1854-D Indian Head Three Dollar

The primary objective of the Mint Act of February 21, 1853 was to authorize the use of lighter weight silver coinage. An additional clause was tacked onto the law to sanction production of the three dollar gold coin.(1)

The first three dollar gold coins were issued in 1854. Mint Engraver James Longacre’s design depicts an Indian princess on the obverse, wearing a feathered headdress and a band inscribed with the word “LIBERTY.” An agricultural wreath comprised of tobacco, wheat, corn, and cotton is the primary element of the reverse, encircling the date and “3 DOLLARS” to indicate its face value.

Researchers speculate Congress sought a three dollar gold piece because it would come in handy to purchase sheets of 100 three-cent postage stamps. A similar thought process led to the origination of the three cent silver “trime” in 1851.

Instead, the three dollar gold coin was soundly rejected by the public. Accordingly, small mintages of the coin were produced during its 35-year lifespan from 1854 to 1889. Only about half a million pieces were struck at all the mints combined.(2)(3)

Only 1,120 were coined at the Dahlonega Mint in 1854, which proved to be the only year of three dollar gold production at Dahlonega. The pieces circulated locally, but were seldom seen outside the southern economy. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, most went into hiding, which may explain the unusually high survival rate of the 1854-D.(4) PCGS estimates 300 examples remain today.(5)

The 1854-D three dollar gold coin is one of the famous issues of the Dahlonega Mint, for it is the sole date of this oddball denomination to emanate from this intriguing southern facility.(6)

Because of its uniqueness, demand for the 1854-D has always been strong. Certainly there are not enough surviving examples to fully placate the collector class, but there are a few more of them around than generally perceived.(7)

This may explain the less-than-stellar price performance of the coin. However, because of its numismatic importance and widespread appeal, no one should ever doubt its rightful designation as a classic rarity.

Buying advice: Gold coin experts report most 1854-D three dollar pieces have poor eye appeal and other problems. Many of them have been cleaned chemically or brushed (creating hairlines). Others have been gouged and “repaired.” Examples that are undamaged with original surfaces and possessing good overall eye appeal are highly desirable and should easily outpace (in terms of percentage gains) the typical low quality example.(8)

Estimated survivors in all grades: 300
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 6.4
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
Click HERE to check for availability on eBay**

Preview of eBay selection(the HERE link above usually finds at least one 1854-D $3 for sale):

1854-D Indian Head three dollar photos 1854-D Indian Head three dollar classic rarity
Trendline Avg = 5.83 CLASSIC RARITY
Last updated 9-6-23
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1. Yeoman, R.S. and Garrett, Jeff, et al.   A Guide Book of United States Coins, 75th ed. Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, 2021.

2. Heritage Auctions.  1854-D $3.  Feb 2014 Auction.

3. Yeoman, R.S. and Garrett, Jeff, et al.   A Guide Book of United States Coins, 75th ed. Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, 2021.

4. Heritage Auctions.  1854-D $3.  Jan 2022 Auction.

5. PCGS.  1854-D $3 (Regular Strike).

6. Heritage Auctions.  1854-D $3.  Jan 2022 Auction.

7. PCGS.  1854-D $3 (Regular Strike).

8. PCGS.  1854-D $3 (Regular Strike).

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

As is always, always the case, never buy a valuable coin from a seller whose trustworthiness cannot be verified. Learn more about this at our chapter Best Places to Buy Coins, which also has a section on doing business on eBay.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.