Coin Specifications

Category: Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 783,953
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 1.6700g
AGW: 0.0484oz
Melt Value: $62.09 (10/24/2017)
Diameter: 15mm
Edge: Reeded
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1854 TYPE 2 G$1 MS obverse 1854 TYPE 2 G$1 MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

The Small Head Type Two gold dollar is a notoriously scarce type. It was struck for only three years, with the final year of production limited to a tiny San Francisco emission. San Francisco was late in the game due to the geographic distance between the two coasts. Each of the other three branch mints then in operation, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans, struck a small number of Type Two pieces in 1855.

Due to the cost and scarcity of the branch mint issues, most type collectors choose either the 1854 or 1855 Philadelphia dates. Their mintages are similar, separated by only 25,674 pieces, and they trade at equivalent levels. The 1854 mintage of 783,943 pieces compares favorably with the more than 4 million pieces struck in 1853. Undoubtedly, the reason for the much smaller production is related to the heavy mintage of silver half dimes through half dollars in 1853.

Silver coins had nearly vanished from circulation by 1853, since their bullion value exceeded face. The traditional silver to gold ratio was affected by the large quantities of gold recovered from California mining camps. Gold coins continued to circulate, while silver coins were hoarded by speculators. As the lowest denomination gold coin, the gold dollar was needed in commerce to fill the gap caused by silver's absence.

Like the silver three cent piece, the gold dollar was essential to commerce when there was little alternative. But in 1853, the weight of the Seated Liberty denominations was reduced, with the exception of the silver dollar. Once again their face value exceeded their value as bullion, and the half dime, dime, quarter, and half dollar returned to circulation. Mintages of the half dime, dime, and quarter broke records in 1853. Production of the half dollar was at a ten-year high.

The flood of silver coinage reduced the need for the gold dollar, which was unpopular in any event because its small diameter made it easy to lose. To combat this problem, the Type Two's diameter is 15 mm, slightly greater than the 13 mm Type One.

In the 19th century, it was Mint policy to limit designs, preferably one per alloy. The half cent and cent, the half dime and dime, the quarter and half dollar, and the quarter eagle through eagle had similar designs. But the three dollar gold piece, introduced in 1854, was similar in value to the quarter eagle, and needed distinctive motifs. The increased diameter Type Two gold dollar needed new designs, and it was natural to re-use the wreath and layout of the approved three dollar.

Mint officials likely regretted their decision to create a new bust of Liberty for the Type Two obverse. Longacre's Small Head was in high relief, causing metal to flow into the portrait and away from the corresponding area of the reverse. Thus, DOLLAR and the date are nearly always weak on Type Two gold dollars. This problem was alleviated in 1856, when the Small Head was scrapped in favor of the Large Head conveniently taken from the three dollar design.

The two-year, relatively small Type Two mintage at Philadelphia led to the rarity of this gold type. In 1854 and 1855, there were few collectors, even on the East coast. As a store of value, gold dollars were set aside, but rarely was its condition of any concern. It is remarkable, then, that a few high grade Mint State examples have survived.

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


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 8/29/2017

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

1854 TYPE 2 G$1 MS
Base $ 200 230 285 375 455 550 610 650 950 1450 1550 2400 5800 13500 34000 65000 125000 225000 - -
$ - - - 675 1100 - 1650 2500 6800 16000 36000 - - -

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Total Graded: 5863
Low Grade: F
Average Grade: 58
High Grade: 68

Upcoming Auctions

A random selection of NGC coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
11/4/2017 UNC Details  Heritage Auctions 2017 November 2 - 4 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas Session(5), 1261/Lot# 20244
11/4/2017 MS 61   Heritage Auctions 2017 November 2 - 4 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas Session(4), 1261/Lot# 17729
11/4/2017 AU 58   Heritage Auctions 2017 November 2 - 4 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas Session(5), 1261/Lot# 20243

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
1/25/2012 NGC AU 58   Teletrade Auction 3214, 3214/Lot# 1942 $675.00
1/29/2012 NGC Details AU Details  Goldberg January 29 - February 1, 2012 The Pre-Long Beach Auction, 67/Lot# 1114 $506.00
3/4/2012 PCGS AU 55   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 03/04/2012, 10/Lot# 39372 $632.50
5/27/2012 NGC AU 55   Bonhams Coins and Medals, 19995/Lot# 1202 $444.00
1/13/2013 PCGS AU 55   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 734, 743/Lot# 236 $740.00
2/27/2014 NGC AU 55   Heritage Auctions 2014 February 27 - 28 & March 2 Mid-Winter ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Atlanta Session(5), 1203/Lot# 8302 $440.63
3/21/2014 NGC AU 50   Heritage Auctions 2014 March 21 & 23 US Coins Signature Auction - San Francisco Session(3), 1198/Lot# 11626 $411.25
7/21/2015 NGC AU 58   Stack's Bowers July 2015 Baltimore Auction, 6105/Lot# 32628 $587.50
8/28/2016 NGC Details XF Details  Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131636/Lot# 21410 $258.50

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1854 G$1 MS TYPE 2
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 58
Points: 2468
Owner: Michael Jones
Grade: AU 58
Points: 2468
Owner: rockhobby
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