Need a gold coin for story purposes

Actually, don’t want the coin, just to know the name of a coin that would suit my purposes.

I need it to:

  1. be old, as in, minted prior to 1900. Could be really ancient, that doesn’t matter, just not modern (if possible.)

  2. reasonably pure gold.

  3. small

  4. as ‘common’ as possible

  5. as cheap as possible.

The idea is that Person X will have a couple of these coins as part of necklace, and they should be just as close to ‘worthless’ as it’s possible for gold to be.

I’m thinking that if the coin was pierced, and polished somehow – like maybe buffed? – any lingering numismatic value will have been destroyed?
If you know approximately what these coins would weigh and/or what they would be worth if sold purely as X weight of gold, that would be great.
I actually have what I think is called an “Indian Princess” gold coin, which is pretty tiny and – I think – common/cheap/etc, except for being made in the 1900s. I suppose I could go with that if there’s nothing ‘better.’

American gold coins

The gold dollars were the first gold coins officially issued, and were the smallest gold coins both in terms of size and denomination.

You might consider Bechtler gold coins as well. They were unofficial but there were hundreds of thousands of them in use as there was no official gold coin at the time.

ETA: the wiki page has the weight and size of the gold dollar coins listed, and I believe that they were common enough that even now they’re not worth that much more than their bullion value (unless in excellent condition, of course).

Take a look at the price guide here:

Coins become valuable because of rarity and condition. Gold coins will always have some value to them. Even if they’re common and in lousy condition, they can always be sold for melt.

The $1 liberty head and quarter eagle liberty heads might work for you but double check the price guide for the year and mint mark, even in lousy condition some are very valuable.

British gold sovereigns from the late Victorianera sell from around $250-$500 dependent upon condition. I haven’t researched it but given the size of the British Empire they would have to be among the most common gold coin on earth.

Some of the purest gold ever mined in U.S. history were from the first major gold rush- Dahlonega, Georgia. (Dahlonega is the Cherokee word for gold, incidentally.) Unfortunately Dahlonega coins are heavily collectible.

Assuming your story is set after 1849, the US gold dollar is a pretty good choice. They circulated until 1933. They have about 1/20 ounce of gold in them, 90% pure which most world coins were in the 1800s. When soldered on the edge or pierced for suspension, yep–not much numismatic value left.

You’re claiming that the first gold coins officially issued were minted in 1849? What were Roman gold coins or Spanish doubloons if not official issues?

I think it can be reasonably implied that he meant in the US.

Wow, I didn’t expect to get answers so fast! The Dope is a wonderful resource!

I like the idea of the Bechtler dollars, for having a bit of the “I never knew they existed” expert knowledge flavor. :slight_smile: (Actually I never even knew they mined gold in Carolina, some fascinating info turned up as I followed links.)

The only ‘problem’ is that some articles said the Bechtler coins are relatively scarce due to many of them being melted down when the price of gold went up at some point. But, hey! If I say the coin was ‘worn down’ AND pierced AND is has been polished up to be all shiny by someone who doesn’t know better – can I safely say the coin is worth what the gold weighs and nothing more?

In which case, it says a ‘one dollar’ Carolina dollar had a diameter of 17 mm and weighed 28 grains.

Doing some research and math (with a bunch of rounding) I get:

1 troy ounce of gold is about $1113 today. (US dollars.)
1 troy ounce of gold is 480 grains.

Thus 28 grains = $64.93 ?

And, since gold has been going up, and my story is set in an not very well nailed down ‘present’, would any knowledgeable person think “man, what an idiot” if I had an experienced amateur coin collector take one look at this imaginary coin and say something like “What a piece of crap. You couldn’t get $50 for it.”

Thanks to you all for your help!

It wouldn’t matter how pure the gold was originally; all U.S. gold coins for circulation were 90/10 gold/copper alloy.

Is the story set in the old days or is it contemporary? If the former, it’s my understanding that gold dollars circulated in the western part of the country pretty much until 1933. My dad, who turned nine that year, remembers his father showing him the coins when he got home at night. $1 coins hadn’t been minted for decades, but still circulated, just as today we still see nickels from the early 1960s. As for “common” or “rare” or “valuable”, remember people in those days used cash quite a bit more than we do today, so it’s hard to compare accurately what was considered a reasonable amount of money to be walking around with today.

If your story is supposed to be in the present day, I own a $5 gold coin which has never been worth much apart from its metal content. It’s dated 1900 and has no mint mark. You could use that.

Can it be Russian? My gf has a necklace with a Russian gold coin. Dont know specifics, but I dont think its worth a lot. A little googling shows a lot of Pre-USSR Russian Empire gold coins.

If its before then, especially before 1800, I would use the gold escudo series of Spain and its colonies. Depending on exactly “when” it is, they were available from 1/2 Escudo to 8 Escudo and very widely circulated. Then can be had damaged from most mints (except Columbia) fairly cheap. Not melt but down enough to be affordable.

This reminds me of something which we tend to forget these days. It was not at all unusual for a coin type to circulate for decades after production stopped, as long as the melt value didn’t exceed the face value. For the years that the U.S. was on the gold standard, that was impossible by definition. In the same way, when silver was cheap, one did sometimes encounter silver dollars all the way up until 1965 when the Mint was forced to stop using silver in most of its regular production coins. The most recently manufactured silver dollars were at least thirty years old at that time. I wish I’d thought to mention this in the recent thread about British money. Someone there claimed an older relative remembered seeing guineas, engendering much skepticism and disbelief, as well as an obligatory Monty Python quote from yours truly. But with this in mind, it seems entirely plausible that she saw guineas, if it was early enough in the 20th century.

Assuming your story was set in the last thirty years, and I, being a knowing numismatist, read it and noticed you used a damaged Bechtler piece, I’d still say the coin was worth $500 on the market because of the scarcity. Just use a damaged normal $1 gold piece.

The market generally writes down the value of coins which have obviously been in a ring mount or damaged by piercing for a necklace etc. Of course bullion value provides a base line which won’t change significantly, except for the commodity price.

are you thinkin one of these?

they could made a real gold coin bracelet after WW1 when gold wasn’t worth much.
(a gold chart isnt commin up, but does follow this last one I saw)

I’ve seen plenty made of old silver coin bracelets, usually Greek.

And change the reason for the damage from necklace to button stud/cover.

Strange — I got a notification about a new post in this thread, but when I opened the thread, it wasn’t here. Not with a ‘banned’ or ‘deleted’ message, the message just doesn’t exist.

The message was sort of commercial, I guess, at least it had a link to some gold coin make good investments site. Do ‘selling’ type posts get vanished?

(I don’t quarrel with the decision to do that, if that’s what it as. I’d just never encountered anything like that before.)

Using a foreign coin might work well for the “no value,” too.

Amadeos (very large 5-peseta silver coins with the profile of King Amadeo I of Saboya) were often used in jewelry in Spain; Mom used to have one in a keychain, which was stolen. The cops told my parents that the thieves would probably take the coin out of the chain and sell it, because even “damaged” it was worth more as a collectible coin than a keychain. But that means, among other things, that the notion of “paying to collect coins” had grown a lot between the 1950s, when the keychain was made, and the 1970s, when it was stolen. Nowadays if you asked someone to set an Amadeo for you they’d probably ask whether you’d checked yourself for fever.

If the story is set before coins became something people would pay to collect, before “historical value” became value, “old damaged foreign coin” would be worth less than “old damaged local coin.”
StarvingButStrong, yes, they do, same as threads opened by spammers usually disappear as soon as a mod gets around.