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HomeUS Coins1878 Three Dollar Gold Coin : A Collector's Guide

1878 Three Dollar Gold Coin : A Collector’s Guide

1878 Three Dollar Gold Coin. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1878 Three Dollar Gold Coin. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

The United States Mint in Philadelphia struck 82,304 Three Dollar Gold coins in 1878. This output is the second-highest mintage of the type and trails only the Philadelphia Mint’s inaugural emission of 1854. Comparing this mintage to other gold coins struck at Philadelphia, the Three Dollar Gold coin still lags behind.

Philadelphia struck 286,240 quarter eagles in 1878, 131,720 half eagles, and 543,625 double eagles. Only the eagle with 73,780 coins struck trailed the Three Dollar Gold piece this year.

Why the larger mintage for such an unpopular denomination? Numismatists Doug Winter and Q. David Bowers posit in United States $3 Gold Pieces, 1854-1889 that the increased mintage was carried out as the Treasury Department geared up to redeem paper bills on par with gold coins.

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Historic Pricing Data

Abe Kosoff remembered buying a “roll” of 1878 $3 gold coins in 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, for $4.85 each.

On the back cover of the February 1951 issue of The Numismatist, coin dealer James Kelly advertised two uncirculated 1878 three dollar gold coins for sale. One described as “Brilliant, uncirculated” was listed for $22.50. The other one, described as “Uncirculated, sharp,” was listed for $20.00.

Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

The 1878 Three Dollar Gold coin is one of the most frequently encountered coins of the type and is a popular type coin as Mint State survivors are plentiful. In grades above MS66, the coin becomes unquestionably scarce.

Top Population: PCGS MS67+ (5, 3/2024). NGC MS67 (15, 3/2024). CAC MS67 (2:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • PCGS MS67+ #39756614: Heritage Auctions, January 21, 2021, Lot 4079 – $51,600.
  • PCGS MS67+ #34000642: Heritage Auctions, December 7, 2017, Lot 3229 – $60,000.
  • PCGS MS67+ #33926948: Heritage Auctions, August 10, 2016, Lot 4274 – $70,500
  • PCGS MS67 CAC: Heritage Auctions, February 2009, Lot 2641; “D. Brent Pogue Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, March 20, 2020, Lot 7330 – $55,200; Stack’s Bowers, August 6, 2020, Lot 1255 – $55,200. PQ eye appeal. 
  • NGC MS67 #3719416-001: Heritage Auctions, October 17, 2019, Lot 3221 – $28,800.
  • NGC MS67* #1869255-005: Heritage Auctions, November 3, 2005, Lot 2394 – $54,625.
  • PCGS MS66+ CAC #16274907: Stack’s Bowers/ Sotheby’s, May 15, 2015, Lot 58 – $28,200.
  • PCGS MS66+ CAC #25011438: Stack’s Bowers, August 14, 2013, Lot 4465 – $21,150.
  • PCGS MS66 #48814800: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4250 – View.
  • PCGS MS66 CMQ #6583787: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4251 – View.
  • PCGS MS66 CAC #46092977: Michael Brownlee to Harry W. Bass, Jr., October 30, 1972;  “The Harry W. Bass Jr. Core Collection, Part IV”, Heritage Auctions, August 10, 2023, Lot 9014 – $27,600.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1878
Denomination: Three Dollars (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 82,304
Alloy: .900 Gold, .100 Copper
Weight: 5.015 g
Diameter: 20.50 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: James Barton Longacre
REV Designer: James Barton Longacre
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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