Louisiana Purchase Exposition gold dollar

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition gold dollar is a commemorative coin issue dated 1903. Struck in two varieties, the coins were designed by United States Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. The pieces were issued to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in 1904 in St. Louis; one variety depicted former president Thomas Jefferson, and the other, the recently assassinated president William McKinley. Although not the first American commemorative coins, they were the first in gold.

Louisiana Purchase Exposition dollar
United States
Value1 US dollar
Mass1.672 g
Diameter15 mm
EdgeReeded
Composition
Gold0.04837 troy oz
Years of minting1903 (some pieces struck in 1902 with 1903 date)
Mintage125,000 of each type minted; 35,000 total coins distributed, remainder melted.
Mint marksNone. All pieces struck at Philadelphia Mint without mint mark.
Obverse
DesignThomas Jefferson
DesignerCharles E. Barber, after a medal by John Reich
Design date1903
DesignWilliam McKinley
DesignerCharles E. Barber, after a medal by himself
Design date1903
Reverse
DesignReverse common to both varieties
DesignerCharles E. Barber
Design date1903

Promoters of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, originally scheduled to open in 1903, sought a commemorative coin for fundraising purposes. Congress authorized an issue in 1902, and exposition authorities, including numismatic promoter Farran Zerbe, sought to have the coin issued with two designs, to aid sales. The price for each variety was $3, the same cost whether sold as a coin, or mounted in jewelry or on a spoon.

The coins did not sell well, and most were later melted down. Zerbe, who had promised to support the issue price of the coins, did not do so as prices dropped once the fair (rescheduled for 1904) closed. This drop, however, did not greatly affect Zerbe's career, as he went on to promote other commemorative coins and become president of the American Numismatic Association. The coins also recovered, regaining their issue price by 1915; they are now worth between a few hundred and several thousand dollars, depending on condition.


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