Classic American Coins – 50 American Gold Issues with the “Wow” Factor

By Doug

CoinWeek Content Partner ……

Certain issues in the various types of United States gold minted between 1795 and 1933 have what might be better called a “Wow factor”. Something about the issue – be it rarity, design, historical association or low mintage – appeals to a variety of collectors. These coins have multiple levels of demand and a “wow” coin could be included in a collection that focuses on trophy coins.

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The following 50 US gold coins have what I consider to be a strong “Wow Factor”. For each coin on this list, I’ve given a brief summary of why I think it belongs on this list.

NOTE: I’ve excluded pieces like the 1822 and 1854-S half-eagles because while they have the Wow factor in spades, they’re just too rare for this list..

1. 1855-D Gold Dollar: This one-year-old guy is arguably Dahlonega’s rarest gold dollar. Look for an example with a full date.

1861-D $1.00 PCGS MS61. Images Courtesy Doug Winter Numismatics

2. 1861-D Gold Dollar: The only American gold coin unquestionably minted by the Confederacy. ‘Nuff said.

3. 1875 Gold Dollar: The lowest mintage figure for this denomination with only 400 commercial mintages made.

4. 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle: The first year of issue for this denomination and a one-year type with only 963 minted.

1808 $2.50 PCGS AU53 CAC

5. 1808 quarter eagle: A rare one-year-old type; only 2,710 minted.

6. 1841 quarter eagle: Were they all struck as hardships or were some struck as corporate strikes? Either way, a significant rarity in this series.

7. 1848 CAL Quarter Eagle: America’s first commemorative coin and a wonderful relic of the Gold Rush.

8. 1854-S Quarter Eagle: The first SF quarter eagle and a rarity with a known dozen from a mintage of only 254.

9. Quarter Eagle 1856-D: With 874, the lowest draw recorded for any Dahlonega number. The hardest US gold coin to value correctly, in my opinion.

10. 1863 Quarter Eagle: Only 30 minted, all as proofs, and a coin made doubly desirable by its Civil War issue.

1854-D $3.00 PCGS AU50 CAC

11. 1854-D Three dollars: The only such coin issued by Dahlonega and an extremely popular coin.

12. 1875 Three dollars: A proof-only issue with a reported mintage of just 20. This was the first US gold coin to eclipse the $100,000 price barrier, since the 1970s.

13. 1879 Stella with flowing hair: Always in demand as a trophy piece and a number with an interesting history.

14. 1795 Little Eagle Half Eagle: The very first date of this long-standing denomination and a number that is more available than one might expect.

15. 1798 or 1799 Little Eagle Half Eagle: The two most affordable 18th century American gold coins available in pretty AU for a low five-figure cost.

1813 $5.00 PCGS MS64

16. 1813-1834 Half Eagle: The Fat Head type half-eagle, probably my favorite American coin design.

17. 1829 Small Planchet Half Eagle: First grade of type and a great rarity in all grades. One of the few pieces on this list that I have never handled.

18. Half Eagle 1838-C: First year issued of the brand new Charlotte Mint and a rare one year old type to boot.

19. Half Eagle 1838-D: A Wow coin for the same reasons as its counterpart the 1838-C half-eagle.

20. Half Eagle 1861-C: The last coin minted at this mint and an issue with plausible Civil War associations.

21. Half Eagle 1861-D: The last Dahlonega Half-Eagle and another piece much in demand by Civil War collectors.

1864-S $5.00 PCGS EF45

22. 1864-S Half Eagle: San Francisco’s rarest collectible half-eagle and the rarest Civil War gold coin.

23. Half Eagle 1870-CC: The first year on the air for the Carson City Half-Eagles. Available in lower quality, rare in higher qualities.

24. 1875 Half Eagle: Only 200 company strikes have been made and probably less than 10 exist. The rarest collectible Liberty Head half-eagle.

25. 1887 Half Eagle: A rare proof-only issue with only 87 coins minted in total. A forgotten date.

26. 1909-O Half Eagle: The only New Orleans half-eagle of this type and the last gold coin minted at this mint. Very rare in high grades.

27. 1929 Half Eagle: The last year of issue for this perennial denomination. A strongly melted date.

28. 1795 Eagle: The first year of issue for this denomination and the largest of the three denominations minted in the early years of the United States.

1799 $10.00 PCGS MS61

29. 1799 Eagle: The most common and therefore the most affordable pre-1800 date of this type.

30. 1838 Eagle: First year of issue for the Liberty Head design and a two-year short-lived type.

31. 1841-O Eagle: The first eagle struck on a mint branch and the first – obviously – in New Orleans.

32. 1863 Eagle: The rarest Civil War eagle and a strong contender for one of the rarest dates in the entire Liberty Head eagle series.

1870-CC $10.00 PCGS EF40

33. Eagle 1870-CC: Carson City’s first eagle and a rare and popular number at all levels.

34. 1875 Eagle: A crazy low mintage of just 200 trade strikes and by far the rarest date in the series with only 7/8 or better known,

35. 1907 Metal edged eagle: A beautifully crafted, low-circulation issue with high demand from a variety of collectors.

36. 1933 Eagle: The last year of issue of this denomination (first minted in 1795) and the only U.S. gold coin dated 1933 that is legal to possess.

1854-O $20.00 PCGS AU55

37. 1854-O Double Eagle: One of two mega-rarities from this mint and a key issue in the Type One double eagle series.

1856-O $20.00 PCGS AU55

38. 1856-O Double Eagle: The other very rare issue of New Orleans Type One. Unique in Uncirculated and represented by less than 40 known in total.

1861-S PACK $20.00 NGC AU53

39. 1861-S Double Eagle Pack: A mysterious yet collectible number with a different reverse designed by Anthony Package.

40. 1870-CC Double Eagle: The first double eagle of this mint and the most valuable gold coin of this mint.

41/42/43. 1883, 1884 and 1887 Double Eagles: Three very rare low mintage double eagles, each struck only in Proof format.

MCMVII (1907) HIGH RELIEF $20.00 MS66

44. 1907 High Relief Double Eagle: One of the most popular American gold coins and a trophy that appeals to many collectors.

45. 1927-D Double Eagle: The rarest and most valuable 20th century American gold coin.

1915-S $50.00 PCGS MS64+

46/47. 1915-S Panama-Pacific octagonal and round fifty dollars: Massive in size and with lovely original designs, these two gold commemorative coins embody the Wow factor.

48. 1850 Baldwin Ten Dollar “Cavalier” Type: My favorite design of any territorial gold issue with a Vaquero astride a horse on the obverse.

49. 1852 Humbert Fifty Dollar Slug: For me, it’s the piece that embodies the Wild West. Huge in size and curious shape, an issue that appeals to a crowd of collectors.

50. 1860 Clark Gruber Ten Dollar “Mountain” Type: The lovely Pikes Peak design, minted for use in Denver and Colorado Territory.

The final count, denomination by denomination, is as follows:

  • gold dollars: 3
  • Quarter Eagles: 7
  • three bucks: 2
  • four dollars: 1
  • half eagles: 14
  • Eagles: 9
  • double eagles: 9
  • Various: 5

Any list of this nature is going to be controversial and, of course, contain personal biases. Did I miss any parts that you would have included in your list? If so, please discuss it below in the Comments section or email me at [email protected].

Doug Winter Numismatics, US gold coin specialist

Doug Winter Numismatics, specialist in American gold coins

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug has spent much of his life in the numismatic business; began collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the age of 10 was buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York area.

In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his business specializes in the buying and selling of select and rare American coins, especially American gold coins and all branch equipment.

Recognized as one of the leading specialist numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on American gold. His knowledge and exceptional eye for correctly graded and original coins has made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for personalized, professional service. ‘a selected inventory of irreproachable quality and a fair and honest price. . Doug is also a major buyer of all American coins and is always looking to buy collections large and small. He can be reached at 214-675-9897.

Doug has contributed to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, and Andrew Pollock’s United States Model and Related Issues

In addition, he is the author of 13 books on American gold coins, including:
  • New Orleans Mint Gold Coins: 1839-1909
  • Carson City Mint Gold Coins: 1870 – 1893
  • Charlotte Mint Gold Coins: 1838-1861
  • Dahlonega Mint Gold Coins 1838-1861
  • United States $3 Gold Coins 1854-1889
  • Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: An Updated Census of Rarity and Condition
  • An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type 1 Double Eagles
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
  • A Collector’s Guide to Indian Head Quarter Eagles
  • The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coins
  • Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Dahlonega Mint Gold Coins, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis

Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional group, and major coinage association in the United States.

Liberty Head Eagle gold coins currently available on eBay


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