In their recently concluded January 2010 Americana sale held in New York, there were two record-setting Dahlonega gold coins that I think are worth taking a closer look at. What were these two pieces and why did they sell for as much money as they did? The first piece was an 1861-D gold dollar graded AU53 by PCGS. I had sold this exact coin a few years ago and was familiar with it. It was very high end for the date and grade and, by today’s standards, would probably grade AU55 to AU58. I expected that it would bring around $40,000 or so. It sold for $57,500. I believe that this is an all-time record price for a circulated 1861-D dollar.
This coin did so well for a number of reasons. The first, obviously, is that it was a nice coin. 1861-D gold dollars are not well-known for having good eye appeal and the last few that have been available have either been damaged or not terrifically appealing. The second is that there is currently an unprecedented demand for this date. The 1861-D dollar is an indisputably cool coin and a lot of people are looking for coins like this right now. Given the supply/demand ratio, it seemed likely that this coin would sell for a strong price but, again, I was pretty stunned at it bringing close to $60,000.
What would this coin have sold for in another environment? Probably a lot less. One thing about auctions is that it only takes two people to really want a coin and it can sell for a ton of money. If I had owned this exact 1861-D dollar and put it on my website, I’m sure my asking price would have been in the low $40’s and I might have not even expected to get that much money for it. But now that the bar has been raised for the 1861-D dollar, I expect that the next one offered will be priced enthusiastically, to say the least.
Another really exceptional Dahlonega coin in the Stack’s sale was an 1860-D half eagle graded MS63 by PCGS. This superb coin had an exceptional back story. According to the catalog it had been “received at the Dahlonega mint in 1860 in exchange for mined gold and scrap.” It had been in the same family since then and it was making its first appearance ever. It brought $43,125.
I did not actually see the coin in person but at least two reliable sources told me it was absolutely lovely and had a good chance to grade MS64 if resubmitted. It was probably the second finest known example of this date and it was one of the freshest, most interesting Dahlonega half eagles of any date to come onto the market in a number of years.
The Duke’s Creek/Miles/Bareford 1860-D, graded MS64 by both PCGS and NGC, is traditionally accorded the status as the finest known 1860-D. It brought $49,500 all the way back in the Stack’s May 1995 auction. Given this fact, I expected the 1860-D to bring around $40,000 and I was actually the underbidder on the January 2010 coin, having dropped out at $35,000 plus the 15% buyers’ premium.
What this coin’s price realized tells me is that the market for very high quality, fresh to the market Dahlonega gold is very strong. There is little in the way of supply and when a once-in-a-lifetime coin like this 1860-D becomes available, collectors react accordingly.