Certified Pre-1933 US Gold Coins
With each passing year, there are fewer Americans who can remember a time when gold and silver were more than an investment. Prior to 1933, the United States of America was on the gold standard and backed its limited paper notes in circulation with physical gold and silver. More impressively, this era still saw gold and silver coins in circulation in the hands of Americans on a daily basis. Finding remaining Pre-1933 US Gold coins gets harder by the year. That means that finding certified specimens is even more impressive. JM Bullion is proud to offer its customers a chance to own a range of different Pre-1933 US Gold coins with certifications from the PCGS and NGC.
A Brief History on Pre-1933 US Gold Coins
Starting in 1794, the very first coins the United States Mint issued for circulation use in the nation were struck in gold. The most common circulation pieces were the coins of the US Eagle denomination. This included the US Eagle, a $10 (USD) piece. Other coins available from this point were the US Half Eagle and US Quarter Eagle, with face values of $5 (USD) and $2.50 (USD). In 1849, a US Double Eagle was issued with a $20 (USD) face value. Additionally, from 1849 to 1889 the US Mint issued a gold dollar coin with a face value of $1 (USD).
The gold content of these coins stabilized in 1837 and remained the same until 1933 when gold coinage was suspended. From 1837 to 1933, US gold coins of all denominations had 90% gold with 10% copper. Copper was included in the alloy to strengthen the coins for circulation use. Prior to 1837, the gold content of US gold coins was as follows:
- 1794/1795 – 1833: The United States Mint initially used a 22-karat gold content, or crown gold, alloy for its gold coinage. At this time, US law mandated 91.67% gold in the coins. However, the remaining percentage could vary from as much as 8.33% copper to as little as 4.167% copper and 4.167% silver.
- 1834-1836: For a brief period of time, the US Mint lowered the gold content of its coins to .8992 fine gold.
Pre-1933 US Gold Designs
The aforementioned collections offered a variety of different designs for circulation use. Each of these designs remains popular with collectors in the 21st century. The four denominations of the US Eagle largely shared designs across the program in the 19th century. The 20th-century issues of US Eagles had variations between some of the denominations. Below is a brief breakdown of designs on Pre-1933 US Gold Coins:
- Turban Head: The very first design to feature on all four denominations in the US Eagle. It was used from 1796 to 1807 and saw very limited mintages in the early days of the Republic. Early Turban Head designs were used right-profile reliefs, while the latter shift to the Capped Bust changed the arrangement.
- Capped Bust: The Capped Bust design is very similar to the Turban Head, but is a left-profile relief with a lower-profile cap on Liberty’s head. This design was issued on and off from 1808 to 1829.
- Classic Head: From 1834 to 1839, the denominations of the US Eagle largely featured a left-profile relief of Liberty with long, flowing hair and a coronet crown.
- Liberty Head/Coronet Head: The longest-running design in the history of the series, the Liberty Head design shows Liberty in left-profile relief with her hair up in a bun and a coronet crown. This design featured across the denominations from 1838/1839 to 1907.
- Indian Head: Two different Indian Head designs were issued by the US Mint starting in 1907. One was on the US Eagle and created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It featured a feminine depiction of Liberty with an indigenous headdress. The Half Eagle and Quarter Eagle featured Bela Lyon Pratt’s first-ever effigy of an indigenous figure on American coinage. The left-profile relief not only showed an indigenous figure, but he also wore a large, feathered headdress. This design was unique in that it was struck incuse on the coins, meaning it was sunk into the design field
- Saint-Gaudens Liberty: Unique to the US Double Eagle, this portrait was revolutionary and shows the full-length figure of Liberty in front-facing relief as she walks toward the viewer with a torch in one hand and an olive branch in the other. This design was used on the Double Eagle from 1907 to 1933.
These coins featured varying reverse designs. The most common was the heraldic eagle of the United States. The only coins to feature different reverse visuals were the Indian Head Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle, and the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. The Indian Head coins featured an eagle at rest on a sheaf of arrows. The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle came with a depiction of the eagle soaring over the sun.
As for the US Gold Dollar Coin, the US Mint used three different obverse designs and two different reverse designs. These coins are known as the Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 releases. Details include:
- Type 1: the first design from James B. Longacre used by the popular Coronet Head from the US Eagle denomination. Her left-profile portrait is shown with 13 stars around the design. This design was used from 1849 to 1854. These coins had a wreath on the reverse with the nation of issue outside the wreath and the denomination and date within.
- Type 2: a short-lived change came in 1854 as the Liberty Head was replaced with a design known as the Indian Princess. It showed a smaller Liberty head with a feathered headdress and an inscription of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
- Type 3: the final design was a modification on the Type 2 Liberty that enlarged the size of Liberty’s head in the portrait field. This was used from 1856 to 1889. The reverse of Type 2 and Type 3 coins was the same. With the nation of issue moved to the obverse, the Type 2/3 reverse features a larger wreath with the denomination and date inside.
Common Grades for Pre-1933 US Gold Coins
As you browse our catalog of Certified Pre-1933 US Gold Coins, you will find a wide variety of certifications available. However, given the age of the coins and the fact that many were handled in circulation for years, if not decades, most of the grades are in the low 60s. Below are some basic descriptions of the most common grades:
- XF45: known as Extremely Fine, a coin with an XF grade in the 45 range has light wear on the highest points of relief. Mint luster may possibly remain on specimens such as these.
- MS61: mint luster is diminished or otherwise impaired on Mint State 61 coins, with clusters of large and small contact marks, hairlines that are noticeable, and scuff marks.
- MS62: mint luster may be impaired or otherwise dull on Mint State 62 coins. Each one may have clusters of small contact marks, noticeable hairlines, and scuff marks.
- MS63: mint luster is likely to be slightly impaired on a Mint State 63 coin, with small contact marks and a few heavier marks. Smaller hairlines are present on these coins and lesser scuffs.
- MS64: you will notice an average mint luster on a Mint State 64 coin, with small contact marks, one or two heavier marks, and only one or two small patches of hairlines. Any scuff marks are light in nature.
- MS65: an attractive, high-quality luster given the date of these coins remains on a Mint State 65 specimen. Contact marks or small and scattered, with up to two larger contact marks possible and only one or two small patches of hairlines. Scuff marks are only light in nature.
- MS66: these coins have an above-average quality and mint luster, with no more than three or four contact marks. Light hairlines may be visible, but only under magnification, and there are no more than one or two light scuffs.
- MS67: original mint luster is likely to remain on Mint State 67 coins, with no more than three or very extremely small contact marks. One or two single hairlines (not patches) may be visible, with only one or two minor scuffs.
Collecting Certified Pre-1933 US Gold Coins at JM Bullion
Some of the Pre-1933 US Gold Coins on this page are more than 100 years old; some are even closer to 150 years old. The number of Pre-1933 US Gold Coins available was severely impacted by the federal government’s move to outlaw private gold ownership in 1933. The end of the gold standard meant the US government collected all circulating gold coins and melted them down into gold bullion bars for government depositories.
As such, remaining Pre-1933 US Gold Coins of any kind are a treasure to behold. Take into account the quality of certified coins from this era, and you have a true treat. If you have any questions, please contact JM Bullion at 800-276-6508. We are also available online using our live chat and email address features. For questions regarding payment methods, we invite you to first visit our Payment Methods page.