Series notes: $1 Gold

The $1 gold coin was issued from 1849 through 1889 and served as an alternative to the simultaneously circulating silver dollar. The gold dollar was initially authorized with the Coinage Act of 1792, but the California Gold Rush during the late 1840s made circumstances ripe for the production of a small gold dollar.

There are three types of gold dollars, including the Liberty Head gold dollar (1849-1854), Indian Princess Head, Small Head (1854-1856), and Indian Princess Head, Large Head (1856-1889). The Liberty Head gold dollar was the nation's smallest coin by physical dimensions, with a diameter of just 13 millimeters. The Indian Princess Head dollars struck from 1854 on measure 15 millimeters in diameter. All gold dollar varieties were designed by James B. Longacre.

While gold dollars are generally common, there are several scarce issues -- most notably the Charlotte (C) and Dahlonega (D) coins. These include 1849-C Open Wreath, which is an extremely rare six-figure coin. Other rarities include the 1855-D, 1856-D, 1861-D, and 1875 (Philadelphia) issues. Gold dollars are conditional rarities in the uncirculated grades, most especially branch mint issues.

Gold dollars weigh 1.672 grams and have a composition of 90% gold, 10% copper with a total of .04837 grams pure gold. While the diameter of the gold dollar was significantly increased with the introduction of the Type II (Indian Princess Head, Small Head) variety in 1854, the weight of the coin and its gold content remained unchanged.