Identifying American Gold Coins

Preface:

Few can doubt the noticeable moves that the price of Gold has been making. No one knows if it can continue as it has but naturally many are curious about the Gold coins available. Most people prefer to purchase Gold coins backed by the name and reputation of the United States government.

This article will cover those specific coins and will act more as an easy to reference Encyclopedia rather than an article. We will provide the amount of Gold found in each coin as this will make it much easier then having to bust out the calculator every time!

Many of these coins are considered to be extremely rare, some have multiple varieties. We will not cover these specific aspects as the main idea is to give you a strong foundation on the Gold coins available, and their Gold content so you can come up with a basic valuation of their Gold content as needed. I would advise that as you learn more, become comfortable with spotting rare years, mints, and varieties so you don't pass up a deal that could have made you a lot of money.

Quick Reference: Just below is a quick reference table for your convenience. Feel free to print this for your personal use, but if you use it on your own website, blog, emails, etc. please include a link to this article. Thank you.

Pre-1933 Gold & Confiscation Fears

Many, and "many" may be an understatement, companies try to sell you "Pre-1933" gold based on confiscation fears. This is absolutely silly, and manipulative in my opinion. I'm very much against selling on people's fears but this "selling" tactic transcends more than that moral issue. This tactic is founded on the fact that President Roosevelt had excluded collectible coins, but that does not mean that a future confiscation would.

There is a great article that you can read here from a company called CMI and it rips the confiscation sellers apart. If you don't want to read a huge entangled article then let me summarize it in one sentence for you: if a guy calls you trying to sell you non-confiscatable Gold or Silver, then tell him to beat it.

Quick Reference Table:

Coin (Dates) 
Gold Content (Troy Ounces) 
Gold Content (Grams) 
$1.00 
.0484 
1.51
$2.50 (1796 - 1834) 
.1289 
4.01
$2.50 (1834 - 1929) 
.1210 
3.76
$3.00
.1453
4.52
$5.00 (1795 - 1834)
.2579
8.02
$5.00 (1834 - 1836)
.2382
7.41
$5.00 (1837 - 1929)
.2385
7.42
$10.00 (1795 - 1804)
.5160
16.05
$10.00 (1838 - 1933)
.4833
15.03
$20.00 (1849 - 1933)
.9665
30.06

$1.00 Gold Coins

Liberty Head (1849-1854):

The "Liberty Head" coin features an image of Lady Liberty as depicted by James Longacre. This dollar is often referred to as Type I. There are 13 stars encircling Liberty's head and she is wearing a coronet that reads "Liberty." The first year of issue had a couple of varieties including an "open" wreath version and a "closed" wreath version. The "open" wreath version will run you a lot more money.

Weight: 1.672 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Gold Content: .04838 Troy Ounces

Indian Princess (1854-1889):

This coin was first minted in small head type and was then later revised to have a large head type. This design was also created by James Longacre. Due to durability issues the coin had to be redesigned. It was reintroduced as a thinner version with a larger image on the obverse.

Weight: 1.672 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Gold Content: .04838 Troy Ounces

 

$2.5 Quarter Eagle Dollar Coins

Turban Head (1796-1807):

This is an extremely rare coin that you should only invest in for its numismatic value. There were less than 20,000 of these Gold coins minted over the life of the series. These contain a slightly higher Gold content then later issues beginning in 1834.

Weight: 4.37 grams
Composition: 91.7% Gold, 8.3% Silver/Copper
Gold Content: .1289 Troy Ounces

Capped Bust (1808-1834):

This is also a very rare coin that will cost you far more than the Gold content within it. In addition to a low mintage, less than 45,000, many of these were melted once Gold prices went up. This is what prompted the next series' decline in Gold content.

Weight: 4.37 grams
Composition: 91.7% Gold, 8.3% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .1289 Troy Ounces

Classic Head (1834-1839):

The obverse, designed by William Kneass, depicts Liberty wearing a headband that reads "Liberty." This was the last design that Kneass had created before he died. This coin, while readily available has seemed to have found a decent niche among collectors so a premium is to be expected on decent to higher grade specimens.

Weight: 4.18 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .1210 Troy Ounces


Liberty Head (1840-1907)*:

This is one of the longest running coin series in US coinage history. This features Lady Liberty wearing a coronet that reads "Liberty" which became a recurring theme throughout US Gold coinage of the time. Because this coin was minted for such a long time, common dates can be purchased with relatively low premiums paid above spot, especially lower grades and "cleaned" specimens.

Weight: 4.18 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .1210 Troy Ounces

*: ALL 1905-S are Counterfeit.

Indian Head (1908-1929):

This coin, while minted in healthy quantities, is one of the most unique coins in American coinage. The image depicts an Indian Chief which departed from the standard image of Lady Liberty at the time. This is not what really sets the coin apart however. It is the style that the coin was made in, it is called "incused." What this means is that the image of the Indian is sunk down into the coin, rather than raised up like most coins we are familiar with. If you can get some of these in a lower grade, or a "cleaned" specimen then it makes it possible to add one of these coins to your Gold portfolio without exceeding spot price too badly.

Weight: 4.18 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .1210 Troy Ounces

$3.00 Gold Coins

Indian Princess (1854-1889):

This rare issue was created so you could purchase a book of 3 cent stamps with one coin. A book, at the time, contained 100 stamps. This is a fairly rare coin to purchase, and while readily available at many online coin dealers, its price will far exceed the value of the Gold content.

Weight: 5.02 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .1453 Troy Ounces

 

$5.00 Half Eagle Gold Coins

Turban Head (1795-1807):

This coin departs little from its Gold Quarter Eagle counterpart except for, naturally, its weight. But, just like the Quarter Eagle, it will command a large premium over its Gold value due to its scarcity and its age which makes it a less attractive Gold investment, and a more attractive Numismatic investment.

Weight: 8.748 grams
Composition: 91.7% Gold, 8.3% Silver & Copper
Gold Content: .2579 Troy Ounces

Capped Bust (1807-1834):

Just like the Quarter Eagle version, this coin basically remains the same except for its weight. While minted in larger quantities than the previous design, the "Turban Head," this design will still command a decent premium above the Gold content for nearly all years of issue. Once again making this a less attractive Gold investment.

Weight: 8.748 grams
Composition: 91.7% Gold, 8.3% Silver & Copper
Gold Content: .2579 Troy Ounces

Classic Head (1834-1838):

This design underwent a change in composition in the midst of its minting which is why you may notice the difference in compositions below. It is a slight change but I've tried to account for all changes as well as possible. Some of the years experienced nice high mintage figures (which is more Gold investment friendly) but there are also some very low mintage dates and these are the ones you should tread cautiously around if you intend to only purchase for Gold content.

If you stick to lower grades and "cleaned" specimens then you should be able to add some of these to your Gold portfolio without exceeding spot too greatly.

Weight: 8.24 grams
Composition (1834-1836): 89.9% Gold, 10.1% Copper
Gold Content (1834-1836): .2382 Troy Ounces
Composition (1837-1838): 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Gold Content (1837-1838): .2385 Troy Ounces


Liberty Head - No Motto (1839-1866):

Once again, a very long running series in American coinage, but the Liberty Head Half Eagle is split into two distinct categories. Those lacking the motto of "In God We Trust" and those that have the motto. The first portion of this series, also called "No Motto" lacks this phrase and adds to some of the collectible aspect as very few coins, generally, lack this phrase.

In this article we don't really cover varieities but because this is such a big one (it ran for a long time without the motto, then the motto was added) we decided to cover it.

Weight: 8.24 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Gold Content: .2385 Troy Ounces

Liberty Head - With Motto (1866-1908):

Unlike the first portion of this coin's run, this variety contains the motto "In God We Trust." The motto is located on a banner above the Eagle on the reverse of the coin. The Eagle, and Double Eagle coins also followed the same trend of having no motto for the first portion of their run, then having it later. This will be noted in those categories below.

Weight: 8.24 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Gold Content: .2385 Troy Ounces

Indian Head (1908-1929):

A very beautiful coin that was minted in healthy quantities for Gold investment this is probably one of our favorite Gold investment coins. You may want to look more seriously at lower grades and "cleaned" specimens in order to get closer to spot price. It was a huge victim of melting, and some years (mostly 1929) may command a high premium above Gold spot price and are better suited to a coin collector more-so than a Gold investor.

Weight: 8.24 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Gold Content: .2385 Troy Ounces

 

$10.00 Eagle Gold Coins

Turban Head (1795-1804):

Just like the other "Turban Head" denominations, this coin remains the same except the weight and Gold content. This is a rare coin and it will cost you far more than the Gold content is valued at.

Weight: 17.5 grams
Composition: 91.7% Gold, 8.3% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .5160
Troy Ounces

Liberty Head - No Motto (1838-1866):

This coin was the next in line, after the noticeable 34 year gap, and also held the lack of the "In God We Trust" motto that the other coins of this series also lacked. It was later corrected in future issues. Like many other coins, this coin had years of very high mintage, and years of very scarce mintage so premiums on these coins can be found all over the place. Some years are very rare, but lower grades, and "cleaned" versions can be gotten for a modest premium above spot.

Weight: 16.7 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .4833
Troy Ounces

Liberty Head - With Motto (1866-1907):

This coin, is very similar to the the version that predates it except that it contains the familiar motto of "In God We Trust." The motto is located on the reverse of the coin on a banner flying above the eagle. Some years had very few minted but others were quite generous and these will be the best ones for Gold investing in lower grades and "cleaned" specimens.

Weight: 16.7 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .4833
Troy Ounces

Indian Head (1907-1933):

These coins, while readily available online, command a fairly large premium. They are desirable due to their design of Lady Liberty wearing an Indian war headdress. Many of the later issues of this coin were melted down, so the 1933 issue is extremely scarce. There is also a "No Motto" version which occurred during the first two years of issue.

Weight: 16.7 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .4833
Troy Ounces

$20.00 Double Eagle Gold Coins

Liberty Head - No Motto (1849-1866):

Up to this particular year, the largest denomination of Gold coinage in the United States of America was the $10.00 Eagle, but the California Gold Rush prompted congress to pass into law the creation of the $20.00 Double Eagle. There are many varieties of this coin including some with different reverses, some that say "20 D." on the reverse and others that say "20 Dollars" on the reverse.

Depending on the year you may get some of these different variations. Some years are very rare, but lower grades, and "cleaned" versions can be gotten for a modest premium above spot.

Weight: 33.4 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .9665 Troy Ounces

Liberty Head - Motto (1866-1907):

The "Motto" variety of this coin, like the others in this series has the motto "In God We Trust" on the reverse above the Eagle. Some years are very rare, but lower grades, and "cleaned" versions can be gotten for a modest premium above spot.

Weight: 33.4 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .9665 Troy Ounces

Saint Gaudens (1907-1933):

You probably recognize this coin, and if you are new to Gold investing or coin collecting then it is probably not what you think it is. This is the Saint Gaudens Gold $20.00 coin. The image is used famously in the U.S. Gold American Eagle Bullion coin series, which is where most people will recognize it from. This coin has a "No Motto" version which occurred during the first two years of minting. Many years and mint marks were massive victims of Gold melting, especially the 1933 issue which is completely illegal to own except 1 specimen which sold for over 7 million dollars.

Many of these coins can be purchased affordably, especially in lower grades and "cleaned" specimens, but be aware of the key dates in the event you stumble upon an unbelievable deal.

Weight: 33.4 grams
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Silver/Copper/Other
Gold Content: .9665 Troy Ounces

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Comments 3 comments

Trsmd profile image

Trsmd 7 years ago from India

that's nice and good article about the gold coins.. but where can i buy online?


debris profile image

debris 7 years ago from Florida Author

Hey there Trsmd!

I appreciate your comment, this will be another Article that I will be writing in the future. Until then, the best places to purchase from (I have no affiliation, I've just done business with them) is Apmex.com, Kitco.com, Tulving.com, Coin-Rare.com, and CMI-gold-silver.com. I hope that helps you.

Sincerely,

Debris

http://twitter.com/iamdebris


Steve Nichols 6 years ago

Interesting take on the "confiscation sellers." I guess I sort of assumed that people know not to react to fear as a tactic for selling any product. This is a good reminder to only use reputable companies when investing in gold.

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