The 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Dollars were issued commemorate the exposition held the following year in St. Louis, Missouri for the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The vast tract of land acquired from France would be explored by Lewis and Clark in the following years, who would also be commemorated on a gold coin issue.
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition McKinley Gold Dollar was one of two varieties issued for the coin, with the other featuring Thomas Jefferson on the obverse. Jefferson was honored as the President who made the Louisiana Purchase back in 1803, while McKinley was commemorated following his assassination in 1901.
The obverse of the coin featured a portrait of McKinley designed by Charles E. Barber with the inscription “United States of America” surrounding. The reverse of the coin carried an olive branch with inscriptions “Louisiana Purchase Exposition”, “St. Louis”, “One Dollar”, and “1803-1903″.
Expectations for the coins were high since the issue represented the first gold dollar minted in the U.S. in more than a decade and the first commemorative coin struck in gold. A mintage of 250,000 coins was authorized across the two different designs, with production split evenly. The coins were marketed and distributed by Farran Zerbe, priced at $3 each. As this represented a substantial premium above face value, few buyers for the issue surfaced.
At the conclusion of sales, 215,000 coins were returned to the Mint for melting, leaving a net distribution of 35,000 coins, estimated to be evenly split between the Jefferson and McKinley designs. While unappreciated in their day, the low surviving mintage makes the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Dollars appealing for today’s collectors.
William McKinley 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)
William McKinley Gold Dollar Mintage