Pre-1933 U.S. Gold Coins

Many gold investors collect pre-1933 U.S. gold coins because of their history, beauty, and rarity. When these coins were minted, the U.S. was under a gold standard, meaning that dollars were fixed in price relative to a weight of gold. Before the devaluation of the dollar in 1933, each dollar was worth 1/20 of a troy ounce of gold. Americans could therefore receive a $20 Double Eagle gold coin, with .9675 ozt. of gold, for $20 in paper money.

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle with $20 face value.
Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

On April 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, which required Americans to turn in their gold and outlawed its possession. It was asserted by the government that the hoarding of gold by the public was aggravating the economic depression of the time, so the outlawing of its possession was perceived as a remedy for this problem. On the other hand, some historians and economists believe that the actual reason for this prohibition of gold was to allow the Federal Reserve to have a larger supply of gold from which to print more dollars in order to expand credit, given that, with a gold standard, the amount of gold in its possession limited its ability to increase the money supply.

The gold coin pictured above was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and was issued from 1907 to 1933. This Double Eagle was minted in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The coin features Lady Liberty holding a torch with her right hand and a branch with her left. This design has been used for the modern Gold Eagle coins of the U.S. Mint.

1911 Indian Head Quarter Eagle
1911 Indian Head Quarter Eagle

Also popular among collectors are the fractional “Indian Head” gold coins, such as the Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle coins. As these names suggest, the Quarter Eagle has one-eighth the gold and the Half Eagle has one-fourth the gold of the Double Eagle. These were designed by Boston sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt and were minted from 1908 to 1929. These coins are unique as they are incused, meaning the design goes into the planchet rather than being in the form of relief, with the effect that they are easier to counterfeit. Collectors should therefore be more cautious with these coins and buy from trusted dealers who can properly authenticate them. While these coins were largely rejected when they were minted, today they are prized by collectors for their unique design.

1907 Indian Head Eagle.
1907 Indian Head Eagle

The Indian Head Eagle, pictured above, was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and unlike the smaller Indian Heads, it has a relief design. This coin has half the amount of gold as the Double Eagle. It was minted from 1907 to 1933.

1866 Liberty Head Eagle
1866 Liberty Head Eagle

Another type of pre-1933 gold coin commonly collected is the “Liberty Head,” pictured above, and like the Indian Head comes in various denominations and sizes. These were designed by Christian Gobrecht, and were minted from 1838 to 1907 in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, Carson City, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Dahlonega.

There are other pre-1933 gold coins for collectors, such as California fractional coins. These are the smallest gold coins ever produced by the U.S. Mint, and are highly prized by collectors. However, these are often counterfeited, so buyers must beware and rely on trustworthy sellers when purchasing these coins.

1797 Turban Head Eagle.
1797 Turban Head Eagle

One such very rare type of coin sought by wealthier investors is the Turban Head Eagle, also referred to as the Capped Bust Eagle, pictured above. These were designed by Robert Scot and are 33 mm in diameter with .9167 percent gold and the rest copper. These can easily be worth tens of thousands of dollars in good condition. Though most coin collectors are priced out of this specific type of coin, the other types listed above should be accessible for the vast majority of collectors.