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.
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 email@example.com.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
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Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the last blog in this multi-part series, I talked about the Philadelphia gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks Collection. In this second installment, I'm going to focus on a group of coins that are near and dear to me: the Dahlonega gold dollars. The Dahlonega mint began production of gold dollars in 1849. They produced six Type One issues (from 1849 to 1854), a single Type Two (in 1855) and six issues that featured the Type Three design (from 1856 to the closing of the mint in 1861). For all three types, the estimated total mintage is fewer than 75,000 coins.
The individual who formed the Vasquez Rocks collection did something amazing: he formed a complete Uncirculated set of gold dollars from this mint. To the best of my knowledge, the only other collections that had a complete set of Dahlonega gold dollars in PCGS/NGC holders were Duke's Creek (sold by Heritage in April 2006) and Green Pond (sold by Heritage in January 2004 and assembled by me). This statement, of course, doesn't take into account older specialized gold dollar collections such as Ullmer, McNally, Miles and Pierce which were also complete in Uncirculated but which were formed before the days or third-party grading.
Before I get into specifics about the gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks collection, here are a few interesting facts to ponder:
- Of the 13 coins in the set, ten have been graded by PCGS and three have been graded by NGC.
- The highest graded Dahlonega gold dollar in the set is an NGC MS64 (1853-D) and the lowest grade is a PCGS MS60 (1856-D).
- Two coins (the 1851-D and the 1858-D) have been awarded "plus" grade designations by PCGS.
- The average grade of a Dahlonega dollar in this set is 61.92; this figure is arrived at by giving the plus coins an extra half a point (i.e, 63+ is figured as 63.5)
- Coins in this set have pedigrees from such famous collections as Chestatee, Green Pond, and Pittman.
Now, let's get a bit more specific and discuss the coins, type by type.
I. Type One
There are some outstanding Type One Dahlonega gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks collection. A complete list is as follows:
- 1849-D, PCGS MS62
- 1850-D, NGC MS63
- 1851-D, PCGS MS63+
- 1852-D, PCGS MS61
- 1853-D, NGC MS64
- 1854-D, PCGS MS62, ex Pittman Collection
It's hard for me to pick a favorite coin from this group, but the piece that I like the best is the 1851-D in PCGS MS63+.
The 1851-D is the second most common Type One gold dollar (after the 1849-D) and there are as many as 20 known in Uncirculated. However, it is very rare in MS63 as evidenced by the PCGS population of four (with only two better). The Vasquez Rocks coin is the only MS63+ currently graded by PCGS and it is a magnificent coin with a bold strike, rich yellow-gold color and delightful frosty luster. It would make a perfect type coin for the collector who is seeking a single higher grade Type One gold dollar from Dahlonega for his collection.
II. Type Two
The Dahlonega mint produced Type Two gold dollars for just one year. The 1855-D had an original mintage of just 1,811 and there are fewer than 100 known, mostly in lower grades. This is the single rarest gold dollar from this mint in higher grades and there are exactly four known in Uncirculated.
The coin in the Vasquez Rocks collection is graded MS61 by PCGS and it is the fourth finest known 1855-D dollar. It is one of two Uncirculated 1855-D dollars that were once in the Green Pond collection and it has been off the market since early 2004 when it was acquired from the auction by the owner of the Vasquez Rocks collection for $46,000.
Only a small number of 1855-D dollars are known with sharp strikes and an even smaller number have a full date. The Vasquez Rocks coin is exceptionally well struck; so well struck, in fact, that PCGS has designated on the holder that it is a Full Date. Of the four Uncirculated 1855-D dollars, only one other (ex Duke's Creek/Bass) has a Full Date.
In addition to its exceptional strike, this 1855-D has great eye appeal for the issue with a good deal of luster seen on choice surfaces. Both sides have pleasing color and if you have seen many examples of this date, you'll know that it is seldom found with this degree of good looks!
III. Type Three
The Type Three design was introduced in 1856 and the Dahlonega mint produced six issues before it was closed in 1861.
The Type Three D mint dollars in this collection are as follows:
- 1856-D, PCGS MS60, ex Chestatee collection
- 1857-D, PCGS MS61
- 1858-D, PCGS MS62+
- 1859-D, NGC MS62
- 1860-D, PCGS MS62, CAC approved
- 1861-D, PCGS MS61
Again, it is hard to focus on one coin, given how many outstanding pieces are in this set. I'm sure you expect me to focus on the 1861-D but I'm actually going to discuss the 1860-D, a coin that, to me, is clearly a highlight of this set.
Only 1,566 gold dollars were struck at the Dahlonega mint in 1860 and this is a rare issue in all grades. A dubious distinction held by this date is the fact that it is the worst struck gold dollar from this mint. The coin in the Vasquez Rocks collection, while showing the familiar weak U in UNITED, is among the best made examples of this date that I have seen. It is of just two graded MS62 by PCGS with a single coin better (an MS63 that should be deleted from the population report as it now appears as an NGC MS64). It is nice enough for the grade that it was approved by CAC and it is one of just two examples of this date in MS62 to have received a CAC sticker.
I am hoping that I will be able to keep the Dahlonega dollars from the Vasquez Rocks collection intact and they will be offered, at first, as a set. If no one purchases them intact, the coins will be broken up and, I assume, they will sell quickly.
For more information on the coins in this collection, please feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com. I expect the full Vasquez Rocks collection to be available for sale in a few weeks.
There are dozens of United States gold coins that are accorded a high degree of value for various reasons: first-year-of-issue, low mintage figures, beautiful design, strong collector appeal, etc. These are not always the "rarest" coins in a series and when the value-conscious collector looks at the numbers they don't always make sense. But coins like the ones listed below are great additions to any collection. Let's look at a list of 20 gold coins from the 19th century priced below $10,000 that would be welcome in any collection. 1. 1849-D Gold Dollar: The first gold dollar from this mint and an affordable, well-made issue. An easy coin to obtain in the $2,500-5,000 range.
2. 1855-O Gold Dollar: The only Type Two gold dollar from New Orleans and the final issue of this denomination from this mint. $3,000-5,000 will buy you a nice piece.
3. 1875 Gold Dollar: Just 400 business strikes were made, yet this issue is affordable.
4. 1838-C Quarter Eagle: The first quarter eagle from Charlotte and a popular two year type. Becoming harder to locate for less than $7,500 but be patient and you'll find one.
5. 1839-D Quarter Eagle: The mate to the 1838-C and an issue that is both first-year-of-type and a one -year emission. Another coin that is becoming hard to find at under $10,000 but not impossible.
6. 1845-O Quarter Eagle: Only 4,000 were struck and this is by far the scarcest quarter eagle from this mint. Still available for less than $10,000 but getting more expensive every year.
7. 1875 Quarter Eagle: If you own the dollar, why not the quarter eagle? Another super-low mintage issue; just 400 struck. Decent pieces can be had for $7,500-10,000.
8. 1854-O Three Dollars: A first-year issue and a one-year type in one affordable package. $5,000-7,500 will buy you a very pleasing example.
9. 1881 Three Dollars: Just 500 business strikes were made and this is a scarce coin in all grades. This date always sells quickly for me. $7,500 will buy you a nice one.
10. 1813 Half Eagle: One of the more common coins on this list but its the most affordable example of the legendary Fat Head type. Nice pieces can still be hard for less than $10,000.
11. 1838-C/1838-D Half Eagles: Both are first year issues and one-year types. Both are very popular and becoming increasingly hard to find at under $10,000. These have great appeal beyond branch mint specialists.
12. 1839-C/1839-D Half Eagles: Two more one-year types. Neither are really rare (except in high grades) but they are well-made, oh-so-popular and can still be purchased in the $5,000-10,000 range. A four coin set that had the 1838-C, 1838-D, 1839-C and 1839-D half eagles would be a great addition to a collection.
13. 1861-C Half Eagle: Final year of issue, possible Civil War issuance and cheap...what's not to love about the 1861-C half eagle? I just sold a nice EF40 for a shade over $5,000 and received multiple orders for it on my site.
14. 1870-CC Half Eagle: You can't buy a really nice example of this date for less than $10,000 anymore but if you stretch a bit you'll own a true piece of history. By a large margin, this is the most affordable first-year CC gold coin.
15. 1838 Eagle: This is another formerly affordable coin whose levels have shot up in the last five years. It's scarce in all grades (only 7,200 were made) and it is the first Liberty Head eagle.
16. 1854-S Eagle: The first San Francisco eagle and a true Gold Rush artifact. Very affordable with very nice pieces still available for around $5,000.
17. 1857-S SSCA Double Eagle: I thought twice about adding this to the list but how can you not love a coin with this much history and cosmetic appeal? MS63's at $9,000 or so seem like fair value right now.
18. 1874-CC Eagle: To me, the thought of owning a Carson City eagle from the early 1870's is pretty exciting and the 1874-CC is the most common. Nice coins can be had for $6,000-8,000.
19. 1861 Double Eagle: An affordable Civil War double eagle that is well made and available. A great starter coin for the collector and always an easy coin to sell. You can buy nice examples for $3,000-5,000 and up.
20. Carson City Double Eagle: I didn't mention a specific date as I am viewing this as a type purchase. What could be more popular than a big, pretty coin like this? You can still purchase an excellent example for $4,000-7,000.
So what coins did I leave off the list that you have in your collection and which do you agree with? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
As I was viewing auctions lots for Heritage's 2012 FUN sale in Dallas the other day, I got to thinking about a topic that I think most gold coin collectors will find interesting: which issues are really hard to find with good eye appeal. I've decided to begin a multi-part study of this and the first featured series is gold dollars. Eye appeal is a combination of factors that makes a coin visually pleasing. These factors include strike, luster, color and surface preservation. For some collectors, original color is the key component; for others it is a sharp strike. But no matter which component is deemed most important, most sophisticated collectors will be able to agree if a coin has good overall eye appeal or not.
The concept of eye appeal doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with rarity. You can have a rare or very rare coin that, when available, tends to come with good overall eye appeal (an example of this would be an 1828 half eagle). Or, you can have a coin that is merely scarce but which, for a variety of factors, is seldom seen with good eye appeal (an example of this is a 1796 eagle).
Let's take a look at some of the gold dollars that, in my experience, are very difficult to find with good appeal.
In the Type One issues (produced from 1849 through 1854) there are a number of coins that are seldom seen with good eye appeal. The first that comes to mind is the 1852-D. Due to die clashing, this issue is frequently seen with multiple clashmarks that develop into a very "busy" area in the left obverse field. In addition to this phenomenon of strike, most 1852-D gold dollars have been cleaned or processed. I can't recall having owned more than a handful of 1852-D dollars that were cosmetically appealing.
Another Dahlonega issue that is very hard to locate with good eye appeal is the 1854-D. In the case of this issue it is not so much strike as it seems that nearly all known examples have been cleaned or dipped. I would be surprised if as many as ten nice examples were known and I have seen just a few in the last decade.
The Charlotte and New Orleans Type One gold dollars are easier to locate with good eye appeal than their counterparts from Dahlonega. The hardest Type One dollar to locate from Charlotte with good eye appeal is the 1850-C. While relatively well struck and well made, it seems that nearly every piece that I see offered either has inferior luster, "chewy" surfaces and poor color from having been recently cleaned or dipped.
The New Orleans Type One dollars tend to be well made and boldly detailed. Locating examples of virtually all the dates isn't a problem although finding a choice, orignal 1850-O with very good eye appeal can be somewhat of a challenge.
While issued only from 1854 to 1856, the Type Two issues tend to be hard to locate with good eye appeal. This is more true for the branch mint pieces than for the Philadelphia coins.
The 1855-D is the rarest Type Two gold dollar from a rarity standpoint but I have actually seen more nice 1855-D dollars in all grades than I have the 1855-C. The 1855-C is typically found with numerous planchet imperfections, poor strike and bright surfaces from dipping. In the Heritage sale, I saw a nice PCGS AU58 example (which was, in fact, sort of the impetus for the theme of this series of blogs...) and it got me to to thinking how long its been since I'd seen a nice, crisp, wholesome example. I'm not certain I have the exact answer but I do know that the 1855-C dollar in any grade with truly good eye appeal is a rare coin indeed.
The Philadelphia coins of the final type of this denomination (known to collectors as the Type Three) are generally seen with good eye appeal. There are a few issues, though, that can prove to be tricky to find as such.
The 1863 is an issue that was melted extensively. When found in circulated grades, survivors almost always seem to have poor eye appeal. There are a small number of really superb pieces known (around a half dozen Gems that grade MS65 to MS67) but these are off the market in tightly held collections.
While not as well known or as highly valued as the 1863, the 1865 is another issue that is not readily encountered with good eye appeal. As with many of the smaller denomination gold issues of this era, the 1865 typically comes either really nice or really wretched and coins that fall into the latter category seem to be what's available to collectors these days.
The 1875 is a date that most collectors believe is very rare and, from the standpoint of availability (or lack of it) I couldn't argue. But this is an issue that tends to have good eye appeal when it is available. Due to its low mintage figure of just 400 business strikes, all 1875 dollars are seen with prooflike surfaces. If an 1875 dollar hasn't been harshly cleaned or mishandled, it will have great eye appeal due to the depth of its reflectiveness and bold details.
The hardest Type Three issues to find with good eye appeal are, as one would expect, the coins from Charlotte and Dahlonega.
Only two Charlotte gold dollars were struck during this era (the 1857-C and the 1859-C) but both are hard to find with good eye appeal. This is especially true for the former as this is an issue that is typically seen with planchet waviness, roughness as made and really bad overall eye appeal. I recently sold an NGC AU58 with CAC approval to a collector and, as I told him, it was just about the only really attractive example of this issue that I could recall having seen.
Nearly all of the Type Three gold dollars from Dahlonega are hard to find with good eye appeal but I think the two that are the hardest are the 1857-D and the 1860-D. The former is hard to find due to a combination of quirky strike and hard commercial use. The latter is a much scarcer coin but it is almost always found softly struck and with poor, unnatural coloration.
The San Francisco Type Three issues are short-lived but do not lack for difficultly to locate with good eye appeal. I personally find the 1857-S and 1858-S to be the two hardest dates to find with good eye appeal. Both are typically found with a fair amount of wear and seldom show good color. I haven't seen or handled a nice Uncirculated example of either date in years.
Unlike other series, there are no impossible coins to find in the gold dollar denomination (not counting, of course, the excessively rare 1849-C Open Wreath), there are a number of specific issues that are extremely hard to find with good eye appeal. I'd say that the five toughest to find, in chronological order, are as follows:
-1850-D -1852-D -1854-D -1857-C -1860-D
The next article in this series will focus on Liberty Head quarter eagles. Pre-1834 and Classic Head issues will be covered in another article that focuses on early gold in all denominations.
Any questions about eye appeal and gold dollars? I can be reached via email at email@example.com
I published the second edition of my book on Dahlonega gold coinage in 2003. A lot of time has passed since then and, as part of the upcoming third edition, I'm going to be including a chapter in the new work that is a sort of State of the Union of the Dahlonega market for 2011. As you are likely someone who is interested in these coins and who is a loyal follower of raregoldcoins.com I'd like to share my thoughts with you. 1. Major Collections Sold Since 2003
In the 1990's and early 2000's, it seemed that a major collection of Dahlonega gold was being sold every year or so. It was an incredibly fertile time for collectors and, in retrospect, I'm not certain that we knew just how good we had it.
Since 2003, the number of major collections of Dahlonega gold that have hit the market have dwindled. In early 2004, Heritage sold the Green Pond collection. This was a collection that I was primarily responsible for assembling, and a number of record prices were set when the coins were sold.
In April 2006, Heritage sold the gold dollar and quarter eagle portion of the famous Duke's Creek collection. Again, many record prices were set; a number of which stand to this day.
But with the exception of these two sales, the auction market for Dahlonega gold has been pretty bleak since 2003. Oh, sure, there have been great individual coins sold. And there have been sales with a few interesting coins here and there. But for the most part, the number of great collections that have hit the market since 2003 can be counted on one hand with a few fingers leftover.
2. Evaporation of Supply
The lack of great collections sold at auction is a nice segue to the second point: the overall lack of supply. I'm not talking about just finest known and Condition Census coins here; I'm talking coins across the board from Very Fine to Mint State.
There are a host of reasons why the supply of nice Dahlonega coins is lower now than I can ever remember. You'll notice that I said "nice." Before we go any further, I think its important to define the term "nice" when it comes to my perspective of Dahlonega coins; and coins in general.
I regard a nice coin as one with a pleasing, natural appearance. It may not necessarily be a coin that is truly "crusty" but it is a coin that I would regard as being above-average and likely to receive approval from CAC if it were sent to that service.
So why is the supply of nice coins so low right now? For a number of reasons. First of, there just aren't that many nice Dahlonega coins left. I feel that the number of coins that have been cleaned and processed in recent years is very substantial; probably more than we realize. So we are looking at a smaller pool of coins that are nice than ever before.
Also, we are looking at a collector base that has expanded and who tend not to sell the nice coins that they have. They are serious collectors, they like their coins and unless a better coin comes along they tend to hold their nice Dahlonega coins for the long term.
So what's in short supply? First and foremost are the keys. The really popular Dahlonega issues like 1861-D gold dollars and half eagles and 1856-D quarter eagles have become ultra hard to find. The same holds true with nice "collector quality" 1838-D half eagles, 1842-D Large Date half eagles, 1855-D quarter eagles and 1854-D threes.
3. Changes in Estimated Populations My population estimates from 2003 proved more accurate than when I estimated population back in the 1990's for my first Dahlonega book. But the numbers still seem low and I have raised them. Typically, an issue now has an overall population that is, in my estimation, 10-30% greater. I've come to the conclusion that "common date" Dahlonega gold coins are more common that I used to think.
The "bell curve" of grade distribution for Dahlonega gold has changed as well. This is, of course, due to a loosening of standards over time. Many issues now appear more common in AU grades than they do in EF but I believe that many slabbed AU50 and AU53 coins offer weak claims to an AU grade.
The number(s) of high grade Dahlonega pieces has stayed remarkably consistent since 2003. Part of this has to do with the fact that not many new Mint State Dahlonega coins have come onto the market since 2003. There have been some MS60 and MS61 coins that are clearly upgrades from AU58's past and other coins that have crossed-over from NGC to PCGS and vice-versa. But mostly I'd attribute this stability to good research by yours truly. High grade 1849-D quarter eagles are a lot easier to track than VF's and EF's, of course.
4. Date Collecting Remains Popular One of the things that interests me most about the Dahlonega market is that it is one of the last bastions of date collecting. Many other branch mint series have lost traction as far as collecting by dates goes and issues that formerly sold for premiums now may be regarded as little more than semi-generic issues. But this is not really the case with Dahlonega coins.
Why is this so? I'd have to say there are a few obvious reasons that spring to mind. The first is that this is a true collector market and collectors like to collect coins by date. The second is that there is a good deal of variation with Dahlonega coins on a yearly basis. In other words, an 1849-D gold dollar tends to look very different from an 1850-D dollar; unlike a Proof Seated half dollar that has a seemingly interchangeable appearance regardless of date. Finally--and perhaps most importantly--there are no gigantic "stoppers" in the Dahlonega series. Nothing is so rare or so overly expensive that it means the average collector can't aspire to complete a date set.
One of the nice things about collecting Dahlonega coins by date is that if you look at them in the popular collector grades (i.e., VF and EF) they are still reasonably affordable. Yes, I realize that an 1854-D $3 and an 1861-D $1 are expensive for the collector of average means. But when you are talking about a set where there are just a few issues north of $10,000 and most are well under $5,000, I would term these coins as affordable.
5. Prices Rise...And Fall Given what I perceive to be a strong market with good supply and demand numbers and an avid collector base, I'm actually surprised that Dahlonega coins are as affordable as they currently are. Let's pick three Dahlonega issues in reasonable grades and see how they have performed since 2003.
The first coin we'll look at is an 1849-D dollar in AU50. This issue is the Dahlonega equivalent of an 1881-S Morgan. It is plentiful, popular, and trades with comparative frequency.
A PCGS AU50 example sold for $2,530 as Heritage 10/10: 4569 and this seems to be a pretty fair current market value for a decent AU50 example. Going back to the Heritage May 2005 sale, a similarly graded 1849-D dollar brought $2,200. Not factoring in possible gradeflation of the AU50 from 2005, this is a pretty unimpressive return.
How about the same issue in higher grade? An NGC MS63 example brought $9,775 in the Heritage February 2010 sale as Lot 1363. In May 2004 an NGC MS63 sold for $9,200 as Lot 329 in the Bowers and Merena sale. Again, not a really glowing price appreciation.
Let's pick a better date issue for the quarter eagle series; say an 1854-D. Heritage 8/10: 3423, graded AU58 by PCGS, sold for $14,950. Back in May 2003, Superior sold a similarly graded example (also slabbed by PCGS) for $17,825.
Why have many Dahlonega gold coins actually dropped in value in the last few years? Let's use this question as a segue to bullet point #6 in this State of the Union address.
6. And What About Grading? When I wrote an overview of the Dahlonega market in the 2003 edition of my book, I was pretty vocal in my dislike for the gradeflation that had characterized higher quality issues in this area of the market. How has grading changed eight years later?
I don't think the grading services did any better grading Dahlonega coins between 2003 and 2008. Too many choice, original coins continued to be dipped, processed, and quite possibly ruined in an attempt to get the best possible grade.
With the establishment of CAC in 2008, the pendulum appears to have swung back towards rewarding originality. CAC-approved Dahlonega coins are liquid and they bring higher prices at auction than non-CAC coins; if only because they just seem to be nicer.
So where am I going with these comments? I think the Dahlonega gold market has been hurt by too many lower end, unoriginal coins in holders. Time and time again, I've seen a really low end AU58 sell at auction for a very cheap price and drag down values as a result.
Since 2003 (if not before), the Dahlonega market has become very two-tiered. There are price levels for the low-end and commercial quality coins and there are price levels for the choice, original coins. In my opinion, for many dates the premium should be 50% for choice coins but this just does not seem to be the case.
7. Certain Issues Remain Undervalued. I mentioned before that I think Dahlonega coins are, for the most part undervalued. I really do believe this to be the case, especially with coins in the $2,500-7,500 that have choice, original surfaces. But there are certain issues that I think remain particularly undervalued.
In the dollars, I continue to like the 1850-D and the 1857-D. Both are not priced at all that much more than common dates but are quite hard to find.
I have always felt that the quarter eagles from this mint were the most undervalued denomination. Nearly all Dahlonega quarter eagles in choice, original AU50 and better and undervalued.
In the half eagle series, the dates that I feel are the most undervalued include the 1846-D Normal Mintmark, 1848-D and 1857-D.
So there you have it: my State of the Union address for the Dahlonega gold market as of the Spring of 2011. This remains an area of the coin market that is near and dear to me, and one that I think is extremely fulfilling for collectors.
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.
I'm busy updating my Dahlonega gold book (I hope to be finished with the manuscript in 45 days or so) and in honor of My Dahlonega Obsession, I thought it would be fun, or at least moderately amusing, to share some of my recent findings in the form of a Dahlonega Quiz. Here's how I would interpret your score on the quiz, should you decide to play along:
10 of 10: You are A Dahlonega Guru. Consider becoming a full-time specialist in this area; if you aren't already.
7/8/9 of 10: You are pretty good. Maybe not a Guru but you know your coins.
6 of 10 or below: You are a Dahlona-newb. You need to buy the upcoming third edition of my book, read it carefully, and then read it some more.
OK, are you totally excited and ready to take the quiz? Here we go!
1. What is the most common Dahlonega gold coin in terms of the total number known?
a) 1849-D gold dollar b) 1852-D quarter eagle c) 1854-D half eagle d) 1861-D eagle
2. What Dahlonega gold coin has the most known individual coins in Gem condition (i.e., MS65 and above?)
a) 1858-D gold dollar b) 1847-D quarter eagle c) 1855-D quarter eagle d) 1854-D half eagle
3. Which Dahlonega quarter eagle has an odd grade distribution where more survivors are high grade (AU55 and above) than low grade (EF40 and below)?
a) 1839-D b) 1843-D c) 1857-D d) All the above
4. What Dahlonega coin has the lowest mintage? (And you get extra credit if you know the mintage figure?)
a) 1854-D three dollar b) 1856-D quarter eagle c) 1854-D quarter eagle d) 1841-D quarter dollar
5. What is the rarest Dahlonega coin in terms of overall rarity (i.e., fewest known in all grades combined?
a) 1861-D gold dollar b) 1854-D three dollar c) 1840-D quarter eagle d) 1856-D quarter eagle
6. What is the rarest Dahlonega coin in Uncirculated? (Not the number graded by the services but the number of coins that specialists agree are really, truly "new?")
a) 1859-D gold dollar b) 1840-D quarter eagle c) 1856-D half eagle d) 1842-D Large Date half eagle
7. Which of the following is not a recognized Dahlonega variety?
a) 1842-D Small Date half eagle b) 1843-D Small Mintmark quarter eagle c) 1859/8-D gold dollar d) 1846-D/D quarter eagle
8. Which Dahlonega coin is known to have been produced exclusively by the Confederacy?
a) 1860-D half eagle b) 1861-D gold dollar c) 1861-D half eagle d) 1861-D three dollar
9. What coin holds the all-time auction record for a Dahlonega mint product? (Extra credit if you can name the sale and amount. A lot of extra credit, in fact....)
a) 1838-D half eagle b) 1861-D gold dollar c) 1861-D half eagle d) 1854-D three dollar
10. What collection of Dahlonega gold coinage, sold by Heritage in April 2006, contained many finest-knowns and set many price records?
a) Black and Gold b) Green Pond c) Ashland City d) Duke's Creek
11. Extra Credit: Name every one-year type of Dahlonega coin
So, did that frazzle you or did you find it fun? Here are the answers to the Dahlonega Quiz.
1= A. The 1849-D dollar is easily the most common coin made at the Dahlonega mint. There are as many as 750-1000 known and it is readily available in all grades.
2= A and B. Both of these are acceptable as correct answers. There are at least three Gem 1858-D gold dollars known. There are two or possibly three 1847-D quarter eagles known in Gem.
3= C. There is speculation that a hoard of 1857-D quarter eagles may have existed at one time. This date is almost never seen in lower grades but tends to be available in the AU50 to MS61 range.
4= B. The 1856-D has a mintage of just 874, which is the lowest of any issue from this mint and the only D mint coin with fewer than 1,000 made.
5= D. Again, the correct answer is the 1856-D.
6= D. This is a tough one but most specialists agree that the 1842-D Large Date half eagle is unknown in strict Uncirculated. The same could be said for the 1856-D quarter eagle but I'm tired of giving props to this date...
7= C. There is no such thing as an overdated Dahlonega coin. Of any date. Or denomination.
8= B. If you chose "D" and thought it was the 1861-D Three Dollar, you immediately fail this quiz and aren't allowed to buy any Dahlonega coins until you study my book!
9= C. Heritage 1/08: 3198, graded MS63 by PCGS, sold for a record-braking $207,000. When I sold the coin a number of years earlier, it was the first Dahloenga coin to have ever cracked the $100,000 mark.
10= D. The Duke's Creek collection of gold dollars and quarter eagles was sold in April 2006. The half eagles have yet to hit the market.
11= The one year types are 1855-D gold dollar, 1839-D quarter eagle, 1854-D three dollar, 1838-D half eagle and 1839-D half eagle.
So how did you do on the quiz? You can email me your result and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.