The History of US Gold Coins
The first U.S. gold coins were minted and produced in 1795, twelve years after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. The establishment of the U.S. Mint just a few years prior made production of gold coins possible.
The first gold coins to be struck by the U.S. Mint were Eagles and Half Eagles, otherwise known as the 'Draped Bust', in $10 and $5 denominations. The $2.5 Quarter Eagles 'Draped Bust' followed in 1796. Draped Bust coins minted between 1795 and 1807 were produced in very limited numbers. The first U.S. golden coins ever minted are quite rare, and unfortunately many of these coins were exported to other countries throughout Europe and melted down when the coinage purity exceeded the face value.
Following the Draped Bust gold coins were the Caped Bust coins, first introduced in 1807. The first Caped Bust was produced in the $5 denomination. These saw limited mintage much like their predecessor; however, thousands more were produced and saw greatly increased circulation in comparison to the Draped Bust. In 1908, the $2.5 denomination was minted, with both coins produced every year until the discontinuation of the Caped Bust in 1838.
In 1838, the $5 Liberty Head gold coin was produced and had the longest mintage run of any U.S. golden coinage to date, lasting until 1908. The $10 and $2.5 Liberty Head coins soon followed and were minted until 1907. Several other gold coins were minted between 1840 and 1900, including the Three-dollar gold coin, the $4 Stella gold coin, and the Gold Dollar.
1848 marked the start of the California Gold Rush, an important historical event in the history of U.S. gold coins. This event was instigated by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mills, California, when a colleague of his accidentally discovered gold. The news of the discovery quickly spread across the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of people across the nation and world. In response to the massive increase in the supply in gold out of California, the U.S. Mint established a branch in San Francisco.
The $20 Saint Gaudens golden coin was minted in 1907 by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the first sculptor to design a coin who was not affiliated with the U.S. Mint. Indian Head gold coin were also minted during this time period in $2.5 (1908 to 1929), $5 (1908 to 1929), & $10 (1907 to 1933) denominations. Mintage of the Saint Gaudens lasted until 1933, the year Executive Order 6102 was enacted, "forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates" by U.S. citizens.
Pre-1933 gold coinage is very rare, and it is estimated that only 1% of these rare coins survived being melted into bullion following the gold confiscation act of 1933. The surviving pre-1933 rare coins are very valuable to collectors and investors alike because of their scarcity and unique characteristics. Gold was once again made legal to own by private citizens in 1974, three years after President Nixon abolished the Gold Standard. The U.S. mint has since produced gold bullion coins such as the American Eagle, first minted in 1986, and the Gold American Buffalo coin, minted in 2006 and also the first 24 karat gold bullion ever coin produced by the U.S. Mint.
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