So...You've Decided to Collect (A Set Of) Dahlonega Half Eagles...

So...You've Decided to Collect (A Set Of) Dahlonega Half Eagles...

Of the four denominations struck at the Dahlonega mint, half eagles are the largest in size and have—by far—the most struck; both in terms of individual dates and total produced. This denomination was made from 1838 through 1861, and there were a total of 26 issues.

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So...You've Decided to Collect Dahlonega Gold...

So...You've Decided to Collect Dahlonega Gold...

If I had to select the Most Popular Branch Mint it would likely be Dahlonega. These gold coins have become an avidly-sought after area of the market with collectors from all over the country building sets...

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How Rare are High-Grade Dahlonega Quarter Eagles?

How Rare are High-Grade Dahlonega Quarter Eagles?

The Dahlonega mint began production of quarter eagles in 1839 and discontinued this denomination in 1859. There are a total of 20 issues and two major types: the popular one-year Classic Head (1839 only) and the Liberty Head (1840-1859).

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Recently Sold by DWN: A Choice PCGS AU53 1855-D $1.00

The 1855-D is one of two gold dollars from the Dahlonega mint with multiple levels of demand. It is popular with type collectors who like it for its one-year status (it is the only Type One gold dollar from this mint) and it is also popular with collectors who appreciate truly rare coins. While the 1861-D is the “sexy” D mint gold dollar, the 1855-D is actually a rarer coin in high grades, especially with choice surfaces, original color and a sharp strike. Of the 100 or which are known, most 1855-D dollars grade in the VF-EF range and are characterized by very flat central detail. There are an estimated two dozen known in properly graded About Uncirculated, as well as another four or five in Uncirculated.

1855-D $1.00 PCGS AU53

A very small number (lower than 10% of the survivors) are known with a full date and collectors appreciate these. Full Date coins typically command strong premium and to qualify as such, an 1855-D needs to be as well defined on the 85 as the present coin; see the photo for more evidence.

This fresh-to-the-market coin is perhaps the nicest circulated 1855-D dollar that I have owned and its eye appeal far exceeds the assigned grade. It is extremely well-struck and is probably one of the very first coins struck from the Winter 7-I die pair. The date shows 100% full detail, and there are only moderate clashmarks at the centers. The surfaces are clean and well made with attractive rich deep russet color seen on both sides. Some dirt in the recesses can be seen as well and it is likely that this is one of only a small number of 1855-D dollars which has not been cleaned or dipped.

This coin was recently sent in for grading by the descendants of an old Southern family, where the coin had resided since the 19th century. I was excited to purchase it, and I sent it to PCGS and later to CAC, hoping it would grade AU55.

Here is an example where a coin in a lower grade holder is clearly worth more than one graded higher. My coin was “competing” with an NGC AU58 which was listed on a West Coast dealer’s website for less money than I was asking for a coin which was “only” an AU53. As I pointed out to the collector who purchased this coin from me, the AU58, based on images, was weakly struck, unnaturally bright, and had rough, processed surfaces.

The new owner of this coin is nearing completion of a set of Dahlonega gold and he has just a few more coins before he is finished. I am pleased that he took a leap of faith and purchased this exceptional 1855-D Full Date dollar as it will make a superb addition to his set.

If you want to purchase Dahlonega gold coins which are choice s this 1855-D dollar, please contact me at


Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at

Looking at PCGS/NGC Population Figures of Type Two and Type Three Dahlonega Gold Dollars

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that analyzed the recent population figures for Type One Dahlonega gold dollars. As I've done more research on gold dollars for my upcoming third edition Dahlonega gold book, I thought I would share the findings for the Type Two and Type Three issues. Read on for some interesting findings. 1855-D: I had originally estimated that 70-80 pieces were known to exist. I think this number may be just a touch on the low side but not by much. There are four Uncirculated examples known to me. Interestingly all of them have seen their grade change by at least one point (in some cases by two) since I wrote the second edition of my book in 2003. The Duke's Creek/Reed Hawn coin has gone from PCGS MS63 to NGC MS63 to NGC MS64 to PCGS MS64. It remains the finest known. A second coin has also been graded MS64 by NGC (ex Duke's Creek and Bass II: 102). Unfortunately, the dealer who owned this coin a few years ago has failed to turn in the extra tags and the NGC population currently shows three examples in this grade.

It is also interesting to note that both the aforementioned examples have shattered the magical six-figure mark at auction. The Hawn coin brought $143,750 in Stack's January 2009 auction while the Duke's Creek/Bass coin sold for $149,500 as Goldberg 2/07: 2094.

1856-D: If anything, I may have overestimated the total number known when I suggested that 80-90 1856-D gold dollars are extant. The grade distribution has changed but this is due to gradeflation and not a result of new coins coming on the market. Many of the four dozen or so coins I estimated to exist in EF grades have no morphed into AU's. I do know that at least one or two fresh Uncirculated coins have turned-up since 2003 including one nice PCGS MS62 that I was offered privately in around 2005.

My estimate of four to five Uncirculated 1856-D gold dollars is probably just a hair too low and today's number is more like six. I have seen three different coins in PCGS MS62 holders but at least one of these (probably the Duke's Creek: 1488 example) has magically become an NGC MS63. The best I've seen remains Green Pond: 1009 which still holds the all-time auction record for this date at $47,150.

1857-D: I'm not certain why but this date seems more available today than it was a decade ago, especially in About Uncirculated grades. My 2003 estimate of 120-130 known in all grades now seems pretty low; especially given the fact that the combined PCGS/NGC population is 189 as of the end of February 2010. Remarkably, the two services show no less than 28 (!) pieces in Uncirculated with twelve in MS62 and another eight in MS61. I think these numbers are quite inflated but I have seen at least five different PCGS MS62 1857-D dollars.

I'd say that the number of truly Uncirculated 1857-D gold dollars has climbed to six to nine based on today's grading. The best appear to be Duke's Creek: 1489 and Heritage 1/04: 1010 (ex Green Pond). Both are in PCGS MS62 holders.

1858-D: My original estimate of 125-150 known was way too low and the actual number is probably close to double this. The PCGS and NGC population figures seem insnaely high in AU and Mint State grades. NGC, as an example, shows 66 in AU and another 35 in Uncirculated while PCGS has a population of 62 in AU and 25 in Uncirculated.

There is some confusion at the higher end of the Condition Census as well. NGC shows two coins in MS66; one is Duke's Creek: 1490 which was previously graded MS65 by PCGS. There is one other superb coin known, ex Heritage 2/99: 6121. I'm guessing that this, too, has found its way into an NGC MS66 holder. PCGS shows two pieces graded MS65. I would assume that they are the two coins listed above in earlier incarnations and needing de-listing although I don't know this for sure. Remarkably, PCGS shows a population of eight in MS63 while NGC shows another seven in this grade. These figures seem very high as do the 21 graded by PCGS/NGC combined in MS62.

1859-D: My estimates on the 1859-D were too low as well although not as dramatically as for the 1858-D. I think there at least 200-250 known and maybe even as many as three hundred total in all grades. Gradeflation has made many of the old EF coins become AU but my numbers for Uncirculated coins hold up reasonably well. I had estimated that 12-17 were known in Uncirculated. I think the number today is somewhere in the range of 15-25.

Unlike with the 1858-D, there are still no Gem 1859-D dollars known. NGC has graded a single MS65 but it is a former PCGS MS64 and the current PCGS MS64 (ex Heritage 9/05: 4258 and Heritage 1/05: 8482) doesn't seem likely to gain further points on the grading ladder (although you never know...) The current PCGS population figures in MS62 are very inflated and all of the NGC figures from MS61 through MS64 are inflated as well.

1860-D: I still believe the rarity of this date has been overstated. My previous estimate was that 90-100 were known and it is possible that even this range was a bit on the low side. It is possible that as many as 100-125 are known. Many of the coins that used to be regarded as EF's are now AU's (this is a very hard issue to grade properly) and the combined PCGS/NGC figures for AU's is an aggressive eighty-four. In my opinion, this figure is way inflated.

I used to regard the Duke's Creek 1860-D as the finest known. It was in a PCGS MS63 holder back in the early 2000's. It later became an NGC MS64 and when I last saw it in 2007 it looked liked it had mingled with a bag of Cheetos as it was flaming orange in color. This coin still shows up on the PCGS report as an MS63 and twice on the NGC report as an MS64 and I don't think it is either. My old estimate of six to seven known for this date seems accurate to me, even in 2010.

1861-D: My estimate of 55-65 known might be just a bit on the low side. There could be as many as 75 known when you factor in the damaged, cleaned or "no-grade" examples that exist. I had tried to figure these in before with the coins I called "VF" (virtually no problem-free 1861-D dollars exist in grades lower than EF45) but I think the number includesd as many as ten extra problem coins. PCGS and NGC have combined to grade thirty in Uncirculated which makes my estimate of ten to twelve in Mint State seem low. The revised number will have to be raised; maybe even as high as fifteen to twenty.

When I did my last Condition Census for this date in 2003, PCGS had graded five in MS63 and one in MS64. These numbers are remarkably consistent today. There is a second MS64; which was earlier an NGC MS65 and before this a PCGS MS63. The NGC numbers are, as usual, a mess.

In my next article on PCGS/NGC population figures for Dahlonega gold coins I'll be focusing on quarter eagles.

Looking at PCGS/NGC Population Figures of Type One Dahlonega Gold Dollars

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.

Market Musings

It’s a rainy Monday morning here in Portland and the sudden lack of sunshine is leaving me highly unmotivated. To try and shake out the cobwebs, I’m going to touch on a few miscellaneous topics of interest. If I were a syndicated folksy newspaper columnist, I’d call this Monday Mornin’ Market Musings. Lucky for you, I’m not. Sales of the Wexford Collection of Dahlonega Coinage have been excellent with close to $500,000 placed within the first few weeks of being posted on my website. I have noted a few definite trends thus far.

I have been surprised (but not shocked) by the extreme popularity of the key dates in this collection. One of things that was especially nifty about the Wexford coins was that nearly all the key Dahlonega issues were present and, for the most part, they were extremely nice. I could have sold half a dozen examples of the 1861-D gold dollar in PCGS AU55 and probably even more examples of the 1838-D half eagle in PCGS EF45.

While many of the coins were bought by existing clients, I did sell coins to at least two brand new people including one who had never bought a Dahlonega piece.

Two other observations can be gleaned from the first few weeks of sales. The first is that the Dahlonega quarter eagle series is clearly alive and well. I sold a number of expensive, key issues to serious collectors. The second is that gold dollars are a little weaker than I would have expected. I did sell the three most expensive gold dollars in the set but other examples, including a few that I felt would sell quickly, have not yet found new homes.

One last thing. In my rush to get the coins cataloged and imaged and out on the web for a few days before I took them to the ANA show, I didn’t have time to fully research them. It turns out that the 1840-D quarter eagle is the ex: James Stack coin while the 1856-D quarter eagle was formerly in the Bass collection. The new owners of each coin were quickly able to deduce this and I congratulate them on these terrific new additions to their collections.

I’ve been asked by a number of collectors how I think CAC is affecting the coin market. I can’t really speak for areas like Indian Cents or Buffalo Nickels but I think CAC is having a very strong affect on selected areas of the United States gold coin market.

In my experience, CAC is extremely tough on generic issues, especially common date Saint Gaudens double eagles. I have heard of dealers sending groups of 25 or 50 common date Saints in MS65 to CAC and having as few as two or three stickered. Because of this fact, MS65 and better Saints with CAC stickers are currently trading for significant premiums.

Another area that is definitely being affected by CAC is early gold. CDN Bids for early gold are continuing to go up but these bids are posted by John Albanese and are reflective of only CAC quality coins.

What this has done to the early gold market is to make it, effectively, two-tiered. As an example, John’s current bid for an 1812 half eagle in MS62 is $15,000. My guess is that a really nice, CAC-quality MS62 is pretty easy to sell for $15,000-16,000 on a wholesale level and might be worth as much as $17,500-18,500 on a retail level. But a nasty, overgraded MS62 example of the same date is not going to be of interest to John (or any other quality-oriented CAC dealer) at $15,000; it is more likely a coin with a wholesale value of $13,000-14,000. What the challenge for buyers of coins of coins like this is to determine which 1812 half eagle in MS62 is ultimately worth $13,000 and which one is worth $16,000+.

Speaking of early gold, I’ve had a few people ask me lately if they feel that prices on this material are going to continue to rise in the coming year. My answer to this is “yes but with an asterisk.”

As I mentioned above, the early gold market is becoming much more selective; partially on account of CAC. If coins like the aforementioned 1812 half eagle in MS62 are going to continue to bring these strong new price levels (remember, this is an issue that was trading for $8,000-9,000 just three years ago) they have to be very solid for the grade. By this, I don’t mean that every 1812 half eagle in an MS62 has to be an upgrade candidate. But for me (or John Albanese or whoever else) to pay $15,000 for one, it has to have good luster, a lack of significant wear or rub, nice color and a reasonably pleasing overall appearance.

I believe that there are certain areas of the early gold market that have become very pricey. For me to pay $35,000 for a 1799 eagle in MS61, it has got to be a nice coin that I feel is really “new.” If it is recolored, obviously worn, full of unsightly hairlines or covered with goop, I’m out at the current price levels. Same goes with Heraldic Eagle and Capped Bust Left half eagles in AU55 to MS64. If they aren’t really solid, original coins then I have a hard time liking them at current levels.

Conversely, there are other areas of the early gold market that I still like. As you no doubt know, I am a big fan of nearly all early quarter eagles, especially the Draped Bust series of 1821-1827 and the “mini-Fat Heads” of 1829-1834. And despite very strong price advances in recent years, I still feel that the half eagles of 1813-1834 form one of the most interesting and exciting series of United States coins for collectors with large budgets.

Most importantly, the demand for early gold remains strong. In addition to many avid collectors, there are a few coin funds that love early gold and they are continuing to buy it as long as the coins are “all there.”

The Availability of Original Southern Branch Mint Gold Coins - Part One

Need to get the rest of the article from Mary. In a recent blog (July 30, 2007) I discussed my criteria for what constitutes "originality." Using this criteria, how available are Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans gold coins? In the first of what may be a multi-part series of articles, I’m going to look at C, D and O mint gold dollars and discuss their availability with original surfaces and color.