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 US 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 including; MS62, MS63, MS64 and MS65 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, too. The three designs that describe a majority of US gold coins minted prior to 1933 include the Liberty Head, Indian Head, and St. Gaudens designs.
Liberty Head gold coins such as the $2.5 Liberty Gold Quarter Eagle and $5 Liberty Gold Half Eagle depict, as their name implies, the image of Lady Liberty on the coin’s obverse. The Lady is almost always leftward facing and is adorned with a coronet atop her head. Depending on the exact coin and the year in which it was minted, the coronet atop the Lady’s head is often inscribed with the word “Liberty”.
Indian Head gold coins, on the other hand, depict a Native American chief as to celebrate the rich cultural history of Native Americans in the country now referred to as the United States of America. A major difference between the design featured on the Indian Head series of gold coins and not on the Liberty Head series is the presence of an incused design. Unlike other coin editions, which see the design and inscriptions physically raised from the coins’ face, Indian Heads’ designs are pressed into the coin.
The last most prominent Pre-1933 US coin design is the St. Gaudens. The St. Gaudens design boasts the image of Lady Liberty, but unlike the Liberty Head coin series, the St. Gaudens design features her walking, seemingly off the face of the coin. Lady Liberty is clutching a torch in one hand and an olive branch in the other. This same design was later used as the inspiration for the American Gold Eagle coin.
The designs of these coins are all impressive, but investors are much 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 a filler metal, most often copper added to increase the strength and durability of the coin.
The real history of pre-1933 US gold coins dates all the way back to the end of the 18th century. The Coinage Act of 1792 was the legislation which first sanctioned the production of US coinage. Not only did the Act tell the newly established US Mint to produce coins, it also specified what coins would be produced, as well as what their face values were to be.
Two years after the Act was passed by Congress, the first US gold coins rolled off the production line. Throughout the early parts of the 19th century, the US Mint was much more focused on the production of its more standard, silver coins. It wasn’t until the 1830s and 1840s that the Eagle, Half Eagle, and Quarter Eagle gold coins became more widely produced and circulated. The Act of 1792 mandated that the Quarter Eagle carry a face value of $2.5, the Half Eagle a face value of $5, and the Eagle a face value of $10.
At the time of their minting, the gold content of these coins was more or less in line with the coin’s intrinsic worth. Nowadays, however, 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 US coins into overdrive as the US 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.
Due to the ever-rising rarity of most pre-1933 US gold coins, their availability at JM Bullion can best be described as limited. Because these coins have been out of production for more than 80 years now, there is by no means a steady stream of them and, more often than not, when they’re sold out they’re sold out. Add this extreme rarity to the inordinately high demand for these coins and you have just given yourself as good of a reason as ever to get your hands on pre-1933 gold coins.
As is always the case, all of our certified coins will ship in their protective plastic slabs while all other raw coins will be protected by a vinyl coin flip and safely secured for shipping. All purchases over $99 will be dispatched free of charge and will be fully insured as to protect against the unlikely occurrence of damage or loss.