Pre-1933 U.S. gold coins are not only historically significant, they are extremely collectible as well as highly sought after works of art.
The history of pre-1933 US gold coins date all the way back to the end of the 18th century. The Coinage Act of 1792 was the legislation that first sanctioned the production of U.S. coinage. However, production of gold coins really began with the half eagle ($5) and eagle ($10) in 1795. Throughout the early history of the United States, Gold coins served as currency until their confiscation in the early 1930s.
In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (using the “Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917”) issued an executive order requiring that all persons in possession or control of gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates (i.e. paper currency redeemable in gold coin of the United States) must turn them into any federal reserve bank or any “member bank” of the Federal Reserve System. This order made it illegal for American citizens to hold monetary gold. Gold coins were then melted and cast into Gold bars. This federal government recall and meltdown made the previously common gold coins very rare.
In fact, estimates have less than 1% of these Pre-1933 gold coins surviving. This single act from Roosevelt alone makes it extremely hard to believe that so many of the rare pre-1933 gold U.S. coins are still on the market today. It has also made pre-1993 gold coins some of the most desirable items among collectors and investors alike.
All U.S. gold coins minted before 1933 are individually valued based on date, rarity, appeal among collectors, and state of preservation - known as grade. Please feel free to contact one of U.S. Coins and Jewelry team members or fill out our contact form, and we will be happy to help you start or expand your portfolio.
Minted by the United States government prior to 1933, these coins offer investors the opportunity to gain exposure to both physical gold as well as coin collecting. Pre-1933 U.S. minted gold coins were struck in .900 purity and are available today in both graded and raw form with many size options, designs, and grades to choose from. NGC and PCGS certified coins are available in mint-state grades while ungraded coins are also available in varying conditions. Depending on the scarcity and condition of the coin, pre-1933 gold coins often fetch higher premiums over the gold spot price than similarly sized gold bullion.
Being that there are a variety of pre-1933 US coins in existence, the designs of them vary quite drastically from coin to coin. With that said, the fact that many of these coins were produced during the same time period means that as much as their designs are different, they are similar in a lot of ways as well. The three designs that describe a majority of U.S. gold coins minted prior to 1933 include the Liberty Head, Indian Head, and St. Gaudens designs.
The designs of these pre-1933 gold coins are all impressive, but investors are most likely more concerned with how much gold is present in them. Every pre-1933 gold coin is comprised of 90% gold. The other 10% is made up of filler metal, most often copper added to increase the strength and durability of the coin.
At the time of their minting, the gold content of these spectacular coins was closely in line with the coin’s intrinsic worth. Today, the legal value is dwarfed by how much the gold content alone would fetch on the open market. The California Gold Rush of the late 1840s and early 1850s kicked the production of gold U.S. coins into overdrive as the U.S. Mint was provided with a heavy surplus of gold from the scores of mines popping up all over the western United States.
Throughout the duration of the 19th century up until the early parts of the 20th century, gold coins were minted continuously and often in large quantities. As the financial woes of the Great Depression began to more readily grip the United States and the world, President Roosevelt decreed that the ownership of physical gold was now illegal for US citizens. Beginning in 1933 and lasting through the next few years, it was mandated that all US gold coins be returned to the US Treasury. It was at this point when the US Treasury made the executive decision to melt down a majority of the coins to make gold bars. This occurrence alone makes it extremely hard to believe that so many pre-1933 gold US coins are still on the market today.
"Pre-1933 gold" refers to any legal tender gold coins made before the year 1933. 1933 is a crucially important date in the history of gold. It marked the end of circulating gold coinage in the United States. The value of pre-1933 US gold coins is based on the coin's gold content, its condition, and its rarity.
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$20 Liberty Head Gold Coins
Minted from 1850 to 1907
In 1850, the US Mint released the $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle as the first coin of its particular denomination. Its production had been prompted by the California Gold Rush two years earlier. With its exceptional composition of .9675 troy oz of .900 fine gold, the $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle serves as not only as an impressive collectible, but also as a valuable asset to include in portfolios. This spectacular coin is one of the most popular gold coins among collectors.
Obverse: Engraved unto the coin’s obverse is his classical rendition of Lady Liberty, which was based on the royal effigies seen on Greco-Roman currency. The portrait depicts Liberty in profile with her thick curls arranged beneath an inscribed crown. She is framed by a ring of thirteen stars as a tribute to the original thirteen colonies. Longacre’s portrayal of this beloved figure is why the coin is often referred to as the “Liberty Head” Double Eagle.
Reverse: Stamped with the Great Seal of the US, this well-known emblem depicts the bald eagle, armed with a shield, an olive branch and a set of arrows. Longacre’s artwork remained the same throughout the coin’s mintage, however several changes were made to the inscriptions. Such changes included the addition of the “In God We Trust” motto in 1866 and the abbreviation change of the coin’s denomination in 1877.
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$10 Liberty Head Eagle Gold Coins
Minted from 1866 to 1907
The Liberty Gold Eagle is the term used to define the $10 Gold Eagle coins issued by the US Mint between 1838 and 1907. This design was created by Philadelphia Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht in Ancient Greek and Roman stylings. Gobrechts image of Liberty in left-profile relief replaced the original Liberty design known as the Turban Head which was available from 1795 when the coins were first issued to 1804 (depending upon denomination).
Obverse: On the obverse of Pre-33 $10 Liberty Gold Eagle Coins, youll find Gobrechts depiction of Liberty in left-profile relief. The coins feature Liberty wearing a Coronet on her head that reads Liberty on it, with the face value below her bust and 13 stars around her figure.
Reverse: The reverse side of Pre-33 $10 Liberty Gold Eagles features two different possible designs. The heraldic eagle of the United States is central to the design, with the nation of issue and face value engraved as Ten D. Coins issued from 1838 to 1866 have no national motto, while coins issued from late 1866 to 1907 when the designs changed on both sides have a banner reading In God We Trust.
$5 Liberty Gold Half Eagle Coins (No Motto)
Minted from 1839 - 1866
The $5 Liberty is the only coin in U.S. history to be produced at all seven federal mints. Prior to 1838, all Half Eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Like the Quarter Eagle, the design, composition, and weight of the Half Eagle changed many times throughout its production. Beginning in 1837 and until the Half Eagle was discontinued in 1929, it was struck from .900-fine gold. In 1908 the Liberty design was replaced with the Indian Head design.
$5 Indian Head Gold Half Eagle
The Indian Head Gold Half Eagle $5 coin is a collector favorite and is among the most unique pre-1933 U.S. gold coins. It features an incused design, with the lettering and fine detail of the Indian head sunken into the surface of the gold. The intended purpose of the incused design was to create a durable gold coin that would stand up to the wear of being in general circulation. Consequently, the $5 Indian head is among the most well-preserved gold coins of its era. Minted from 1908 to 1929, each $5 Indian head contains .2419 troy ounces of .900-fine gold. The obverse features the image of an Indian in a feather headdress, while the reverse includes a standing eagle. The recessed incused design feature of the $5 Indian head makes it one of the most unique gold coins ever produced by the U.S. Mint.
Obverse: The $5 Indian Half Eagle depicts a Native American wearing an ornate feather headdress. He is encircled by thirteen stars (intended to represent the original 13 colonies), along with the coin’s date and the word “LIBERTY.” Exactly like the reverse, the coin’s obverse is engraved in an incuse format. This means that the design details are recessed or sunken in an intaglio style.
Reverse: The reverse’s focal point features an eagle sitting on a bundle of arrows with an olive branch in its talons. Surrounding the bird are the country of origin, the legend “IN GOD WE TRUST,” the coin’s denomination of $5 US dollars, and the national motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Similar to the obverse, the reverse features incused design elements.
$10 Indian Head Eagle
First struck in 1907, the $10 Indian Head was minted through 1933, when the U.S. Government effectively confiscated all gold coins in circulation under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order. Highly regarded sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt to create the design. The obverse of the $10 Indian Head features a personification of Liberty wearing a traditional Indian head-dress, while the reverse shows an American eagle majestically perched upon a cache of arrows. One noteworthy attribute of the Indian Head eagle gold coin is the stars on the coin’s edge, one for each state in the union (46 from 1907-11, 48 after 1912).
Obverse: On the obverse of the Pre-33 $10 Indian Gold Eagle is the left-profile portrait of Lady Liberty. She wears a feathered headdress upon her head and has 13 stars located above her headdress. There is a date mark below her bust on this side.
Reverse: The reverse of the $10 Indian Gold Eagle features an American bald eagle standing on a quiver full of arrows wrapped in an olive branch. This side of the coin lacks the national motto for date marks of 1907 and 1908. All coins struck from late 1908 through 1933 have the national motto of "In God We Trust" on this face of the coin. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, designer of Liberty for the $20 Gold Double Eagle, created the artwork for both the obverse and reverse of the Indian Gold Eagles.
We are always interested in buying Pre-1933 gold and offer Houston's best prices. If you have Pre-1933 Gold coins in your collection that you are ready to part ways with, please contact the U.S. Coins and Jewelry team.
You can also visit the store or complete the Appraisal Request form.