Coin collectors know of them, but it’s been well over a century since this denomination was minted. So it’s not surprising it has faded from the American tribal memory. Feast your eyes:
You might well ask, “What in tarnation was the US guvmint a-thinkin’ to perduce a dang fool $3 gold piece when it was already puttin’ out “quarter eagles,” (otherwise known as two-and-a-half dollar gold pieces)?”
But I’m not sure I’m buying. My coin dealer friend Sam doesn’t think much of the theory either. Annual production of this coin was rather small, mostly four-figures, though it was minted non-stop for 36 years. If you wanted to spend gold at the friendly neighborhood post office, there’s always the option of plunking down a nice, shiny half-eagle ($5 gold) and getting two silver dollars in change.
This interesting specimen has a “D” mint mark. You might think that’s Denver. Uh-uh; not in the mid-19th century. From 1838-1861, the Treasury Department operated two branch mints in the southeast: one in Charlotte and the other in Dahlonega, Georgia.
Branch mints in these cities, as well as San Francisco and Carson City, Nevada were set up to mint the mined gold and silver close to the source. Can you imagine the problem of running stagecoaches from Georgia or California to Philadelphia? Apparently, neither could the feds. They outsourced minting personnel from Philly and set up operations around the country.
Branch mints: sensible idea. $3 coins? You be the judge.
Next: How the feds tried to solve the mid-1870’s problem of 5-cent pieces not circulating in the West. Stay tuned.