Coin Specifications

Category: Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 758,269
Catalog: KM-83
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 1.6720g
AGW: 0.0484oz
Melt Value: $51.18 (11/29/2015)
Diameter: 15mm
Edge: Reeded
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1855 G$1 MS obverse 1855 G$1 MS reverse

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There are no NGC varieties for this coin.

Description & Analysis

Diminutive yet precious, the gold dollar holds a special place in the hearts of many a collector. The denomination was born out of the flood of gold that came from California beginning in 1849, and the mint at Philadelphia and its branches began producing large quantities of gold dollars, which had their greatest commercial use on the West Coast but gained acceptance nationwide. Breen comments in his Complete Encyclopedia that from 1849 through 1854 'gold dollars formed the bulk of the nation's legal circulating medium between the 3c and the $2.50 denominations' as they were eagerly sought by the public as alternatives to the often worthless and unredeemable private bank notes and store scrip, both of which flooded the country as the value of gold and silver fluctuated. The little gold dollar was hardly worth melting, compared to the eagle, and was also highly useful, accounting for its broad acceptance in the 1850s. But the coin proved to be too easily dropped, and lost, in its initial version. Beginning in August 1854, a new, thinner but wider-diameter version appeared--what we today call the Type Two gold dollar. Liberty was replaced by a charming, feathered Indian princess--the first obeisance on national coinage to Native Americans, who were not to become a 'national enemy' until the Indian Wars that followed the Civil War and intensified in the 1870s.

It was Mint Director Snowden who requested the new design from his talented engraver, James Longacre, along with a 'bigger sister,' the three dollar gold piece. Longacre intended the image of Liberty to be a Romanesque version of the classic Venus (from a marble statue he saw in a Philadelphia museum) but the public saw the headdress and a classic was named. In fact, it became the inspiration for the Indian cent. The new style gold dollar, however, lasted only a matter of months. The government's set exchange rate, or the value ratio of gold to silver, could not be maintained, constantly threatening all gold pieces with private melting for profit. Many of those coins struck during the period of this type's manufacture (less than two years) failed to survive the decade, accounting in part for their rarity today. The style was elegant, a deft rendering of Liberty in her feathered bonnet, in noticeable high relief, but as Breen says 'The coins proved unsatisfactory from the beginning. Longacre had miscalculated, overestimating the power of the coining presses then in use.' It was a sheer manufacturing problem, especially for the Southern mints, which used older presses discarded by the main facility at Philadelphia. The coins most often were poorly struck, with weak features that wore quickly in use. Many were officially melted. The final type of this denomination, made beginning late in 1856, was the same size but in lower relief yet more deeply engraved, making the coins easier to produce with full details, and therefore they would endure far longer. What did not endure, in any number, were the Type Two issues--most of them unsharp to begin with, easily worn, and largely melted and re-coined into the new type. High grade survivors somehow escaped, and as such are miraculous reminders of those perilous days, all so long ago.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 9/28/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1855 G$1 MS
Base $ 210 240 285 335 460 625 635 700 1030 2125 4375 8250 14750 35000 67500 113000 - - -
$ 500 - 660 800 1250 2600 5200 10000 18000 43000 79000 - -

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Total Graded: 5343
Low Grade: F
Average Grade: 58
High Grade: 67

Upcoming Auctions

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Auction House
Sale / Lot
12/6/2015 MS 61   Heritage Auctions 2015 December 3 - 6 Houston Money Show US Coins Signature Auction - Houston Session(3), 1227/Lot# 4510

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
5/4/2005 NGC MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2005 St. Louis, MO (CSNS) Signature Auction #372, 372/Lot# 8382 $17,250.00
7/9/2007 NGC AU 55   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 157, 162/Lot# 1954 $736.00
1/9/2008 PCGS MS 61   Heritage Auctions 2008 January Orlando, FL (FUN) Signature Coin Auction #454, 454/Lot# 3670 $2,185.00
9/19/2010 NGC AU 55   Goldberg September 19-21, 2010 Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction, 60/Lot# 2741 $529.00
3/18/2011 NGC XF 45   Stack's Bowers The March 2011 Baltimore Auction Online Only Session, 91/Lot# 12688 $311.65
8/29/2011 NGC AU 55   Teletrade Auction 3127, 3127/Lot# 1963 $575.00
6/29/2014 PCGS AU 53   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 06/29/2014, 187/Lot# 202537 $625.00
  PCGS AU 58   Bonhams $819.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1855 G$1 MS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 62
Points: 3712
Owner: Irxharts
Grade: MS 61
Points: 2985
Owner: jacmitch
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