The $3 Dollar Gold piece is the member of a class of unusual denomination pieces who had low mintage numbers and circulated sparsely. The obverse and reverse designs for this coin are identical to the Type 3 Gold $1 piece which was minted during the same time period between 1856 and 1889.
Obverse: Lady Liberty with Native American Headdress
Reverse: Wreath of corn, wheat, cotton and tobacco
Mints: D, S and P
Designer: James Barton Longacre
The one and only $3 Gold Piece ever minted by the U.S. was introduced into legislation with the passing of the Coin Act of 1853. Congress’s reasoning in large part was that a $3 piece would be perfect for the exchanging of rolls of silver 3-Cent pieces and for buying sheets of 100 3-Cent stamps.
The U.S. Mint Chief Engraver at the time, James B. Longacre, designed the $3 Gold Coin and did his best to make it as distinguishable from the $2.5 Liberty Head as possible by striking it thinner and wider and using a different design from the Liberty Head gold coins which were being minted at this time. One year into production, in 1855, Longacre began striking the word “Dollars” on the reverse of the coin with a bolder font and that continued until its mintage ceased in 1889.
Most years of this coin’s 34 year minting lifespan had mintages in the low thousands or in some cases even hundreds. Wise collectors and investors held onto their pieces and did not use them in circulation knowing that at some point their value would increase. In addition to the already scarce circulation by people hoarding them, the economic disruption of the Civil War is often thought to have played a part in the $3 Gold Piece never finding its place in the economy.
The $3 Gold piece and as well as the $1 Gold piece stopped being minted in 1889 simply because it was determined that they were not needed. In the 1890s, many of the final years of issue were melted down which made these coins even more rare and caused the value of the $3 Gold Piece to exceed its face value for the first time.
Not surprisingly, this coin has many different rare dates and mint marks and some of the hardest issues to come by are the 1857-S, 1860-P, 1867-P and the rarest of all with only 1 known to exist – the 1870-S.
At Tri-State we have access to a wide range of Three Dollar gold pieces with a variety of dates and mint marks.