For much of the early production of gold coinage within the United States, very few of the coins reached actual circulation. The reasons for this were twofold.
First of all, the denominations included quarter eagles, half eagles, and eagles, with values of $2.50, five dollars, and ten dollars. These amounts represented a substantial sum of money at the time of issue in the early 19th century. Whereas most everyday commerce was conducted in cents, the larger gold denominations rarely were necessary except for with transactions between banks or larger international transactions.
The second issue was the rise in the market value of gold, which for a span of time resulted in the United States gold coins having a higher intrinsic value than their face values. As a result, large numbers of newly produced coins were simply melted down for their gold content, which was a profitable endeavor. Some of this occurred after the coins had been exported.
To bring the situation back into harmony, the Mint Act of 1834 reduced both the purity and weight of the gold denominations. At the same time, a new design was introduced to further differentiate the coins.
With the coins now having metal content worth less than the face value, it was no longer profitable to melt down newly minted coins. Rather they were used as intended as a medium of exchange at the given face values. Mintage levels rose ad the coins were now seen within commerce.