The legendary $3 Gold coin was created through the Mint Act of February 21, 1853, and first minted in 1854. While the design was unique and beautiful, these Gold coins never caught on in popularity and experienced only limited circulation. Issued during at a time when Gold Quarter Eagles were still gaining prevalence, the lack of interest made later mintages mostly ceremonial, with striking terminated in 1889.
History of the $3 Gold Coin
An 1851 law that lowered the first-class mail rate from five cents to three cents also made way for a three-cent coin, explicitly intended for people to use when buying the newly priced stamps. Two years later, the government passed another law authorizing the $3 Gold coin with the hope that it would be used to buy entire sheets of stamps at once. The newly commissioned three-dollar Gold piece was designed by James B. Longacre, the U.S. Mint chief engraver at the time. The initial mintage in 1854 was quite large, but due to low interest, the coins were struck in ever-decreasing quantities as the years went on. While temporarily in fashion on the West Coast, circulation had subsided almost entirely by the 1870s!
$3 Gold Piece Design
A celebrated example of Pre-1933 Gold, the three-dollar coin design is called the Indian Princess Head. In actuality, the portrait bears a closer resemblance to Lady Liberty wearing a feathered headdress. Other details on the obverse include flowing hair and the word "Liberty" inscribed along the coronet of the headdress. The reverse is designed with a wreath inspired by major crops in American agriculture, including wheat, corn, cotton and tobacco. The wreath surrounds the date and "3 Dollars" in capital letters to indicate the face value. A ribbon knot at the base of the wreath is a detail of note because a raised vertical division at the center is an essential indicator of condition.
$3 Gold Coin Value
Like other pieces from this period, the $3 Gold coin value is influenced by the year it was minted along with the current condition. Top quality examples have become hard to find, but some Fine and Extremely Fine coins occasionally appear. For the most part, mint condition Philadelphia pieces minted after 1855 are rare. Coins struck in 1878 are still rather easy to find today, due to being created in larger quantities. Even though mintage was low during the last year of issue, 1889, since many people saved the $3 Gold coins they received, mint state pieces exist in surprisingly high numbers compared to other series produced the same year.