Using the revised population estimates in the third edition of my book, it is possible to make some interesting observations and conclusions regarding Dahlonega coinage. As an example, it is possible to estimate the average number of survivors for each denomination, the percentage of survivors by grade, and an overall percentage of survival for an entire denomination. 1. GOLD DOLLARS
Estimated Number Extant: 2415-3025 Issues Struck: 13 Average Extant Per Issue: 185.76-232.69 Total Extant by Grade: Very Fine and Below: 227-319 Extremely Fine: 916-1110 About Uncirculated: 1125-1385 Uncirculated: 147-211
% of Total Population: Very Fine and Below: 9.39-10.54 Extremely Fine: 36.69-37.92 About Uncirculated: 45.78-46.58 Uncirculated: 6.08-6.97
Original Mintage Figure, all issues: 73,259-74,209 (NOTE: this is expressed as a range due to the fact that the original mintage figure for the 1861-D dollar is not known)
Estimated Survival Rate: 3.28-4.08
Analysis: The data from the third edition of this book shows that gold dollars from Dahlonega continue to be easier to locate in higher grades than their quarter eagle and half eagle counterparts. The average number of coins known per issue is slightly lower than one might expect. But given the small size of these coins and the conditions by which they circulated, it remains a wonder that as many have survived as are known today.
It is interesting to compare the survival rate of Dahlonega gold dollars to other branch mint coins of this denomination. As a rule, for branch mint coins struck prior to the Civil War, the survival rate is generally in the range of 1 to 2%. For gold dollars this seems to be higher but in the case of the Dahlonega issues, much of this has to do with the high number of 1849-D dollars that have survived. If you remove this date from the equation, the surviving percentage fits nicely within the parameters of the above-referenced survival range(s).
Dahlonega gold dollars are certainly more available in higher grades (About Uncirculated and above) than the quarter eagles, three dollars, and half eagles from this mint. Over 50% of all known Dahlonega gold dollars grade About Uncirculated or Uncirculated and close to 90% grade Extremely Fine or better. This is considerably higher than it is for the other denominations from this mint.
This suggests at least two things: that Dahlonega gold dollars did not circulated as long and as hard as the other denominations, and that relatively large quantities of higher grade Dahlonega gold dollars have become available as the result of hoards and/or accumulations. Another possible explanation for the high survival rate in higher grades might be that the small size of the dollars did not make them as attractive to melters as the larger sized issues were, and this made them somewhat more likely to survive.
The overall population of many dates in the gold dollar series has been underestimated for many years. As an example, in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was often written that fewer than a dozen 1856-D dollars were known. We now know that the actual number might be as great as 100 or so coins. One of the reasons that the rarity of this date was overstated (along with the 1854-D, 1860-D and 1861-D) is that these issues all had tiny original mintages.
The 1856-D is a good example to illustrate this. Only 1,460 were produced. Using the assumption that around 1% of these should have survived one can see how an estimate of a “dozen or so” might have come about.
Dahlonega gold dollars are a good example of the adage that you can’t judge the rarity of a specific issue solely by its original mintage figure.
2. QUARTER EAGLES
Estimated Number Extant: 3,195-3,915 Issues Struck: 20 Average Extant Per Issue: 159.75-195.75 Total Extant By Grade: Very Fine and Below: 716-926 Extremely Fine: 1270-1533 About Uncirculated: 1037-1245 Uncirculated: 104-141
% of Total Population: Very Fine and Below: 22.41-23.65 Extremely Fine: 39.15-39.74 About Uncirculated: 31.80-32.45 Uncirculated: 3.25-3.60
Original Mintage Figure, all Issues: 197,850
Estimated Survival rate: 1.61-1.97
Analysis: Quarter Eagles remain the rarest of the three primary denominations of coins struck at the Dahlonega mint both in terms of overall rarity and rarity in high grades.
When I last did this statistical analysis, I believed that around 70% of all Dahlonega quarter eagles were in lower grades; i.e., Extremely Fine and below. Today, I estimate this number to be like 60%. This shift is due to gradeflation and many coins that were formerly VF became EF (and EF’s became AU’s).
Uncirculated quarter eagles from this mint remain very rare. Less than 3.5% of all known Dahlonega quarter eagles are Uncirculated and this number is more impressive when you consider that five dates (1839-D, 1844-D, 1847-D, 1848-D and 1857-D) constitute around 75% of the known Dahlonega quarter eagles in Uncirculated. The rarity of high grade Dahlonega quarter eagles has remained remarkably consistent since the last edition of this book was written in 2003.
In the last edition of this book, I suggested that the estimated survival rate for this denomination was between 1.18 and 1.37%. I believe that this was a bit too low and now the range is from 1.61 to 1.97%. As time passes, it is likely that the survival rate will become slightly higher than 2% of the original mintage figure for this denomination.