I’ve starting working on the third edition of my Dahlonega gold coin book. One of the first things I’m doing in looking at PCGS and NGC population figures in order to help establish overall and comparative rarity levels for each issue from this mint. I’ll be writing an occasional article about each denomination as I get there. Instead of writing long, drawn-out studies, I thought it would be best to sub-divide the categories and, thus, have chosen to limit my current blog to just Type One dollars. Looking strictly at the total number of coins graded by the two services, I believe that the rarity estimates I made in the first and second editions of my books were low; in some cases way too low. But I also believe that the number of resubmissions for Dahlonega gold dollars is extremely high. Generally speaking, small coins tend to be graded a bit more subjectively than large coins and since Dahlonega gold dollars can have big spreads between AU58 and MS61 or MS62 and MS63, it makes sense that many high end coins would be graded again and again.
Let’s look at each of the Type One Dahlonega gold dollars and try to make sense of the PCGS/NGC numbers.
1849-D: In my last book I estimated that there were 250-300+ examples known. Given the fact that PCGS and NGC have a combined population of over 500 coins, my estimate seems very low. The actual number extant is probably more like double my original estimate; perhaps even a bit higher. What’s amazing about the PCGS and NGC populations for this issue is how high they skew on the grading scale. As an example, PCGS has graded a total of 235 1849-D gold dollars. Of these, only 56 (or slightly less than 24%) grade EF45 or below. The most incredible statistic is that NGC has graded 110 of 283 1849-D gold dollars they have recorded in MS60 or above. This works out to nearly 40% (!). The grades that appear most inflated for this issue are AU58 and MS62.
1850-D: This date does not seem nearly as distorted in rarity as does the 1849-D. The grading services have a combined population of 166 and this is not hugely out of line with my estimate of 110-120 known. I’d say the correct number is somewhere in the 100-150 range. The PCGS population figures in AU skew a little bit on the high side and this is due as much to gradeflation as it is resubmissions. NGC’s data is, as always, more problematical. They have recorded 94 1850-D gold dollars in all grades with 57 in AU and another 24 in Mint State This works out to over 86% of all 1850-D dollars grading AU or better. I think the fact that PCGS has graded six in Mint State while NGC has graded 24 is pretty interesting. I feel comfortable with my original estimate of six to seven known in Uncirculated; I may raise this number just a bit but the 1850-D remains very rare in properly graded Mint State.
1851-D: My original estimates for this date in terms of the total number known appear to be on the low side. I estimated 150-175; the current combined PCGS/NGC population is 244. I’ll probably revise my estimates upwards to the 200-250+ range. This date appears to be less rare in higher grades than I originally believed. I estimated that there were 55-60 in AU and another 12-15 in Mint State. PCGS and NGC have combined to grade 149 in AU and another 70 in Uncirculated. The Uncirculated numbers are way out of line due to NGC’s huge number graded in MS61 (19) and MS62 (24). The PCGS numbers seem a touch inflated in MS62 and possibly just a bit inflated in MS63. It is possible that there may be as many as 15 to 20 examples known in Uncirculated.
1852-D: I’ve always thought that the 1852-D was the hardest Type One Dahlonega gold dollar to grade because of its strike and the current NGC and PCGS populations bear this out. But instead of being conservative, as they were back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the services now tend to inflate the grades of this date. It used to take an amazing 1852-D dollar to garner even an AU55 grade from PCGS or NGC; today anything with a hint of lust seems to be graded AU55 or better. My original estimate of 100-110 known in all grades is clearly low and the revised range will be at least 125-175. I do feel good about my estimate of seven to nine known in Uncirculated; even in spite of NGC’s population of “31” in Uncirculated. I would strongly disregard NGC’s current population of 16 in MS61 and nine in MS62. PCGS has graded seven in MS61. Although I don’t agree that all of these are actually “new” coins, I have seen at least six different pieces and don’t feel the number is inflated by resubmissions.
1853-D: The original overall rarity estimate of 110-120 known is a bit on the conservative side and I’ll likely change the estimate to more like 150-200+. I’ve always found the 1853-D to be a pretty difficult issue to locate in AU and better and the current PCGS/NGC population figures is surprisingly high. PCGS has graded 86 total of which 65 (or over 77%) grade AU and higher. NGC has graded 103 in all of which 100 (or 97%) are AU or better. This date is not non-existent in lower grades as the third-party numbers would suggest and I still believe that around a third of all known 1853-D dollars grade EF or lower. My estimate of six to seven known in Uncirculated is too low. This is partly due to new coins being discovered and partly due to gradeflation. I believe that there are around a dozen known; perhaps even a few more than this.
1854-D: I think my rarity estimates for the 1854-D were pretty accurate. I suggested that there were 85-95 known in all with nine to ten in Mint State. The total number may be as high as 100-125 but I think properly graded Mint State 1854-D gold dollars remain very rare. NGC shows a population of 16 in this grade which is clearly way inflated and their figure of eight in MS62 is inflated as well. PCGS shows six in MS62. I can account for at least four different coins; not all of which I necessarily agree with the grade. Both services show well over 50% of the total number graded to be at least AU. I disagree with this and I think that many of the so-called AU coins are, in fact, EF.
My overall conclusion for the current PCGS and NGC populations for Type One gold dollars from Dahlonega is that they way too high due to resubmissions and are skewed considerably towards AU and Uncirculated coins. It will be interesting to compare these numbers with the ones for Type Two and Type Three issues from this mint.