In my second State of the Market report, I look at the always popular area of Dahlonega gold and see what’s up with these coins. Dahlonega gold coins clearly remain the most avidly collected of the three southern branch mints. But this market has become very two-tiered in the past few years. Because of this market bifurcation, prices have fluctuated recently and two coins of the same date in the same grade can have wildly divergent values.
1. GOLD DOLLARS
Dahlonega gold dollars are by far the most popular branch mint gold dollars. In fact, I have noticed a number of new collectors in this area of the market in the past two or three years including at least a few who are assembling high quality, complete sets of Dahlonega gold dollars.
The Type One issues have shown a considerable amount of strength in the past few years and I would suggest that these are probably the most popular gold dollars from this mint right now. I am always able to easily sell any Type One Dahlonega gold dollar I have which is priced in the $1,500-3,000 range. The more expensive coins are a bit harder to sell unless they are rarer issues (such as the 1850-D or the 1854-D) if they are choice for the grade with nice color and surfaces. Very high quality pieces are extremely elusive and the few Finest Known or Condition Census pieces which have come onto the market in the past few years have brought strong prices.
The one-year type 1855-D is still extremely popular. A few years ago, there were a decent number of these on the market. But in the last year or so, I don’t think I’ve seen more than three or four and most of these have been higher grade. I think I could sell a nice, relatively affordable EF 1855-D gold dollar multiple times but these appear to be put away in private collections and not currently available.
The market for Type Three Dahlonega gold dollars is a little bit harder to figure out. Clearly, the better dates in this series have been hurt by a number of vastly overgraded coins put into holders by the grading services. In addition, the population figures for dates like the 1858-D and 1859-D have been greatly inflated by multiple submissions. One date which has suddenly become impossible to find is the 1861-D. I don’t recall having seen a slabbed piece which did not have a problem in close to two years. I would have to think if a nice PCGS AU55 came on the market, it would bring well over Trends due to very strong current demand.
2. QUARTER EAGLES
If I were going to assemble a set of Dahlonega coins for my own collecting pleasure, I would probably choose this denomination. Quarter eagles are the hardest Dahlonega coins to consistently find with good eye appeal and there are a few specific dates which have almost disappeared from the market.
The 1839-D has gone from being moderately popular a few years ago to being very popular today. It has been quite a while since I’ve seen a nice Uncirculated piece or a nice, problem-free EF. Most of the pieces currently on the market are processed, overgraded AU’s.
In the Liberty Head series, most of the coins I see offered these days tend to be the more common issues such as the 1843-D, 1844-D, 1846-D, 1847-D and 1848-D. Nice EF examples of these dates have doubled in price in the last three or four years but I still think that a choice EF Dahlonega quarter eagle at $2,500 or so is pretty good value in the big picture. The rare dates from the 1840’s, such as the 1840-D, 1841-D and 1842-D, remain extremely hard to find in properly graded AU50 and better and most of the ones offered at auction these days are low end and unoriginal.
The scarce 1850’s Dahlonega quarter eagles are currently an enigmatic sub-series, in my opinion. I have seen a lot of low-end Uncirculated examples of dates such as the 1852-D, 1853-D, 1857-D and 1859-D in the last two or three years. These mostly tend to be the same group of overgraded coins which bounce from auction to auction and from dealer to dealer, seeming to never find a good home. Two dates that remain truly rare are the 1855-D and the 1856-D. It has been at least two years since I’ve seen a really nice 1856-D for sale and this date has proven to be the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle, in my opinion, by a significant margin.
3. THREE DOLLAR GOLD
If any Dahlonega coin could be termed “volatile” it would be the popular 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece. This issue is always in demand due to its one year status. What many people have learned, though, is it is clearly not nearly as rare as its small mintage of 1,120 would suggest (a comment on this follows, see below).
A few years ago, the market seemed inundated with 1854-D Threes. I can remember owning no less than four AU58 examples at one time. Prices shot upwards but many collectors realized that $40,000+ for a decent quality example seemed like pretty marginal value when there were more interesting Dahlonega coins available at a fraction of the price. As with the market for Three Dollar gold pieces in general, values for the 1854-D declined in the past year or two. But they seemed to have firmed in the past six months and it appears clear to me that they aren’t going to get cheaper anytime soon.
A note on this issue’s rarity: clearly the 1854-D was saved at the time of issue and its survival rate is considerably greater than other Dahlonega coins of this era. But the number of pieces which appear for sale is misleading. I know of a few 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces that have appeared in at least four or five consecutive auctions as well as on various dealers’ websites. Properly graded, original examples have never been easy to find and the ones that bounce around these days tend to be the ones which are, to put it nicely, not so “pretty.”
4. HALF EAGLES
For a number of years the half eagles have been the most popular denomination from this mint. Prices have risen for lower grade examples but I find the higher end of the half eagle market to be somewhat weak right now. The culprit for this, of course, is the abundance of overgraded coins. I know that the dealers who specialize in Dahlonega gold coins are happy to purchase all the high quality half eagles that they can find but their complaints are unanimous: the nice coins just aren’t readily available.
I would have to say that two of the most popular Dahlonega issues right now are the 1838-D and 1839-D half eagles. The former was once easy to find in nearly any circulated grade but it is now very hard to find an 1838-D even in EF grades. The 1839-D, after years of languishing in obscurity, has become the “coin du jour” in the half eagle series and auction prices for nice AU pieces have broken the $10,000 barrier in the past two years.
There are a few dates which I never seem to see in higher grades. These include the 1842-D Large Date, 1846-D Normal Mintmark, 1848-D, 1850-D and 1861-D. The other Dahlonega half eagles tend to be fairly readily available in most grades but, as I said above, finding attractive, original coins can be very challenging.
At some point in time, an enterprising dealer will publish a price guide for Dahlonega gold coins which has two sets of prices. The first will be for the run-of-the-mill pieces which are typically offered for sale. The second will be for the crusty, original pieces which are all but disappearing. The price differential right now is only 15% or so. I would not be surprised if in five years a crusty AU55 common date Dahlonega half eagle is worth 50-100% more than its processed counterpart.
One final comment before I end this report. The 1861-D is one date in the half eagle series that is just about impossible to find these days. I used to handle a nice 1861-D every two or three months. Now, it’s more like once every year or two. I believe the reason for this is that the 1861-D is a classic collector favorite and all the nice, middle grade pieces are owned by people who have no real interest in selling them.