Type 2, The Ugliest One On Ebay! True Auction, No ReserveAntique 22k Gold Us $1 Liberty Dollar Coin C1853 $1 No Reserve1853-o New Orleans Gold Dollar Pcgs Xf451853 Gold Dollar, $1 Gold Liberty, Type 1 ** Free Shipping!1851 1$ One Dollar Liberty Gold Coin Genuine Ex-jewelry Holed With 14k Necklace 1874 Gold $1, High Grade1851 1 Dollar Liberty Gold Coin In Very Fine ConditionRare Gold Dollar Type Iii Indian Princess 1862 For Jewelry1855 Gold $1 Small Indian Princess Head One Dollar Coin1853 $1 Liberty Head Gold Coin Pendant Charm One Dollar Nice Condition1855 Gold Dollar, $1 Indian Princess, Type 2, Choice Au Details ** Better Date!1855 Gold One Dollar Coin~~small Head Indian Princess~~only Issued 3 Years1852 1 Dollar Liberty Gold Coin In Very Fine Condition1870 California Gold 1/4 Dollar. Holed. 958011853 Us One Dollar Gold Coin. Short-lived Type 1 Design1851-d Gold Dollar, $1 Liberty, Avidly Pursued Dahlonega, Choice Au++ Key Date!1849 $1 Gold Liberty Head Dollar Type 1 1861 1 Dollar Liberty Gold Coin In Very Fine Condition1851 Gold Dollar Looped For Suspension1856 Gold Dollar, $1 Indian Princess, Type 3, Very Nice Choice Bu++, * Free S/h!1856 Upright 5 $1 Indian Princess Large Head Gold Dollar Ngc Au Details1850 Gold Dollar, $1 Liberty, Details, ** Free Shipping!1849 1 Dollar Liberty Gold Coin In Very Fine Condition1852 U.s. Gold Dollar - Type One - Au With Plenty Of Mint Luster1851 Liberty Head Gold Dollar $1 Coin Ex-jewelry Piece (#2711)1916 $1 Gold Mckinely Commemorative Rare Free Shipping1851 G$1 Liberty Head Gold Coin Ngc Au Details 1851 $1 Gold Dollar18_2 Gold One Dollar Coin~large Head Indian Princess~~drilled, Plugged, Soldered1862 Gold One Dollar Coin~~higher Grade~~large Head Indian Princess1873 1 Dollar Gold Coin. Nice Condition. Real, Not Graded. Nr!!1853 1 Dollar Liberty Gold Coin In Very Fine Condition1856 U.s. Gold Dollar1854 $1 Indian Princess Gold Type 1 Pcgs Au-58 No Reserve!Vintage Usa Gold Coin 1853 1 Dollar Grade Pcgs High Quality Ms 63f201853 Gold Dollar, $1 Liberty, Sharp & Lustrous Gem Bu++, ** Free Shipping!Vintage Usa Gold Coin 1851 1 Dollar High Quality F211862 Gold Dollar, Type 3, Civil War Date, Vf Details, True Auction, No Reserve1889 $1 Type 3 Gold Dollar Gold Solder On Rim At 12 O'clock Cleaned1850 $1 Gold Type 1 Liberty Head Rare Beautiful Luster Free Shipping