The first gold commemorative coins issued by the United States Mint were the 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Dollars. The coins were available with two different obverse designs featuring Thomas Jefferson or William McKinley and carried a rather high authorized mintage of 250,000 coins across both designs.
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition Thomas Jefferson Gold Dollar features a portrait of the president on the obverse with the design credited to Charles E. Barber. A left facing portrait of Jefferson appears with surrounding inscription “United States of America”. This represented the first time he was depicted on a legal tender U.S. coin.
The reverse design, also by Barber, features a single olive branch with an arrangement of inscriptions. The words “Louisiana Purchase Exposition” and “St. Louis” appear around the outer edge, with the denomination “One Dollar” and dual date “1803-1903” in the center.
There were 125,000 of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Dollars minted bearing the Jefferson obverse. These coins were promoted to collectors and others as a souvenir for the exposition and distributed exclusively by Farran Zerbe. The offering price for the $1 face value coins was a lofty $3 each, which turned off many collectors. The massive quantity of unsold coins were returned to the Mint for melting, leaving a net distribution of only 17,500.
Thomas Jefferson Gold Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: Charles E. Barber
Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper
Weight: 1.672 grams
Diameter: 15 mm
Authorization: Public Law No. 57-182
Maximum Authorized Mintage: 250,000 (across Jefferson and McKinley designs)
Thomas Jefferson Gold Dollar Mintage