The mintage of proof three dollar gold pieces was increased in 1883, to a relatively generous 89 pieces (13 more specimens than the previous year). However, this increased production total was dwarfed by the 106-piece mintage achieved the following year.
Apparently, collector demand for proof three dollar gold coins was increasing throughout this period, as mintages continued to grow until near the end of the series, reaching a high of 291 examples in 1888.
The 1883 proofs were widely saved by contemporary collectors and most of the original mintage survives today.
* NGC population is only 3 with 1 higher for this grade and designation.
'Indian Princess' design brought mixed reviews By Michele Orzano
COIN WORLD Staff She's known as the "Indian princess" but the title for the portrait of Liberty that appears on the gold $3 coins garnered its share of criticism for designer James B. Longacre.
Longacre served as chief engraver of the U.S. Mint for 25 years beginning in 1844.
During that tenure he created 22 distinct designs for circulating U.S. coinage. Many of his designs are held in high esteem by collectors today.
His designs include the Flying Eagle cent, Indian Head cent, all three gold dollar designs and the Coronet double eagle.
The new image of Liberty was first introduced in 1854 on the gold dollar, replacing the Coronet figure that had been in use for six years. The Indian Head portrait of Liberty was the first in a series of medallic tributes to the first Native Americans. Some have pointed out that the figure of Liberty hardly represents the facial features of an American Indian. That may be due to a story that says Longacre's blonde, 16-year-old daughter Sarah was the inspiration for the design. As the story goes, Sarah wandered into her father's studio one day while he was sketching the profile of an American Indian chief. Apparently the headdress had been set aside during the sketching and Sarah discovered it and charmed her father into using her image.
But whether it was criticism about the image or something else that was bothering Longacre, he decided to set his thoughts down on paper in a letter to U.S. Mint Director James Ross Snowden in August 1858. In the letter Longacre defends his designs, particularly the gold $3 coin, against those who complain about the departure from traditional classical Greek/Roman beauty.
He wrote that the "feathered tiara is a characteristic of the primitiveness of our hemisphere, as the turban is of the Asiatic. "Nor is there anything in its decorative character, repulsive to the association of Liberty, with the intelligent American: to us it is more appropriate than the Phrygian cap; the emblem rather of the emancipated slave, than of the independent freeman, of those who are able to say, 'we are never in bondage to any man.' I regard then this emblem of America, as a proper and well defined portion of our memorial of Liberty, our liberty, American Liberty: why not use it? One more graceful can scarcely be devised: we have only to determine that it shall be appropriate and all the world outside of us, cannot wrest it from us," Longacre wrote, as quoted in Don Taxay's The U.S. Mint and Coinage .
Longacre's passionate defense apparently was sufficient to continue the use of the design until 1889 when the denomination was abolished.
The plumed headdress, held together with a headband displaying the legend LIBERTY, sits upon the "Indian princess" head surrounded by the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The denomination is expressed on the reverse as 3 DOLLARS with the date below. The reverse features a wreath of Longacre's design with corn, wheat, cotton and tobacco enclosing the denomination and date. The open-ended wreath is tied together at the bottom with a ribbon bow. The Indian Head gold $3 piece was struck for 36 years. From 1854 to 1873 the metallic content was 90 percent gold, 10 percent copper and silver.
In 1873 the metallic content was changed to 90 percent gold and 10 percent copper.
The Dahlonega and New Orleans Mints struck the gold $3 coins only in 1854.
The rest of the series was struck at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints.
An 1870-S Indian Head gold $3 coin was not included in the U.S. Mint Report, but one was struck for inclusion in the cornerstone of the San Francisco Mint (now known as the Old Mint Museum at Fifth and Mint streets).
One piece is known in a private collection.
Date of authorization: Feb. 21, 1853
Dates of issue: 1854-1889
Designer/Engraver: James B. Longacre
Diameter: 20.63 mm/0.81 inch
Weight: 5.02 grams/0.16 ounce
Metallic Content: (1854-1873): 90% gold, 10% copper and silver
(1873-1889): 90% gold, 10% copper
Weight of pure gold: 4.51 grams/0.15 ounce
Mint mark: Reverse below wreath
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