A gold dollar coin had been proposed several times in the 1830s and 1840s, but was not initially adopted. Congress was finally galvanized into action by the increased supply of bullion caused by the California gold rush, and in 1849 authorized a gold dollar.The Indian Princess Gold Dollar was struck from 1854 to 1889. The coins were struck at five different mint facilities although production would take place almost exclusively at the Philadelphia Mint after the start of the Civil War.

The gold $1 coin was designed by James Barton Longacre. The coins are composed of 1.672 grams of .900 gold (net weight .04837 oz. of pure gold). The first variety (Type I) was a Liberty Head at a diameter of 13mm. Contemporary reviews of the Type 1 design were generally favorable. The New York Weekly Tribune on May 19, 1849 described the new dollar as "undoubtedly the neatest, tiniest, lightest, coin in this country ... it is too delicate and beautiful to pay out for potatoes, and sauerkraut, and salt pork. Oberon might have paid Puck with it for bringing the blossom which bewitched Titania." Willis' Bank Note List stated that "there is no probability of them ever getting into general circulation; they are altogether too small."


Type II has become known as an "Indian Princess Head" because it looks like she is wearing a crown. The reverse featured an  agricultural wreath, composed of corn, cotton, tobacco, and wheat. The denomination “1 Dollar” and date appeared within the wreath. The diameter was increased to 15mm with the same gold weight.

Type III had a redesign of the head becoming known as the "Large Head". (Type II then becoming known as the "Small Head" variety.)


In 1873, the Mint Director advocated limiting striking of gold dollars to depositors who specifically requested it. "The gold dollar is not a convenient coin, on account of its small size, and it suffers more proportionately from abrasion than larger coins." Later that year, the new director, Edward O. Leech, issued a report stating that the gold dollar "is too small for circulation, and ... [is] used almost exclusively for the purposes of ornament".


Love Tokens were a commonly created as jewelry during this time. Often made out of coins in circulation, some Love Tokens were also made out of Gold Indian Princess Head Coins also!

A total of 19,499,337 gold dollars were coined, of which 18,223,438 were struck at Philadelphia, 1,004,000 at New Orleans, 109,138 at Charlotte, 90,232 at San Francisco and 72,529 at Dahlonega. As coin collecting became a widespread pastime in the early 20th century, gold dollars became a popular specialty, a status they retain.

Updated: Mar 13

Did you know that depositors of silver could choose to have their bullion struck into silver coins?

Until the Act of 1853, depositors could still choose to have silver struck into dollar coins, but since there was more than a dollar's worth of silver in a dollar coin, it was more profitable to sell the bullion to manufacturers and jewelers. So long as silver prices remained high, this effectively placed the United States on the gold standard.

Although the Mint rarely received deposits of silver for striking into coins after 1853, it purchased silver bullion using the new lightweight silver coins at above-market prices. This was illegal, as Congress had ordered that the new lightweight coins only be purchasable using gold.

The glut was replaced with a shortage when most federal coins were hoarded amid the economic chaos of the Civil War.

The Coinage Act of 1873 or Mint Act of 1873, 17 Stat. 424, was a general revision of the laws relating to the Mint of the United States. In abolishing the right of holders of silver bullion to have their metal struck into fully legal tender dollar coins, it ended bimetallism in the United States, placing the nation firmly on the gold standard. Because of this, the act became contentious in later years, and was denounced by some as the "Crime of '73".


Silver certificates are a type of representative money issued between 1878 and 1964 in the United States as part of its circulation of paper currency. They were produced in response to silver agitation by citizens who were angered by the Fourth Coinage Act, which had effectively placed the United States on a gold standard. The certificates were initially redeemable for their face value of silver dollar coins and later (for one year – June 24, 1967 to June 24, 1968) in raw silver bullion. Since 1968 they have been redeemable only in Federal Reserve Notes and are thus obsolete, but still valid legal tender at their face value and thus are still an accepted form of currency.

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