Coin Specifications

Category: Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 758,269
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 1.6700g
AGW: 0.0484oz
Melt Value: $62.00 (10/21/2017)
Diameter: 15mm
Edge: Reeded
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1855 G$1 MS obverse 1855 G$1 MS reverse


  
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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.


GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 8/29/2017

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

1855 G$1 MS
  GVGFVFXF505355586061626364656667686970
Base $ 200 230 285 375 475 550 620 660 975 1500 1650 2500 5750 13000 32500 55000 120000 - - -
$ - - - 700 1175 - 1750 2600 6750 17000 35000 79000 - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer

Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 5408
Low Grade: F
Average Grade: 58
High Grade: 67


Upcoming Auctions


Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
2/13/1999 PCGS XF 40   Heritage Auctions 1999 February Long Beach Bullet Sale #196, 196/Lot# 485 $308.00
2/13/2006 NGC AU 58   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 74, 79/Lot# 1436 $1,265.00
5/28/2006 PCGS MS 64   Goldberg May 28-31, 2006 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 36/Lot# 3645 $16,100.00
11/20/2011 NGC AU 58   Teletrade Auction 3175, 3175/Lot# 2778 $690.00
8/31/2014 PCGS   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 08/31/2014, 189/Lot# 201885 $295.00
  PCGS AU 58   Bonhams $819.00
7/21/2015 PCGS   Stack's Bowers July 2015 Baltimore Auction, 6105/Lot# 32631 $470.00
10/3/2016 NGC AU 58   Heritage Auctions 2016 October 3 - 5 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas Session(4), 1240/Lot# 7754 $1,175.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1855 G$1 MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base4234615005396848919691044172920622468269929603984501560238033945010515206133024945057
435474513587753917994127218402197254527863301432753516693850598051388123825351850
00000099412721840219725452786330143275351669385059805138812382500
0000001019150019512332262228733642467156877363897710160172472703700
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 61
Points: 2960
Owner: JTO
 
Grade: AU 58
Points: 2468
Owner: K M Lust
 
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