Coin Specifications

Category: Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 783,953
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: $61.96 (5/5/2016)
Diameter: 15mm
Edge: Reeded
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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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: 2/19/2016

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1854 TYPE 2 G$1 MS
Base $ 200 230 275 325 460 605 615 690 1000 2000 3400 7500 14500 34750 67250 127500 225000 - -
$ - - 625 785 1175 2200 4600 8500 20000 42500 - - -

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Total Graded: 5814
Low Grade: F
Average Grade: 58
High Grade: 68

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
1/4/1996 PCGS XF 40   Heritage Auctions 1996 F.U.N. Bullet Sale #148, 148/Lot# 457 $330.00
9/15/2003 PCGS AU 53   Goldberg September 15-17, 2003 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 21/Lot# 1049 $690.00
4/24/2011 NGC AU 55   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(2), 131118/Lot# 28935 $575.00
5/27/2012 NGC AU 55   Bonhams Coins and Medals, 19995/Lot# 1202 $444.00
1/21/2013 PCGS AU 50   Teletrade Auction 3414, 3414/Lot# 2512 $360.00
6/16/2013 PCGS AU 50   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 756, 765/Lot# 870 $540.00
8/30/2013 PCGS MS 62   Stack's Bowers The September 2013 Philadelphia Auction, 195/Lot# 3333 $4,112.50
7/13/2014 PCGS AU 55   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 07/13/2014, 203/Lot# 203098 $500.50
11/14/2014 NGC MS 62   Heritage Auctions 2014 November 14 - 15 Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection Part V US Coins Signature Auction - New York Session(1), 1215/Lot# 3180 $3,525.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1854 TYPE 2 G$1 MS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 62
Points: 3712
Owner: Crawford MD
Grade: AU 58
Points: 2468
Owner: Michael C Jones
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