Production of the Liberty Head gold dollar at only 13 mm proved difficult for the U.S. mint presses. To increase minting effectiveness, in 1854 the dollar was thinned out while maintaining the same amount of gold as its predecessor, resulting in a slightly larger diameter of 15 mm. To signify the change, Longacre issued a new design for the obverse & reverse commonly referred to as the “Indian Princess”.
While coinage production improved there were still issues with metal flow. the Highest relief portions of the portrait on the Obverse were opposite date on the reverse resulting in weak strikes on many of the dates of the early issues of this type. To resolve the problem, in 1856 the obverse design was changed again by introducing a larger bust image with a lower relief. This design change gave birth to two type coins for the series: Type 1 – Small Head and Type 2 - Large Head.
Designed by James B. Longacre, the $1 Indian Princess was minted from 1854 to 1889 with each coin containing 0.04837 ounces of gold.
The obverse design features an idealized bust image of Lady Liberty facing left wearing a headdress with “LIBERTY” inscribed. On the outer periphery is the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".
The reverse design of a laurel wreath tied with a bow was replaced with a wreath of corn, cotton, wheat and tobacco. Inside the wreath is the denomination “1 DOLLAR” and year of issue. Just below the bow is a mint mark for New Orleans (O), Charlotte (C), Dahlonega (D) and San Francisco (S). Coins minted at the Philadelphia Mint carried no mint marks.
One interesting note is that neither the obverse nor reverse designs carry the traditional symbolic 13 Stars for the founding 13 states. The Indian Princess dollar is one of only six coin designs that did not carry the symbolic design of that era. The coin also did not have the familiar motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM" found on most coins.
The series has only two types based on obverse designs:
Variety 1 Indian Princess Small Head - 1854-1856
Variety 2 Indian Princess Large Head - issued from 1856 to 1859
General Market Notes
Excluding varieties and proofs, the keys to the series are the 1855-D and 1861-D issues. The semi-keys are the 1855-C, 1855-O, 1856-S, 1856-D, 1857-C, 1857-D, 1857-S, 1858-D, 1859-C, 1859-D and 1860-D issues.
For the value investor, issues from 1864 to 1887 have only a few years where mintages exceeded 10,000 (1868, 1873, 1874, 1883, & 1885) and the prices for sub-10,000 mintage coins carries only a small premium to more common issues.
Due to the high valuations of these coins, it is not uncommon to discover altered or counterfeit coins. It is highly recommended NOT to purchase a raw specimen. Spend a little more and buy a certified coin from a reputable seller to be safe!