Before gold coins were removed from circulation in 1933, a variety of designs were struck. The value of pre-1933 US gold coins is based on the coin’s gold content, condition, and rarity. Many pre-1933 US gold coins have been graded, also known as certified. The two best known coin grading services are NGC and PCGS.
Design Variety in Pre-1933 US Gold
Nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century US gold was minted in many denominations and in several designs. Most Pre-1933 coins are identified by their denomination and referred to according to it. The coins are referred to as follows: $20 denominations are referred to as “Double Eagles,” $10 face value are referred to as “Eagles,” $5 face value are referred to as “Half-Eagles,” and $2.50 face value are referred to as “Quarter-Eagles.”
These coins are also identifiable by the Saint-Gaudens, Liberty or Indian Head design. Quarter-Eagles, Half Eagles, and Eagles all feature either a Liberty or an Indian Head design. Double Eagles are the only coins which exclude the Indian Head design and instead depict the Saint-Gaudens Liberty and original Liberty Head designs. Not to be confused with the Indian Head nickel or Gold Buffalo design, Indian Head Eagles don’t feature an effigy of a once-living Native American. Instead, Indian Head eagles, quarter-eagles, and half-eagles depict a rather adorned Native American illustration.
Indian Head Eagle Design
In the early 1900s the Executive office, in other words, President Roosevelt, decided that United States coinage was in need of some rejuvenation. Roosevelt called for new artists to submit new coin designs. Subsequently, Roosevelt commissioned Saint-Gaudens to create a few designs for several coins.
The Indian Head eagles design has quite an interesting story behind it. Saint-Gaudens, the chief designer for American Eagle coins, originally drew a portrait of Lady Liberty for the obverse of the coins. However, when Roosevelt was scrutinizing the Saint-Gaudens illustrations, he suggested something unexpected. Roosevelt wanted to have some sort of nod to the Native American, so he suggested adding a distinctive Native American headdress to the Liberty portrait. Because he admired Saint-Gaudens’ work, but also wanted to honor Native Americans, Roosevelt asked Saint-Gaudens to make the addition while still keeping the original face. Eventually, the changes were made and the Eagles we know today are referred to as Indian Head Eagles.
Post-1933 quarter-eagles, half eagles, eagles, and double eagles contain a variety of designs which aren’t exclusive to the Saint-Gaudens, Liberty, or Indian Head designs. Many of later eagles which aren’t Saint-Gaudens, Liberty, or Indian Head designs, come with a variety of obverse designs. Most eagles which exclude these designs are commemorative post-1933, 20th- and 21st-century coins.
Gainesville Coins’ inventory of pre-1933 US gold coins is constantly being updated, so check back often to see our latest offerings.