thatcoinguy's Blog

01 Jul 2022

The Unique 1870-S $3 Gold Piece

Coins-United States | thatcoinguy

In our numismatic hobby, I have found that collectors are mainly knowledgeable on things they collect, or could collect later on. For instance, if I asked a YN to tell me three things about $20 gold pieces, most would stare at me blankly like I was insane. We naturally learn the history of coins that we collect, because it helps us better understand and appreciate the series. I believe that this is a huge loss, because the more you know about numismatics as a whole, the better numismatist you are. So here’s some history about a coin in a series I (and probably some of you) don’t collect: the 1870-S $3 gold piece.

The only complete (not for long) set of $3 Gold Pieces is a part of the Harry W. Bass core collection. It is currently on display at the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum at the ANA headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. If you would like to see this collection, do it now, because at the end of this month, the Bass Core Collection will be taken off display, and sold at auction. The reason I chose to write a blog about the 1870-S $3 gold piece is because in my opinion, it is the most compelling piece in his entire Early US Gold Collection, which includes almost every die variety for the $2 1/2, $5, and $10 gold from 1795-1834.

In 1870, the new second San Francisco Mint, also known as the Granite Lady, was opened. To commemorate the occasion, the Mint made a set of San Francisco coins to place into the cornerstone of the new mint building. However, in 1870, three denominations were not being made by the San Francisco mint: The half dime, the dollar, and the $3 gold piece. These pieces were struck for this ceremony. These were not included in official mint records because they were ceremonial pieces. Before 1870, the San Francisco Mint had only made $3 Gold Pieces for two years: 1855 and 1860. Most numismatists think that there is another 1870-S $3 Gold Piece in the cornerstone of the building, although nobody knows for sure. The interesting thing about this piece is that at one point or another, it actually circulated. It is not uncirculated, and does show signs of wear. Someone even carved an “893” on the reverse. It is theorized that it was owned by a train conductor who engraved that, although we will never know. Maybe it is 1”893” like the year? This piece is surrounded in mystery, and I hoped you enjoyed some of the history and lore behind it.

Keep collecting,


Image Courtesy Of PCGS



Level 5

Great article and historical view.


Level 4

Good blog! I didn't know anything about $3 gold pieces before this. Thanks!

AC coin$

Level 6

Interesting blog , nice gold coin .


Level 6

Good blog! Always nice to have a collection of gold! ; )


Level 6

Nice blog. I have a couple of very nice gold coins. I have found that a details coins is good enough for the likes of me. I don't understand your comment below Bama's? Anyhow, thanks.

Long Beard

Level 5

It's enjoyable to read about a particular date within a series, more so to also include one much less known or remembered. My personal favorite along those lines, being gold, would no doubt be the 1822 Half Eagle.


Level 5

The 1822 is definitely an interesting coin!


Level 7

Good points. I was lucky and had a mentor. He told me to diversify my collection. So I did. Read about coins I couldn't afford and learned about them. But your point is well taken. I have read on coins on my wish list. And I read all blogs and comments. I have learned much from comments. Thanks for the blog. Mike.


Level 5

No problem Mike!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Ah, thanks for a very interesting blog and I agree with your comments substantively. I would at least like to put together a type set of our gold coins and am off to a fair start. For me to accomplish this I need to stay away from gold Eagles and other gold bullion coins. I'd rather have the historical and an AU 58 three dollar coin would be a great acquisition


Level 5

I agree! I'm buying a double eagle over a 2022 one ounce gold coin every day of the week!

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