DLRC Auctions to Sell the World's Most Valuable Piece of Gold

Posted on 7/1/2004

A U.S. gold dollar to be auctioned in July is so small and rare it may be one of the most valuable objects on earth, by weight.

"Nothing this small is worth this much," John Feigenbaum, president of David Lawrence Rare Coins, the parent company of DLRC Auctions, selling the 1849-C.

Smaller than a dime, the 1849-C dollar will be sold along with an enormous collection of U.S. coins in New York City. The Richmond Collection includes almost every U.S. coin minted from 1839-1932, as well as many going back to 1794. Where an ordinary collection might have one complete set of coins, this one has 45 such sets. Some are quite rare, such as the "Stellas," $4 gold coins of which only 10 complete sets are possible to exist. Scores of the collection's coins are likely to sell for five or six figures, for a total of about $25 million. Perhaps three coin collections this large ever have been sold.

The auction will be held in parts, with the live auction of gold coins taking place July 22-23.

The 1849-C "open wreath" gold dollar is the surprise of the auction and, indeed, the whole market in rare U.S. coins. Last traded privately in 1950, the coin had never appeared in coin books because industry experts didn't know of it.

The tiny gold dollar was obscure from the beginning. One of the many coins minted in response to the California gold rush, it was so small at 13 millimeters that it was hard to make and easy to lose. Designers at the Charlotte mint apparently experimented with different versions, perhaps to see which would show the most detail, before settling on a more common gold dollar with a more closed wreath. There are no contemporary records to explain the scarcity of the open-wreath coin.

For nearly a century collectors didn't notice the odd open wreath. Most gold coins of that era were eventually melted, making the dollars still more scarce. Five have since surfaced, but experts in U.S. gold didn't realize there was one in prooflike condition until this year: The DLRC coin was graded "MS 63 prooflike" in March by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. Coins with that fine a level of detail are unusual from the Charlotte mint, which is known for lower quality than the mints in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Among the other rarities in the Richmond Collection is an example of the only U.S. coin minted by Confederates. The 1861-D dollar was created in Dahlonega, GA, after dies that had arrived there were seized by rebels.

You can find David Lawrence Rare Coins and DLRC Auctions on the Web at www.davidlawrence.com or by calling 1-800-776-0560.

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