Which Dahlonega Coins Are Really Rare?

In the six years since the publication of my book "Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint", I have changed some of my opinions about which Dahlonega issues are really rare. The sale of the Bass collection in a series of auctions from 1999 to 2001 brought many exceptional pieces to market. In addition, I was able to purchase a number of collections that contained fresh, high grade examples of coins that I had never previously seen in very high grades. 1. Gold Dollars: In the Type One series, no single issue has proven to be truly rare; at least in terms of its availability in the Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated grade range. The 1850-D remains the rarest Type One issue in higher grades and it is extremely scarce in properly graded About Uncirculated-55 or better. The 1854-D is another issue that is harder to locate than I previously thought. PCGS claims to have graded nine examples in Uncirculated as of January 2003 but I think this number is inflated by resubmissions and overgraded coins.

The 1855-D gold dollar is even rarer than I formerly believed. It is extremely scarce in the lower About Uncirculated grades, very rare in the higher About Uncirculated grades and exceedingly rare in Mint State. The few nice pieces to have come on the market in the past six years have brought record prices and are now stashed in advanced collections.

Many of the Type Three Dahlonega gold dollars appear to be more available in higher grades than I previously believed. The 1856-D is an exception. It remains exceedingly rare in full Mint State and the current population figures at the grading services (twenty-nine alone at PCGS in AU-55 to AU-58 as of January 2003) are absurdly inflated by resubmissions and overgraded coins. Two other issues I still respect are the 1857-D and the 1860-D. The former is very rare and much undervalued in About Uncirculated-58 and better while the 1860-D, despite a fairly high number certified in higher grades, is truly rare when one takes eye appeal into consideration.

2. Quarter Eagles: I still strongly believe that any attractive, original Dahlonega quarter eagle in About Uncirculated-55 or better is rare. And a number of dates have proven to be harder to locate in high grades than I previously expected. The 1840-D and the 1851-D are two issues that I almost never see in AU-55 or better and when one factors eye appeal into the mix, they are nearly impossible to locate.

The population figures for every single Dahlonega quarter eagle in About Uncirculated-55 to Mint State-62 are heavily inflated as a result of resubmissions and overgraded, low-end coins. As an example, the January 2003 PCGS Population Report shows thirty-one 1850-D's in About Uncirculated-55 to About Uncirculated-58. In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that more than a dozen are known in this grade range and this includes a number that are decidedly unattractive.

In my 1997 book, I stated that the 1855-D was the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle. I now believe that the 1856-D is the rarest. A few other facts about these dates have become apparent. Nearly all 1855-D quarter eagles have some sort of mint-made planchet damage. Any nearly all of the pieces that I have seen in PCGS and NGC AU-50 to AU-55 holders are very low-end. The 1856-D is an issue that noone in the world, myself included, knows how to grade. This is due to the incredibly primitive appearance of these coins. They look like buttons and this makes them just about impossible to grade with any degree of accuracy.

3. Three Dollar Gold Pieces: The 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece is an issue that I have really come to know and appreciate. I have a few observations I'd like to share.

It's not as rare as most people think. For whatever reason a surprisingly high percentage of the 1,120 originally struck were saved. Probably ten percent or more of the mintage exists today, which is a remarkably high number in comparison to nearly any other Dahlonega coin.

It's the most overgraded issue from this mint. An 1854-D that was graded Extremely Fine-45 in 1997 is almost certainly an About Uncirculated-50 or About Uncirculated-53 in 2003. And nearly all of today's AU-58's are really no better than AU-50 to AU-53 by the "old" standards.

Almost all of the pretty, original 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces have either been dipped or are put away in strong hands. As a result, examples with good eye appeal are now selling for a significant premium over typical washed-out pieces.

Prices for high-grade 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces bottomed-out in 2000-2001 and have steadily increased since then. In early 2003, the demand for this coin is extremely strong.

4. Half Eagles: More "fresh" half eagles have come on the market in the past six years than any other denomination from the Dahlonega mint. That said, there are still a number of issues that I feel are underappreciated.

The 1839-D has become very popular due to its status as a one-year type coin. And it has proven to be exceptionally hard to locate in About Uncirculated-55 or better with original color and nice surfaces. The 1840-D is also a major source of frustration for collectors who desire a choice, original example.

The 1842-D Large Date remains a major rarity in About Uncirculated-55 or better. It is quite a bit rarer in choice, original Extremely Fine-45 to About Uncirculated-53 than I formerly believed.

The 1846-D normal mintmark half eagle is now recognized as one of the rarest coins from this mint in About Uncirculated-55 or better. Pieces with original color and nice surfaces are almost unheard-of.

For me, the real surprise in the half eagle series has been the 1848-D. In the past six years, I do not think I have seen more than two or three pieces that were well struck and had original color. PCGS claims to have graded twenty in AU-55 to AU-58 but I doubt if more than a small handful are accurately graded and sharply struck.

Two issues from the 1850's have proven to be harder to locate in high grades than I previously believed: the 1851-D and the 1855-D. Most of the PCGS and NGC examples that I have seen in AU-55 and higher holders have either been very softly struck, are noticeably unoriginal or just plain overgraded. Both dates are really rare and undervalued in higher grades.

In the Spring of 2003, I am planning to publish a fully updated version of "Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint." This book will include all new rarity and Condition Census updates, new photographs, extensively revised die variety information and interesting personal observations on each issue. It should prove to be the essential work for any Dahlonega collector and will provide important current information that the 1997 edition is lacking.