The obverse of this coin is quite simple, with Liberty facing left surrounded by 13 stars. Her coronet is incused with LIBERTY. The reverse has the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the edge. Within a laurel wreath are the date and denomination. The mintmark is located below the wreath. Coins were minted in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans and San Francisco, all with reeded edges. The varieties in this Type are limited to the wreath design. There is an Open Wreath and Closed Wreath variety, with the difference being in how near the wreath comes to the number 1 of the denomination. The 1849-C Open Wreath variety is without doubt the “king” of gold dollars and is one of the rarest of all U.S. gold coins, with only four known to exist.
By diameter, this is the smallest coin ever minted by the United States. The design is rather plain, in large part due to the small size. Although very well received when issued, the tiny size led to many coins being lost. In the mid-1800s this was no small matter, as 1 dollar was a full day’s pay for many Americans. Thoughts quickly turned to replacing this Type with a larger coin. In 1854, banks were ordered to return to the Mint all Type 1 gold dollars they received. The Mint would melt the coins to create planchets for the new gold dollars.
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