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Pre-1933 United States Circulation Gold Coinage

Like most nations until the mid-20th century, the United States long issued gold coins for circulation. Indeed, the issuing of American gold coins coincides with the founding of the United States Mint in 1792 by an Act of Congress. The Coinage Act established the Gold Eagle as one of the base decimal units of American currency, along with the cent, the dime, and the dollar, each unit being worth exactly ten times as much as the preceding unit. Therefore, the Gold Eagle has a face value of $10. This $10 Gold Eagle coin should not be confused with the modern American Gold Eagle, which is a gold bullion coin not intended for circulation.

Different Types of American Circulation Gold Coins

There were four major sizes of pre-1933 US gold coinage, all based on the standard unit, the Gold Eagle. Additionally, $1 gold coins, $3 gold coins, and $4 gold coins were produced, though with shorter production runs. The gold content of US gold coinage often changed, but most common were coins struck in 22 karat gold. Though modern buyers who invest in gold bullion are accustomed to gold fineness of .999 or higher, gold is extremely soft, so circulation gold coins had to be alloyed with copper and silver (by US law, the only metals allowed for the alloy) to increase the hardness enough to allow everyday use.

All issues of US gold coinage are extremely collectible, especially in the higher grades. Often, non-collecting investors buy pre-1933 US gold coins for their investment value, as prices on discontinued US gold coins have shown steady growth over the decades. Listed below are the different denominations available for investors that are buying pre-1933 US Gold Coins.



Buying $20 Gold Double Eagle Coins

$20 Gold Double Eagle (St. Gaudens)American Gold Double Eagles were produced (with a few gaps) from 1850-1933. Gold Double Eagles have a diameter of 34 mm and contains exactly .9675 troy ounces of gold. The last design used on Gold Double Eagles, the St. Gauden's design, is the most famous and recognizable design used on United States Gold Coinage -- so recognizable, that the design on the obverse was repeated for the American Gold Eagle bullion coin series.

There is some mystery surrounding the fate of the last minted Gold Double Eagles. Though early in 1933 the US government stopped the production of gold coinage and made it illegal to own most gold coins, some Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagles were stolen from the US Mint, though, because they are still illegal to own, no coin dealer or gold dealer can carry them. Over the decades, several have shown up, all of which have been confiscated by the US Mint, though one specimen was allowed to be privately held, as ownership of the piece was originally negotiated through terms with a foreign government. In a recent case, ten 1933 Gold Double Eagles were confiscated by the US Mint, and efforts to obtain their release through lawsuits have, thus far, proven unsuccessful.



Buying $10 Gold Eagle Coins

$10 Gold Eagle (Indian Head Design)The standard US gold circulation coin, the $10 Gold Eagle was minted from 1795-1933, has a face value of $10, a diameter of 27 mm, and contains 17.5 grams (.5156 troy ounces) of gold. Though not as famous as the Gold Double Eagle, the standard Gold Eagle circulated longer and enjoyed higher mintages.

Only three designs were employed over the lifetime of the series, the Turban Head, the Liberty Head (also called the Coronet Design), and the Indian Head Gold Eagle. Gold Eagles were minted at a wide variety of US Mint branches, often set up close to large gold mining regions. Today, buyers invest in $10 Gold Eagle coins because of their gold content and numismatic value. High grades of Gold Eagles, especially, have shown steady gains in value over the years.



Buying $5 Gold Half-Eagle Coins

$5 Gold Half Eagle CoinsThe first gold coin actually minted by the United States, the Gold Half-Eagle has a face value of $5, a diameter of approximately 25 mm, and weighs around 8 grams. Due to fluctuations in the market price of gold, the gold content of US gold coins needed constant updating.

Like all denominations of pre-1933 US gold coins, the Gold Half-Eagle is struck from a alloy of gold, silver, and copper, though gold makes up the largest percent of the alloy by far. Designs used on the $5 Gold 1/2 Eagle are the Turban Head, Draped Bust, Classic Head, Liberty Head, and the famous Indian Head Gold Half-Eagle, which depicts an Incuse Indian in profile.



Buying $2.50 Gold Quarter-Eagle Coins

$2.50 Gold Quarter-Eagle (Early Version)The Quarter Gold Eagle was the smallest of the original four gold coin denominations, with a face value of $2.50. In 1800, the purchasing power of one Gold Quarter Eagle would roughly equal the purchasing power of $34.74 in 2014. Though gold content often changed early on, from 1837 until 1933 the gold content stabilized at .121 troy ounces of gold. Issues before 1837 are very scarce, as they had higher gold content and were usually melted down for their gold bullion value at the time.

The designs used on the Gold 1/4 Eagle were the Capped Bust (or Turban Head), the Classic Head, the Liberty Head, and the Indian Head Quarter Gold Eagle. Buying Gold Quarter Eagles is more common among numismatists than coin or bullion investors, as the pieces are rare and do not have the gold content of the Gold Eagles or Gold Double Eagles.



Buying $1 Gold Coins

$1 Gold Indian Princess CoinThe US Gold One Dollar coin had a shorter production run than the Eagles -- minting occurred from 1849 - 1889 only. The inception of the Gold Dollar coin was no coincidence, as the 1849 California Gold Rush increased the gold bullion supply in the US, finally spurring Congress to authorize production of a gold dollar coin.

Like nearly all silver and gold United States coins, the $1 Gold Coin vanished from circulation for many years, due to the economic disruption caused by the US Civil War. People simply hoarded gold and silver coins, so the US began the switch to base metal coinage, which circulated much more freely. Even after 1879, when gold began to circulate again, the popularity of the gold $1 coin never recovered, and mintages were low.



Buying $3 Gold Coins

$3 Gold Coin -- Indian Head DesignFrom 1854 until 1889, the United States Mint also struck gold three dollar coins, using the Indian Head design. Despite 100,000 units being struck in the first year of minting, the $3 gold coin was seldom used, mostly on the west coast of America, where paper money was not employed to a great degree.

The US Civil War completely disrupted the circulation of gold and silver coins, and annual mintages remained very low until 1889, the final year of minting. Today, $3 Indian Head Gold Coins are very valuable and highly collectible, especially the higher grades.



Buying $4 "Stella" Gold Coins

$4 Stella Gold Coin -- Gold Pattern PieceTechnically, the $4 "Stella" gold coin was not a circulation piece at all, as it was struck for an extremely limited time only as a pattern piece. in 1879 and 1880, the United States was considering joining the Latin Monetary Union, which would have standardized a gold coin for international trade (the French Gold 20 Franc Coin was also made for this reason.)

Though not intended for circulation, many examples of the $4 gold coin were sold or given to US Congressmen. A brief scandal erupted when many of these $4 gold coins were seen being worn as jewelry by bordello operators in Washington, D.C.



The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 -- The End of Circulating US Gold Coins

The US Gold Reserve Act outlawed the private possession of gold, with the only exceptions being allowed for certain collectible coins and some jewelry. All United States citizens were forced to surrender and redeem their gold to the US Treasury, or face criminal charges. In addition, the price of gold per troy ounce was raised from its natural market price of around $20 an ounce to precisely $35 per troy ounce of gold, in an attempt to lure foreign holders of gold to sell their gold to the United States treasury. The prohibitions on private gold ownership were first relaxed in 1964, and finally abolished entirely in 1975. With the abandonment of the gold standard, similar laws were also enacted in other countries, such as China.

Buying Pre-1933 American Gold Coins Online

Investing in Gold Eagles (especially Gold Double Eagles) has gained in popularity among both bullion investors and collectors. Though US Gold Coins minted before 1933 are rare, they are freely traded and many, especially the lower grades, are very affordable. Online gold dealers like CBMint are the best places to buy pre-1933 US Gold Coins, as we can reach out to collectors and dealers around the world, enabling us to find rare dates, high grades, and the lowest prices on gold coins. If you have any questions about buying pre-1933 United States gold coins online from CBMint, do not hesitate to Contact Us or call us toll-free at 1-866-300-0504.

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