As the research I am doing for the third edition of my book "Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861" comes together, I am learning some interesting things about the availability of each issue, especially in higher grades. I thought it might be interesting to share some of what I've learned about high grade gold dollars from this mint. It appears that Dahlonega gold dollars circulated less than their quarter eagle and half eagle counterparts. as a result, they tend to be found in higher grades. As example, if an issue has a surviving population in the area of 150-200 pieces, it is not uncommon for at least half of these to have been graded About Uncirculated and Uncirculated by the two major services. Even though I believe that these figures are inflated by resubmissions and also include a number of over-graded coins, it is clear that Dahlonega gold dollars have a greater percentage of availability than Dahlonega quarter eagles and half eagles. Let's take a look at each issue.
1849-D: My current estimate is that at least 600-700 (and possibly more) examples of this common, popular date are known. Of these, around 40-60 exist in Uncirculated. This is easily the most common Dahlonega gold dollars in high grades. It is relatively easy to find in MS60 to MS62 but it is rare in MS63 and extremely rare in MS64. Enough exist to satisfy date and type collectors alike.
1850-D: This date is one of the rarer Type One Dahlonega dollars in high grades. There are an estimated 100-150 known in all grades with just six to eight in Uncirculated. I have never seen one better than MS63 and just a few that I would unquestionably consider to be Mint State. The rarity of this date in high grades has changed little in the last decade.
1851-D: The 1851-D is the second most common dollar from this mint. There are at least 300-400 known in all grades including as many as fifteen to twenty in Uncirculated. The 1851-D is clearly a far scarcer date than the 1849-D in high grades but it is actually seen as much (if not more) in very high grades; i.e MS63 and above.
1852-D: The 1852-D is a bit more available than the 1850-D, both in terms of overall and high grade rarity. There are around 125-175 known of which seven to ten exist in Uncirculated. as with the 1850-D, the few Uncirculated 1852-D dollars known tend to be at the lower end of the grade range and are seen in MS61 and MS62 grades. I know of two that grade MS63 and none finer.
1853-D: The number of 1853-D dollars known in all grades has risen to at least 150-200 while the number of Uncirculated examples now numbers around seven to ten. This date tends to come in higher grades than the 1850-D and 1852-D and there are at least three superb Gem examples known, making it the most available Type One dollar from this mint in MS65 and higher. It is likely that the number of high grade pieces will increase over the next few years.
1854-D: The final Type One dollar from this mint is also the rarest from an overall standpoint. There are 100-125 known with seven to ten in Uncirculated. Nearly all of the Uncirculated coins are similar in quality and appearance: a bit lackluster, flatly struck and no better than MS61 to MS62.
1855-D: This is one of the two rarest Dahlonega gold dollars along with the 1861-D. There are an estimated 75-100 known and this number is quite a bit more than what I thought existed a decade or two ago. In Uncirculated, the 1855-D has gone from "impossible" to merely "extremely rare." There are four or five known including two in the MS63 to MS64 range.
1856-D: The 1856-D is actually very similar in rarity to the 1855-D but it is less highly valued since it is not a one-year type like its counterpart. There are around 75-100 known including six or seven in Uncirculated. All of the Uncirculated coins grade MS61 to MS62 but a few are clearly nicer than the others. The rarity of this date in high grades has changed very little since the publication of my second edition Dahlonega book back in 2003.
1857-D: The availability of this date has changed in the last decade but not so much so in higher grades. There are 150-200+ known in total but only seven to ten grade Uncirculated. The 1857-D remains unknown above MS62 and it is very rare at this level with just three to five known. I feel that high grade 1857-D dollars remain overlooked and undervalued.
1858-D: Both the 1858-D and 1859-D have become more available in higher grades over the years. There are 250-300 (if not more) known for this issue of which fifteen to twenty exist in Uncirculated. There are three superb Gems known and a case can be made for calling this date more available in higher grades than any other dollar from Dahlonega except for the 1853-D.
1859-D: As many as 300-350 pieces are known and this is the third most available dollar from Dahlonega, after the 1849-D and the 1851-D. I have personally seen at least a dozen pieces that I felt were Uncirculated and it is likely that fifteen to twenty-five exist. There are no Gems but a number in the MS62 to MS63 range.
1860-D: The 1860-D is one of the rarest Dahlonega gold dollars but it tends to be overlooked. There are as many as 100-125 known but most are in lower grades and even properly graded About Uncirculated pieces are rare. I believe that there are five or six in Uncirculated which makes this the second rarest issue (after the 1855-D) in Mint State.
1861-D: The grade distribution of the 1861-D is different than any other dollar from this mint. The 1861-D didn't see widespread circulation and the typical survivor tends to come in the AU50 to MS60 range. Of the 65-75 known, as many as ten to fifteen grade MS60 and finer and there are a relatively high percentage of coins that grade About Uncirculated. That said, this is still the most desirable and highest priced dollar from Dahlonega due to its great background story and historic connotations.
Unlike the other denominations from Dahlonega, the gold dollars are both short-lived and reasonably available in higher grades. The collector with a relatively modest budget and some patience should be able to assemble a nice set of About Uncirculated and Uncirculated pieces.