The 1861-D is, without a doubt, the most popular gold dollar. It has a minute original mintage figure believed to be in the range of 500-1,000 coins, and it has extreme multiple demand levels on account of its incontrovertible origin as a Confederate product. It is not a really “rare” coin in the sense that a relatively high percentage of the original mintage exists. But it is incredibly popular and it is an issue which I actively make a market in.
At the recent 2016 FUN show in Tampa, I was able to purchase this really attractive 1861-D dollar which was graded AU55 by PCGS. I subsequently sent it to CAC where it was approved. The coin is now in the collection of a Massachusetts collector who is assembling an impressive complete set of Civil War era United States gold coins.
This coin, in my opinion, makes for an interesting study piece. It is a “gem” for the issue as it is one of the few lightly circulated pieces I can recall seeing which has not been scrubbed or processed in an attempt to garner a higher grade.
The first thing to notice about this coin is its lovely rich green-gold and yellowish color which is exactly “right” for the issue. Unfortunately, many examples have had artificial color applied and show a peculiar deep orange or reddish-gold hue. This coloration is wrong for the issue and can help to give away 1861-D dollars which have been messed with.
The second thing to notice about this coin is its gentle, even wear which is mainly seen on the cheekbone. I could easily see this coin having been graded AU58 as it seemingly spent very little—if any—time in circulation.
Notice as well the overall cleanliness of the surfaces. Many EF and AU 1861-D dollars show small marks in the fields or on the rims and others have scratches or signs of numismatic mishandling.
The strike of this coin is noteworthy as well. It shows much better detail than usual on the feathers in the headdress and on the leaves in the wreath on the reverse. The letter U in UNITED is, as always, weak. This is a hallmark of authenticity on all 1861-D dollars and any piece with a sharp U would be immediately suspect.
Luster is difficult to determine on a coin image, but this piece shows a good amount of soft, satiny frost on both sides. Surprisingly, this issue has good overall luster and I have handled a few nice Uncirculated pieces with it.
Over the years I have handled dozens of 1861-D gold dollars ranging in grade from EF40 to MS63. I still get a numismatic tingle every time I own one, as the history of this issue really appeals to my Civil War-loving side.
Do you aspire to own an 1861-D gold dollar? If you do, let’s talk. You can reach me by phone at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.