Designed by James B. Longacre, the $3 Indian Princess was minted from 1854 to 1889 with each coin containing 0.14512 ounces of gold.
Though it may seem as an odd denomination amount, the general consensus is that a 3 dollar denomination was created to support the purchase of postage stamps. In the 1850's postage for first class mail was 3 cents which gave birth to the 3 cent silver coin in 1851. To make it simpler for postal customers that wished to buy stamps in the hundreds, instead of individually, the $3 coin was introduced.
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 features a wreath of corn, cotton, wheat and tobacco. Inside the wreath is the denomination “3 DOLLARS” and year of issue. Just below the bow is a mint mark for New Orleans (O), 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 did not also have the familiar motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM" found on most coins.
After 1860, the popularity of 3 cent and $3 dollar coinage dropped dramatically. In fact, after 1859 only two years (1874 & 1878) saw a mintage total higher than 8,000.
While the usage of $3 dollar coins were not popular in every day commerce they did find their way into a secondary market for jewelry. The coins 20.5 mm diameter made it ideal to be set as a pendent and offered as a lover's gift. This was an affordable alternative to using 1/2 eagle coinage and was a much larger design than the $1 gold coinage (which featured the same Indian Princess design) and the 1/4 eagle coinage.
General Market Notes
The keys to the series are the 1854D & 1870S issues, though it is highly probably that you will never obtain the 1870S issue as only one example is currently known to exist. The semi-keys to the series are the 18540, 1855-S, 1857-S, 1860-S, 1873, & 1877 issues.
For the value investor the 1883 & 1885 issues looks to be undervalued coins with a mintage below 1,000 for both coins.
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. It is much safer to stick with certified coins from a reputable seller.