A Bite-Sized History of Civil War Coinage

A Bite-Sized History of Civil War Coinage

A Bite-Sized History of Civil War Coinage

Today we take a look at what makes Civil War Coinage so special and why it is one of our favorite coins to collect.

The American Civil War, also known as the War Between the States, lasted for four years from 1861 to 1865. During this period, 11 southern states that relied heavily on slave labor declared their secession from the United States (The Union) for economic and ideological purposes. These states were known as the confederacy or the confederate states, and their decisive defeat would come about in the first half of 1865. United States coinage has always been a reflection of what state the country is in during minting. From coin design to mintage numbers, coins tell us a story about where we were. For this reason, a civil war enthusiast who goes in search of coins related directly to this conflict will soon find that coins minted during those 4 years are in short supply. Their rarity is due to a number of factors and if you run a crossed one, give me a call.  This is just the tip of the iceberg when diving into the History of Civil War Coinage.

During the war, the three branch mints of Charlotte NC, Dahlonega GA, and New Orleans LA were located in states that would become part of the confederacy. New Orleans was among the first states to announce its rebellion from The Union. Therefore, the New Orleans Mint was renamed the Confederate State Mint, and under the authority of all three governments (The United States, State of Louisiana, and the Confederate) it continued striking half dollars and gold double eagles.

The New Orleans mint had sufficient bullion supply to continue operation but the other two branch mints did not. Initially, small numbers of coins were produced at all three mints but as a result of their lack for precious metal supplies, the other two mints (Dahlonega and Charlotte) ended minting for good and were quickly relegated to assay office status. Partly due to their death as mintages the “C” and “D” mints never went on to make 10 dollar or 20 dollar gold. This is one reason for why Charlotte and Dahlonega gold are such a prized possession among avid collectors today.

By early April of 1861 the confederacy was already planning to mint new coins in commemoration of their sovereignty with new dies of their own design. However, because of practical reasons associated with the war, and with their lack of experience with engraving, the project was shelved. Unfortunately for the Confederacy’s coin dreams, in 1862 the Union Forces invaded New Orleans. The gold and silver of the Confederate State Mint was seized and sent to Dahlonega, ultimately putting to rest the plans for further confederate coinage.

Civil War Gold Book

From the onset of the war coins were already in short supply for several reasons. For one, metal recourses were being reserved for the manufacturing of weapons, tools, and ammunition. On top of that, even existing coinage was melted down for the same purposes. In addition to metal restrictions the Confederacy had no interest in using money with the Unions Eagle on it, and so circulation of coinage in the south was inhibited. Before long a worried public began hoarding what money they did have because they felt that tangible metals stored more value than other options. Eventually, coins became so scarce that it affected the ability of merchants to do business because they could not make change.

Both sides of the war attempted to solve the money problem by issuing paper money, but the face value of these unbacked currencies fluctuated wildly in tandem with news from the front line. Private die sinkers throughout the north would go on to strike over 8500 different tokens to get the economy moving again. Though these tokens and fractional currencies did their job for the time being, they were ultimately made worthless after the war ended.

The Civil War was most certainly a prominent happening in the timeline of America. This conflict has made money produced during its time highly valuable to numismatic collectors. It just so happens that this timeline also encompasses the introduction of our income tax system. When the realities of war had set into the minds of the people, precious metals prices rose rapidly as coinage all over the nation disappeared.  From the shortage of metals to the melting and hoarding of existing coinage, the remarkable story attached to these coins and bills from the war makes any money from 1861 to 1865 a rare find.

Naturally, as the Phoenix Gold Corporation, we have an affinity for coins made of good old “Au”. (That’s the chemical element symbol for gold; you’re welcome.) As such we strive to keep vintage numismatic gold on hand for the collector in search of cool coins. We are especially excited to be a premier provider of civil war gold to the coin market, and as so we usually have a good number of them in inventory. If one were to endeavor to comprise a full set of Civil war gold in his or her lifetime, the following would be a list of all the necessary pieces to acquire.

Gold Dollars – 11 Gold Dollars
1861, 1861 Proof, 1861-D, 1862, 1862 Proof, 1863, 1863 Proof, 1864, 1864 Proof, 1865, and 1865 Proof
Quarter Eagle – 15 Quarter Eagles
1861 Old Reverse, 1861 New Reverse, 1861 Proof, 1861-S, 1862 2 over 1, 1862, 1862 Proof, 1862-S, 1863 Proof only, 1863-S, 1864, 1864 Proof, 1865, 1865 Proof, and 1865-S
Three-dollar gold pieces – 10 Three Dollar Gold
1861, 1861 Proof, 1862, 1862 Proof, 1863, 1863 Proof, 1864, 1864 Proof, 1865, and 1865 Proof
Half Eagles – 17 Half Eagles
1861, 1861 Proof, 1861-C, 1861-D, 1861-S, 1862, 1862 Proof, 1862-S, 1863, 1863 Proof, 1863-S, 1864, 1864 Proof, 1864-S, 1865, 1865 Proof, and 1865-S
Eagles – 16 Eagles
1861, 1861 Proof, 1861-S, 1862, 1862 Proof, 1862-S, 1863, 1863 Proof, 1863-S, 1864, 1864 Proof, 1864-S, 1865, 1865 Proof, 1865-S, and 1865-S, 865/inverted 186
Double Eagles – 18 Double Eagles
1861, 1861 Proof, 1861-O, 1861-S, 1861, Paquet Reverse (Tall Letters), 1861-S, Paquet Reverse (Tall Letters), 1862, 1862 Proof, 1862-S, 1863, 1863 Proof, 1863-S, 1864, 1864 Proof, 1864-S, 1865, 1865 Proof, and 1865-S


If ever you decide to undertake such a project we would love to be part of the journey with you. In addition to keeping an inventory of Civil War coinage on hand, we are also an extremely capable coin sourcing tool for you; if we do not have it, we can find it. I hope you find as much fun and intrigue in civil war coins as I do. Happy hunting!


Come Explore all of the Civil War pieces we have to offer right here!


Thomas Trejo

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