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Classic US Coins – 50 US Gold Issues with the “Wow” Factor


By Doug

CoinWeek Content Partner ……
Certain issues in the various United States gold types struck between 1795 and 1933 have what might best be called a “Wow Factor.” Something about the issue—be it rarity, design, historic association or low mintage—appeals to a variety of collectors. These coins have strong multiple levels of demand and a “wow” coin might be included in a collection which focuses on trophy coins.

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The following 50 US gold coins have what I regard as a strong “Wow Factor.” For each coin on this list, I’ve given a quick summation of why I feel it belongs on this list.

NOTE: I’ve excluded coins like the 1822 and 1854-S half eagles because even though they have the Wow Factor in spades, they are just too rare for this list.

1. 1855-D Gold Dollar: This one-year type is arguably the rarest gold dollar from Dahlonega. Look for an example with a full date.

1861-D $1.00 PCGS MS61. Images courtesy Doug Winter Numismatics

2. 1861-D Gold Dollar: The only U.S. gold coin incontestably struck by the Confederacy. ‘Nuff said.

3. 1875 Gold Dollar: The lowest mintage figure for this denomination with just 400 business strikes made.

4. 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle: The first year of issue for this denomination and a one-year type with just 963 struck.

1808 $2.50 PCGS AU53 CAC

5. 1808 Quarter Eagle: A rare one-year type; just 2,710 struck.

6. 1841 Quarter Eagle: Were they all struck as Proofs or were some made as business strikes? Regardless, an important rarity in this series.

7. 1848 CAL Quarter Eagle: The first commemorative American coin and a wonderful Gold Rush relic.

8. 1854-S Quarter Eagle: The first SF quarter eagle and a rarity with around a dozen known from a mintage of just 254.

9. 1856-D Quarter Eagle: With 874, the lowest recorded mintage for any Dahlonega issue. The hardest US gold coin to properly grade, in my opinion.

10. 1863 Quarter Eagle: Only 30 struck, all as Proofs, and a coin made doubly desirable by its Civil War issuance.

1854-D $3.00 PCGS AU50 CAC

11. 1854-D Three Dollar: The only Dahlonega-issued coin of this type and a hugely popular coin.

12. 1875 Three Dollar: A Proof-only issue with a reported mintage of just 20. This was the first US gold coin to eclipse the $100k price barrier, all the way back in the 1970’s.

13. 1879 Flowing Hair Stella: Always in demand as a Trophy coin and an issue with an interesting back story.

14. 1795 Small Eagle Half Eagle: The very first date of this long-lived denomination and an issue which is more available than one might expect.

15. 1798 or 1799 Small Eagle Half Eagles: The two most affordable 18th century US gold coins and available in nice AU for a low five-figure cost.

1813 $5.00 PCGS MS64

16. 1813-1834 Half Eagle: The Fat Head type half eagle, probably my single favorite US coin design.

17. 1829 Small Planchet Half Eagle: First year of type and a great rarity in all grades. One of the few coins on this list I’ve never handled.

18. 1838-C Half Eagle: First-year-of-issue from the brand new Charlotte Mint and a scarce one-year type to boot.

19. 1838-D Half Eagle: A Wow coin for the exact same reasons as its counterpart the 1838-C half eagle.

20. 1861-C Half Eagle: The final coin struck at this mint and an issue with plausible Civil War associations.

21. 1861-D Half Eagle: The last Dahlonega half eagle and another coin with strong demand from Civil War collectors.

1864-S $5.00 PCGS EF45

22. 1864-S Half Eagle: The rarest collectible San Francisco half eagle and the rarest business strike Civil War gold coin.

23. 1870-CC Half Eagle: The first year of issue for Carson City half eagles. Available in low grade, rare in higher grades.

24. 1875 Half Eagle: Just 200 business strikes were made and likely under 10 exist. The rarest collectible Liberty Head half eagle.

25. 1887 Half Eagle: A rare Proof-only issue with just 87 coins struck in total. An overlooked date.

26. 1909-O Half Eagle: The only New Orleans half eagle of this type and the final gold coin struck at this mint. Very rare in high grades.

27. 1929 Half Eagle: The last year of issue for this long-lived denomination. A heavily melted date.

28. 1795 Eagle: The first year of issue for this denomination and the largest of the three denominations struck during the early years of the US.

1799 $10.00 PCGS MS61

29. 1799 Eagle: The most common and therefore the most affordable pre-1800 date of this type.

30. 1838 Eagle: First year of issue for the Liberty Head design and a short-lived two year type.

31. 1841-O Eagle: The first eagle struck at a branch mint and the first–obviously–from New Orleans.

32. 1863 Eagle: The rarest Civil War eagle and a strong contender for one of the rarest dates in the entire Liberty Head eagle series.

1870-CC $10.00 PCGS EF40

33. 1870-CC Eagle: The first Carson City eagle and a rare, popular issue in all grades.

34. 1875 Eagle: Crazy low-mintage of just 200 business strikes and by far the rarest date in the series with just 7/8 or so known,

35. 1907 Wire Edge Eagle: A beautifully designed, low mintage issue with strong demand from a variety of collectors.

36. 1933 Eagle: The final year of issue for this denomination (first struck in 1795) and the only US gold coin dated 1933 which is legal to own.

1854-O $20.00 PCGS AU55

37. 1854-O Double Eagle: One of two mega-rarities from this mint and a key issue in the Type One double eagle series.

1856-O $20.00 PCGS AU55

38. 1856-O Double Eagle: The other very rare New Orleans Type One issue. Unique in Uncirculated and represented by fewer than 40 known in total.

1861-S PAQUET $20.00 NGC AU53

39. 1861-S Paquet Double Eagle: A mysterious but collectible issue with a different reverse designed by Anthony Paquet.

40. 1870-CC Double Eagle: The first double eagle from this mint and the single most valuable gold coin from this mint.

41/42/43. 1883, 1884 and 1887 Double Eagles: Three very rare low mintage double eagles, each struck only in a Proof format.

MCMVII (1907) HIGH RELIEF $20.00 MS66

44. 1907 High Relief Double Eagle: One of the most popular US gold coins and a trophy issue which appeals to numerous collectors.

45. 1927-D Double Eagle: The rarest and most valuable regular issue 20th century US gold coin.

1915-S $50.00 PCGS MS64+

46/47. 1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal and Round Fifty Dollars: Massive in size and with lovely, novel designs, these two commemorative gold pieces epitomize the Wow Factor.

48. 1850 Baldwin Ten Dollar “Horseman” Type: My favorite design of any Territorial gold issue with a Vaquero astride a horse on the obverse.

49. 1852 Humbert Fifty Dollar Slug: To me, this is the coin that epitomizes the Wild West. Huge in size and curious in shape, an issue which appeals to a host of collectors.

50. 1860 Clark Gruber Ten Dollar “Mountain” Type: The charming Pikes Peak design, struck for use in Denver and the Colorado Territory.

The final count, denomination by denomination, is as follows:

  • Gold Dollars: 3
  • Quarter Eagles: 7
  • Three Dollars: 2
  • Four Dollars: 1
  • Half Eagles: 14
  • Eagles: 9
  • Doubles Eagles: 9
  • Miscellaneous: 5

Any list of this nature is going to be controversial and, of course, contain personal bias. Did I leave any coins off which you would have included on your list? If so, please discuss them below in the Comments section or send me an email at [email protected].

Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old,  buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.

In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare United States coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.

Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins has made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality and fair and honest pricing.  Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small.  He can be reached at 214-675-9897.

Doug has been a contributor to the  Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins,  Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues

In addition he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
  • Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
  • Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
  • Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
  • The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
  • Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
  • An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
  • A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
  • The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
  • Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis

Finally Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.

Doug Winter
Doug Winter
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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  1. I believe you have a typo of some sort at #15. I would love to purchase a nice AU 1798 Half Eagle with the Small Eagle Reverse for a low 5-figure price, but I suspect they are not quite that affordable.

  2. I believe the author meant to say:

    15. 1798 or 1799 LARGE Eagle Half Eagles: The two most affordable 18th century US gold coins and available in nice AU for a low five-figure cost.

    After some checking, I found the last 1798 small eagle $5 gold half eagle sold for a low 7-figure price — $1.175 million, to be precise. Whereas, the “large” eagle versions of the 1798 and 1799 gold half eagles have been priced in the lower 5-figures.


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