rare, near-Gem Cameo Proof 1878 Gold Dollar had a
miniscule mintage of 20. Only 13 to 15 are known to
exist today. Gem Deep Cameo, tied for the Finest Graded.
Please contact me by email
or telephone 1-800-624-1870
to reserve this great coin.
James B. Longacre designed
three gold dollar types. The Liberty Head was minted
from 1849 to 1854. The design is the familiar Coronet
Head similar to Longacre’s double eagle. We
see Liberty wearing an inscribed LIBERTY Coronet facing
left. Her hair is tightly tied except for two curls
that flow down her neck. She is surrounded by thirteen
stars. The reverse is a simple open wreath with berries
tied in a bow. A large 1 for the denomination is at
the top of the wreath. The word DOLLAR is below the
number followed by the date above the bow. The inscription
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is in an arc around the wreath.
Dentils are near the edge on both sides of the coin.
The dollar coin was part of Alexander
Hamilton’s original plan for the nation’s
coinage; however, there was none until 1830’s,
when Christopher Bechtler, a private minter, began
to coin dollar and other denomination in gold. However,
the coins were variable in fineness and frequently
counterfeited. In 1844 a bill was introduced in congress
to make gold dollars. Mint Director Robert Patterson
was opposed. He falsely claimed that there was no
public demand for these coins. He did not want Longacre,
the Mint Engraver, making new dies because that would
interfere with Franklin Peale’s medal-making
business. He thought that Longacre’s job might
be abolished if new coinage was not needed. However,
five years later Congress recognized the need to coin
the new California gold that was coming into the Mint.
The public need a replacement for the paper currency
that was frequently only acceptable at a discount
and for the silver that had vanished during the “Hard
Times” of 1837 to 1844. Notwithstanding Patterson’s
objection, Longacre made the dies for the gold dollar
and production began on May 8th of both business strikes
Although no proof coins for this type
are listed in the Red Book, A Guide Book of United
States Coins, fewer than 50 of this design were made.
The grading services have each certified one proof
coin for this type.
In 1854 Type 2 gold dollars were made.
Their diameters were increased from 13 millimeters
to 15 millimeters to make handling easier. For this
type, Longacre created a new design called the Indian
Princess. It consisted of a truncated portrait of
Liberty facing left wearing a stylized headdress inscribed
LIBERTY. She is surrounded by the words UNITED STATES
OF AMERICA. The reverse shows an open, elaborate wreath
of corn, cotton, maple, and tobacco with the numeral
1 in the top center. Below it is DOLLAR followed by
the date. Unfortunately these pieces did not strike
well because the obverse portrait was in high relief
and there wasn’t enough of a metal flow to fill
the dies on both sides. Longacre had underestimated
the power of the coining presses in use at the time.
This problem was much more evident on the branch mint
presses, which were much older than those in use at
Philadelphia. Since the proofs that were made in Philadelphia
did not show this weakness, Longacre was unable to
anticipate this situation. As a result of the central
weakness, the hair or the date was blurry or illegible.
Most coins wore down quickly and were sent back to
the mint to be recoined.
There was a large business strike
for this type of 1,633,426 but only fewer than 50
proof coins made. The two major grading services have
certified 20 Type 2 proof coins.
Two years later Type 3 was coined
in the hopes that these striking problems could be
alleviated with a design change. The new coin retained
the same diameter, and the obverse relief was lowered.
In addition, the portrait was modified so the relief
areas were not opposite. The solution that Longacre
chose was to adapt the design of the three dollar
gold piece. The words of the legend were placed nearer
the border. The head was placed farther from the letters,
and the feathers’ shapes, sizes, and locations
also changed. The new design modifications were successful
and the coin remained in use until 1889.
Noted California industrialist, Ed
Trompeter was one of the most famous collectors of
United States coins. He had one of the most extensive
collections of proof gold in history. Although the
collection contained fewer than 250 gold coins, it
included some of the most important pieces in American
numismatics. He had near complete sets in proof of
the half eagle, the eagle, and the double eagle. His
collection was sold in 1998 for over 15 million dollars,
the largest private transaction of the time in numismatic
history. His collection included the finest known
High Relief and Ultra High Relief double eagles both
certified MS69, the unique Amazonian patterns in gold,
the satin finish proof 1907 Saint-Gaudens Arabic Numerals
in proof 68, the 1867 double eagle in proof 65 cameo,
and a 1907 double eagle in proof 65 cameo as well
as many other famous rarities.