In response to concerns that the tiny Type I Gold Dollar was too easily dropped and lost, the U. S. Mint introduced the Type II Gold Dollar in 1854. The new coin was 15% wider than the Type I, but only 3/4 its thickness.
James B. Longacre’s elegant new design featured a small but regal bust of Liberty rendered in higher relief than other coins of the era, which he modeled after the Venus Accroupie, a classical statue he admired. The figure is encircled by the inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
Longacre’s depiction, however, was widely perceived to be an Indian princess, despite her “headdress” having no resemblance to anything worn by Native Americans. Nonetheless, Longacre’s Type II Liberty Gold Dollar would henceforth be known as the Small Indian Head Gold Dollar.
The wreath on the reverse of the Type II is woven from corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco – major crops of the era from both the north and south. As with the Type I Gold Dollar, the wreath has both open and closed varieties.
As stunning as the Type II Gold Dollar was, production was plagued with problems from the beginning. Longacre’s design demanded too much from the coining presses available at the time, especially those obsoleted in Philadelphia and put back into service in the South. Consequently, the Type II Gold Dollar suffered from frequent poor strikes resulting in weak features that were excessively subject to wear.
Only 1,633,426 Type II Gold Dollars were minted in its short three-year history, of which all but 24,600 were struck between 1854 and 1855. In 1856 Longacre was called upon one last time to design a gold dollar that could stand the test of time.
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