Gold Dollars of 1858, with Notes of the Other Issues

Wood, Howland, 1877-1938
Numismatic Notes and Monographs
American Numismatic Society
New York
Worldcat Works




Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.


Table of Contents



THE GOLD DOLLARS OF 1858 With Notes of the Other Issues

By Howland Wood

A number of years ago one of our old-time collectors told his son that there was a rare variety of the 1858 gold dollar with the word " Dollar " much larger than on the ordinary specimens. While examining some United States proof sets at an auction sale years before, he had noticed this peculiarity, but through inappreciation of its rarity at that time he failed to get it. The son was an enthusiastic collector and though constantly on the watch for this variety was never able to locate a specimen. Other collectors have been on the lookout for this piece, but so far as known they have failed in their quest.

The piece under consideration was for many years in the possession of Mr. J. C. Randall of Philadelphia. It was probably included in lot 472, a proof set of 1858, sold with some of his other coins by Cogan on March 29th, 1882.

Whether the late Ben G. Green saw one of these coins it is impossible to prove, but in his Numismatic Reference and Check Book published in 1902 he lists under the Gold Dollars of 1858 the second one as follows: "large 1 Dollar." This statement of Mr. Green's seems to have remained unnoticed by most collectors.

The American Numismatic Society has in its possession one of these gold dollars. Possibly it is the identical Randall specimen. This piece formed part of the collection of United States Gold and Silver Coins presented to the Society in 1908 by the late J. Pierpont Morgan and it was listed as "Rare" in the inventory of the collection. The piece differs in many respects from the regular issues as will be seen from the illustration. The letters of the legend on the obverse are larger and the head is set lower in the field. The "1" on the reverse is of different shape and the word "DOLLAR" is in much higher letters. The rims around the edge are a trifle broader. It is a pattern coin in the strict sense of the word. Designed to test out the advisability of making the inscriptions more legible, it failed to do this and consequently was not adopted. One or more of these pieces may have found their way into the proof sets of that year, but none, or apparently extremely few, reached the hands of collectors of pattern coins. This particular variety is only known otherwise by a few examples struck in copper.

The gold dollar came into existence in 1849 by Act of Congress on March 3rd of the same year, together with the twenty dollar gold piece, though the latter was not struck for circulation until the following year. The gold dollar was discontinued in 1889, and the Act to abolish it was passed September 26th, 1890.

It is interesting to note that the first pattern for a gold dollar is dated 1836 when the Gobrecht silver-dollar patterns were made in anticipation of the resumption of striking silver dollars. This first pattern for a gold piece has a liberty cap in a rayed circle, and the denomination 1 D, in a closed wreath on the reverse side.


An interesting gold pattern, struck in 1849, has a square hole in the centre.

In 1852 the so-called ring dollars were made by way of experiment.


William Barker in 1872 made a new design for all denominations of the gold and silver coinage, and specimen pieces were struck in various metals. These designs were not adopted.

Of the regular gold dollars there are several minor varieties of the year 1849, differing in the size of the stars, lettering and the wreath. This style with the coronet head continued into 1854 when a new design on a larger flan appeared. This design with a feathered head-dress was struck in 1854 and 1855. In 1856 the head was made slightly larger and the head-dress changed in a few minor details. The design continued unchanged up to the cessation of the gold-dollar coinage.

Gold dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint from the inception until 1889, and in the branch mints as follows:

New Orleans, with mint mark O, from 1849 to 1853 inclusive, and 1855.

Dahlonega, Ga., with mint mark D, from 1849 into 1861 (when the mint was closed).

Charlotte, N. C., with mint mark C, from 1849 to 1855 inclusive, 1857 and 1859.

Pieces dated 1854 are unknown to collectors. The records state that only four were struck.

San Francisco, with mint mark S, bearing dates 1854, 1856 to 1860 inclusive, and 1870.

Besides the regular issues, various commemorative gold dollars have been struck. These were authorized by Congress and have been sold at double and sometimes treble their face value to aid, for the most part, expositions.

  • 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition with portrait of McKinley.
  • 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition with portrait of Jefferson.
  • 1904 and 1905 Lewis-Clark Exposition with portrait on the obverse of Lewis; and on the other side, of Clark.
  • 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition with head representing Labor, by Charles Keck. Struck at the San Francisco Mint.
  • 1916 and 1917 McKinley Birthplace Memorial; Niles, Ohio, with portrait of McKinley on one side and the Memorial building on the other.
  • 1922 Grant Memorial Gold Dollar.

There are a number of gold dollars, made chiefly in California, but as they have no official status they are not included. For the most part they can be easily distinguished from the genuine pieces by their poor workmanship as well as by their inscriptions and designs.



Pl. I


First Type 1849-54


Second Type 1854 and 1855


Second Variety of 1858


Third Type 1856-1889



Pl. II


Louisiana Purchase Exposition


Lewis-Clark Exposition


Panama-Pacific Exposition


McKinley Birthplace Memorial



Ernest Babelon. Les Médailles Historiques du Règne de Napoléon le Grand, Empereur et Roi. Paris. 1912. Folio, lx, 430 pages printed in three tones, a special border for every page. Illustrating two hundred unpublished drawings of Napoleonic medals, .... by Chaudet and Lemot for .... the French Institute. $20.00.

  • Anges Balwdin. The Electrum Coinage of Lampsakos. 1914. 36 pages. 2 plates. $1.00.
  • Edward T. Newell. The Seleucid Mint of Antioch. 1918. 137 pages. 13 plates. $5.00.
  • Edward T. Newell. Tarsos under Alexander. 1919. 47 pages. 8 plates. $2.50.
  • Edward T. Newell. Some Rare or Unpublished Greek Coins. 12 pages. 2 plates. $1.00.
  • Edgar H. Adams. Private Gold Coinage of California. 5 Vols. (Unbound.) $3.50.
  • Edgar H. Adams and William H. Woodin. United States Pattern, Trial and Experimental Pieces .... issued by the U. S. Mint from 1792 up to the present time. 1913. 204 pages. Illus. Cloth, $3.00.


  • 1. Sydney P. Noe. Coin Hoards. 1921 47 pp. 6 pl. 50c.
  • 2. Edward T. Newell. Octobols of Histiæa. 1921. 25 pp. 2 pl. 50c.
  • 3. Edward T. Newell. Alexander Hoards—Introduction and Kyparissia Hoard 1921. 21 pp. 2 pl. 50c.
  • 4. Howland Wood. The Mexican Revolutionary Coinage, 1913-1916. 1921. 44 pp. 26 pl. $2.00.
  • 5. Leonidas Westervelt. The Jenny Lind Medals and Tokens. 1921. 25 pp. 9 pl. 50c.
  • 6. Anges Balwdin. Five Roman Gold Medallions. 1921. 103 pp. 8 pl. $1.50.
  • 7. Sydney P. Noe. Medallic Work of A. A. Weinman. 1921. 31 pp. 17 pl. $1.00.
  • 8. Gilbert S. Perez. The Mint of the Philippine Islands. 1921. 8 pp. 4 pl. 50c.
  • 9. David Eugene Smith, LL.D. Computing Jetons. 1921. 70 pp. 25 pl. $1 50.
  • 10. Edward T. Newell. The First Seleucid Coinage of Tyre. 40 pp. 8 pl. $1.00.
  • 11. Harrold E. Gillingham. French Orders and Decorations, 110 pp. 35 pl. $2.00.