Southern Gold Dollars

Posted on 1/7/2016

A survey of Southern Gold Dollars issued between 1849 and 1861 from the Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans Mints.

U.S. Mint at Dahlonega, Georgia, circa 1877
Click image to enlarge.

1849-C Closed Wreath
Mintage: 11,634
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 99 total, Mint State 31, Finest MS 64 (2)

The 1849-C Closed Wreath variety can be considered quite scarce in any grade. High grade examples are usually Prooflike in appearance but can be difficult to grade due to convex obverse fields (giving the coin a bulged look), which can be confused with damage. Low grade pieces are the norm, with Mint State coins being very rare. The 1849-C Closed Wreath design is scarce in all grades, but it is the only collectible Charlotte Mint gold dollar for the year that is practical to collect. The finest example seen is an MS 64 coin that was discovered by me in 2014, and later sold at auction in 2015 for $49,350.

1849-C Open Wreath
Mintage: Unknown and included as part of the 1849-C Closed Wreath
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 2 total, Mint State 0, Finest XF 45 (1)

This issue must be considered the “king” of all gold dollars and is one of the rarest US gold coins. The Charlotte Mint was the only Branch Mint to receive the new Close Wreath dies in time to strike the 1849-dated coins. All other Branch Mint issues are found with Open Wreath designs only. Probably just a handful of coins were struck in Charlotte with the Open Wreath dies. Waldo Newcomer discovered the variety sometime before 1933. It is estimated that currently five are known to exist, the finest being an MS 63, which sold for $493,500 in April, 2015. Other known examples of the 1849-C Open Wreath design grade from Fine to About Uncirculated.

Note: this coin is included among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (Garrett and Guth).

Mintage: 21,588
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 290 total, Mint State 109, Finest MS 65 (1)

Although this date is the most common Type 1 gold dollar from the Dahlonega Mint, demand from type collectors has made it popular in any grade. The mintage is relatively small, but many were undoubtedly saved as first-year-of-issue souvenirs. Partial Prooflike examples are sometimes seen. Even though many were saved as first year of issue, high-grade examples are very rare. Only a couple survive that could be classified as Gems. The Mint State coins seen are usually MS 61 or MS 62. Most coins that are seen however are well worn, with the average coin being Very Fine or Extremely Fine. NGC has certified a single example in MS 65, but that coin has not traded at auction.

Mintage: 215,000
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 751 total, Mint State 341, Finest MS 66 (1)

None of the Close Wreath dies were received in New Orleans in time for the coinage of 1849; thus, all known examples are of the Open Wreath variety. Most examples are well struck on the obverse but are usually weakly struck in the central portions of the reverse, sometimes very much so. This is one of the more readily available New Orleans issues but is still quite popular as a first year of issue. The 1849-O coin is not a great rarity in the lower states of preservation. Choice and Gem coins are, however, seldom seen and quite desirable. The finest graded example, an NGC MS 66 sold for $20,700 in August 2012.

Mintage: 6,966
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 79 total, Mint State 19, Finest MS 63 (2)

The 1850-C issue is one of the rarest Charlotte Mint gold dollars. High grade examples are almost never seen, and lower grade coins are elusive. The production of the 1850-C gold dollar is generally poor, making grading difficult. The surfaces of this issue are often Prooflike but with grainy or rough patches. The strike, on most seen by the authors, has been average, with some weakness on the obverse. Just a few choice coins have been graded over the years. Notable examples that have surfaced include the Eliasberg coin, the James A. Stack piece, and the coin that was part of the famous Elrod Collection.

Mintage: 8,382
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 98 total, Mint State 23, Finest MS 64 (2)

As a date, the 1850-D issue is far rarer than the 1849-D gold dollar. Relatively few have been graded Mint State, and the 1850-D coin is very scarce in any condition. The number of coins offered at auction is also less than one would expect. The average coin seen is Very Fine to Extremely Fine. This issue can easily be considered one of the rarest Type 1 gold dollars. Most 1850-D gold dollars are softly struck on the obverse, making grading a tricky affair. The finest example known of the date is the exceptional piece from the famed Duke’s Creek Collection of Dahlonega gold coins. The coin was graded NGC MS 64 and sold at auction in April, 2006 for $34,500.

Mintage: 14,000
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 197 total, Mint State 85, Finest MS 64 (1)

The 1850-O issue has by far the lowest mintage of any New Orleans gold dollar. This date is at least as rare as many Dahlonega and Charlotte issues and can be considered underrated at current levels. High-grade coins of this issue are very rarely seen, and the finest graded examples to date have been two MS 64 specimens, one of which resided in the famous Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection. The vast majority of Mint State examples seen grade MS 61 or MS 62. Most 1850-O dollars are well struck, but they are sometimes found with light die rust on Liberty’s neck and jaw. In the 1906 Harlan P. Smith sale, the Chapman brothers noted that this date was the rarest New Orleans gold dollar, in their opinion—a very astute observation for the time.

Mintage: 41,267
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 399 total, Mint State 135, Finest MS 66 (2)

The 1851-C issue is by far the most common gold dollar from the Charlotte Mint—and the most common denomination, for that matter. Circulated examples are relatively easy to find, but the demand for Branch Mint gold has steadily increased over the last few years. In Mint State condition, this date is the only Charlotte gold dollar that can be found without a great deal of effort. Most 1851-C gold dollars are well struck. Several examples of this date are known in gem condition, the finest graded to date being MS 66, one of which sold at auction in January 2012 for $32,200.

Mintage: 9,882
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 134 total, Mint State 54, Finest MS 65 (1)

This date is the second-most-common Type 1 gold dollar struck at the Dahlonega Mint. The term common must be kept in perspective, however, when one considers that more than three million gold dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1851. Circulated examples are not exceptionally rare, but very few Mint State coins have been graded by NGC. The finest by far is the superb NGC MS 65 Duke’s Creek / Bareford specimen. This fabulous piece sold for $7,500 in 1978! The coin more recently sold at auction in April 2006 for $37,375. Many Dahlonega Mint coins of this date are boldly struck and have above-average surfaces. A number also exhibit heavy die clashing.

Mintage: 290,000
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 896 total, Mint State 412, Finest MS 66 (1)

As would be expected of a coin with a relatively high mintage, the 1851-O gold dollar is not extremely difficult to locate in circulated condition. It is still much rarer than its Philadelphia counterpart for the year. Mint State coins are increasingly difficult to locate in a higher state of preservation. Gem examples are very rare, and a single example has been graded MS 66 by NGC. A small group (10 to 12) of MS 64 and MS 65 coins was discovered around 2001. Most of the high-grade coins seen have good luster and golden-yellow surfaces. Interestingly, several coins have been cataloged in the distant past as Proofs. Some 1851-O gold dollars are partially Prooflike (NGC has graded one as such), but none would be considered a true Proof by modern numismatists.

Mintage: 9,434
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 150 total, Mint State 62, Finest MS 66 (1)

With a mintage of less than 10,000 coins, the 1852-C gold dollar must be considered scarce in any condition. Only 150 of these gold dollars have been certified in all grades by NGC. Although a scarce coin in any grade, a number of Mint State examples are known, including a superb NGC MS 66 example that last sold in January 2000 for $24,150. That coin is a radiant gem, but like most 1852-C gold dollars, it has an imperfection on the reverse at the LA of DOLLAR. The flaw at first appears to be a planchet imperfection, but it is obviously a die problem, probably caused by some foreign material adhering to the die. This mint-caused defect should not affect the value.

Mintage: 6,360
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 107 total, Mint State 28, Finest MS 63 (4)

This date should be considered rare in any condition. Population numbers suggest that it is very similar in rarity to the 1854-D gold dollar (a fact noted by David Akers long before population reports). Relatively few Mint State examples have been certified, and they are seldom offered for sale. The average coin seen is Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated. The finest coin known of the date is the NGC MS 63 example from the Duke’s Creek Collection sold in April 2004 for $27,600. As a result of clashed or lapped dies, most examples feature defects on the obverse, particularly about the nose and forehead. Most coins also display die cracks on the reverse. The 1852-D gold dollar is a classic condition rarity, with no Gem examples known to exist.

Mintage: 140,000
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 476 total, Mint State 157, Finest MS 66 (2)

In Mint State, the 1852-O is the third-rarest gold dollar struck at the New Orleans Mint after the 1850-O and the 1855-O. Average Mint State examples are scarce but are offered with regularity. Choice and Gem specimens are very rare, the finest being two NGC MS 66 examples. One of these sold in July, 2005 for $23,000. No Gem pieces have been sold at auction for a decade. This date is regularly seen weakly struck, especially in the central portions. Many known examples of the 1852-O gold dollar are also found with obverse die cracks running from the portrait of Liberty into the rim. The 1852-O is a very scarce and even circulated examples should bring a higher premium than is often the case.

Mintage: 11,515
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 129 total, Mint State 45, Finest MS 65 (1)

The 1853-C gold dollars were very poorly produced. The issue is often seen on weakly struck planchets. The central portions on the reverse near the date are nearly always obscured. Grading the 1853-C gold dollar can be tricky business. A Mint State coin, if one were to become available, would be graded more by the luster than by actual wear. Partially Prooflike examples of this date are also seen on occasion. Although the 1852-C and 1853-C are very similar in overall rarity, the 1853-C is much rarer in higher states of preservation. The finest graded to date is a single NGC MS 65 example. An MS 64 coin sold for $14,100 in January, 2014. There are two varieties known for the date, including one with the mintmark obviously re-punched.

1853-D Gold Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

Mintage: 6,583
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 131 total, Mint State 39, Finest MS 66 (1)

The 1853-D gold dollar is of similar rarity to the above-mentioned 1853-C. Both are moderately rare in all grades, and exceptionally rare in Mint State. Many great collections that have been sold in the past could muster only a circulated example of the date. The quality of production for this issue is about par for a coin of the era from a Southern mint. Poor planchets and weakness of strike are not unusual. Light die scratching is also often seen on examples of the 1853-D. Incredibly, at least two superb examples of this coin are known. They are from a hoard of gold coins discovered in Jackson, Tennessee, during construction of a parking lot. It is not known exactly what coins were in the hoard, but they were mostly from the 1850s. The single NGC MS 66 certified coin sold in February 2010 for $74,750.

Mintage: 290,000
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 1285 total, Mint State 728, Finest MS 67 (1)

The issue is usually well struck but occasionally has a grainy mint luster. The 1853-O is the easiest New Orleans gold dollar to obtain in all grades, even though the mintage is the same as the 1851-O. Still, it is much rarer than coins from the Philadelphia Mint of the same era. Even though lower-grade coins are relatively readily available, gem examples of the date are quite rare. Very few gems have sold at public auction over the last decade. Just a few have been graded as superb; these are closely held by collectors. The single NGC MS 67 example has not appeared at auction.

Mintage: 2,935
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 75 total, Mint State 25, Finest MS 64 (1)

With a tiny mintage of only 2,935 coins, the 1854-D issue must be considered rare in any condition. It is a major rarity in higher states of preservation. When seen, this date is usually well worn, and harshly cleaned coins are not unusual. Only a few examples are known to survive in choice or better condition. The finest seen has been an NGC MS 64 that sold at auction in April, 2013 for $64,625. The obverse of most 1854-D gold dollars is adequately struck, but the reverse is always weak about the wreath and the central portions. Also, there are always diagnostic raised die lines on the reverse to the left of the mintmark.

Mintage: 9,803
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 184 total, Mint State 17, Finest MS 62 (4)

The 1855-C gold dollar is most noted for the atrocious quality of its production. Nearly every coin seen is very poorly struck, and flawed planchets are frequently encountered. To make matters worse, many are seen struck from clashed dies. Properly grading the 1855-C gold dollar can be very difficult. Surface preservation is the most important element when trying to grade the issue. High-grade examples of the 1855-C are rarely seen, with well-worn pieces being the norm. The 1855-C gold dollar is very popular and is in great demand by rare date and type coin collectors as well. A very small number of Mint State examples are known to exist. One of the finest examples is the coin in the National Collection of the Smithsonian Institution. One of the four graded NGC MS 62 examples sold for $21,850 in August 2012.

Mintage: 1,811
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 41 total, Mint State 5, Finest MS 64 (2)

The 1855-D issue ranks as one of the most popular gold dollars. It is very rare, with probably fewer than a hundred coins surviving. Although the average coin is struck fairly well for a branch-mint issue, nearly every example is weak in the central portions of the reverse. The authors have seen coins with the date nearly obscured. Very few coins are found with a full date; these are very rare. Die clashing is evident on nearly every coin found. A few also exist that have been used for jewelry in the past. The 1855-D gold dollar must be considered one of the classic rarities of the series and is very desirable in any grade. The finest known examples are two NGC MS 64 (one of which carries the Plus Designation and is a full date) coins from the fabulous Duke’s Creek Collection. One of these coins sold at the August 2011 ANA sale for $143,750.

1855-O Gold Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

Mintage: 55,000
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 504 total, Mint State 72, Finest MS 64 (5)

The 1855-O gold dollar is moderately rare, being the most common Type 2 from a Branch Mint. Although the 1855-O can be found with some effort, remember that its mintage is less than 1/10 that of its Philadelphia counterpart. Interestingly, the current population reports reflect about the same ratio of known specimens from the two mints. The quality of striking for the issue is above average for a branch-mint coin of the era, but die clashing is commonly seen. The authors have also seen many that are curiously Prooflike in appearance (NGC has certified one as such). Most coins are well circulated and the date becomes much rarer in the higher states of preservation. Currently, no examples are known in gem Mint State. One of the NGC MS 64 examples sold at auction in February 2010 for $26,450.

Mintage: 1,460
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 34 total, Mint State 5, Finest MS 63 (1)

The 1856-D gold dollar is a popular rarity; perhaps fewer than 100 coins are known in all grades. This date is considered a key of the series and is always in great demand. Just a few examples have been graded Mint State by NGC, and only one has attained the choice level. A surprising number of coins have been graded About Uncirculated. The authors have seen many coins of this date that have been repaired in one way or another. Caution should be used when purchasing a low-grade 1856-D gold dollar. Most examples seen of this date are weakly struck, but not quite as severely as other years from the Dahlonega Mint. The U of UNITED is always softly struck or missing completely. The single NGC MS 63 coin has not traded at auction.

Mintage: 13,280
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 146 total, Mint State 11, Finest MS 62 (4)

No Type 3 gold dollars were produced at the Charlotte Mint until 1857, and the effort turned out one of the most poorly made United States gold coins. The typical example is weakly struck, with numerous planchet flaws. I have handled coins with tiny flakes of gold literally hanging off the surfaces. In addition to terrible production quality, most pieces seen are well worn. High-grade 1857-C gold dollars are very difficult to grade and rarely offered for sale. To grade an 1857-C gold dollar properly one must consider overall surfaces and any remaining luster. High-grade 1857-C gold dollars are very rare, with just a few pieces having been graded Mint State by NGC.

Mintage: 3,533
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 95 total, Mint State 16, Finest MS 62 (4)

The 1857-D gold dollar is another scarce coin whose rarity is sometimes underestimated. The population report clearly indicate that fewer of this date survive than either the 1858-D or the 1859-D. The average coin for the date is weakly struck, some to the extreme. The strike is usually weakest on the reverse, particularly about the borders. Like the 1856-D, there are a surprising number of About Uncirculated examples on the population report. Many of these may be duplicate submissions. The 1857-D is truly rare in Mint State. Very few have been graded as such, and the finest seen to date is a MS 62. The Duke’s Creek Collection example is considered the finest known. That coin sold for $14,950 in April 2006.

Mintage: 3,477
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 109 total, Mint State 31, Finest MS 66 (1)

The quality of strike improved greatly on this issue compared with those struck at the Dahlonega Mint in 1857. Many, but not all, are weakly struck in the central portions, particularly in the 85 of the date. This is one of the more obtainable Type 3 gold dollars produced at the Dahlonega Mint. About Uncirculated coins are offered at auction with regularity, but in Mint State the date becomes quite rare. At least two gems are known, the finest being a superb coin that formed part of the Duke’s Creek Collection and was graded MS 66 by NGC. It is a fully struck wonder-coin, and it is probably the finest Type 3 gold dollar known from the Dahlonega Mint. The coin sold at auction in April 2006 for $74,750.

Mintage: 5,235
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 79 total, Mint State 22, Finest MS 63 (1)

For the last year that gold dollars were minted at the Charlotte Mint, the pride of quality workmanship was totally absent. The 1859-C gold dollar was issued poorly struck, with numerous and assorted planchet defects. The borders are unusually broad and are always weakly struck on some portion. With the lowest mintage of all gold dollars from the Charlotte Mint, the 1859-C is scarce in all grades. Mint State coins are very rare, with the finest graded being MS 63. This coin sold for $15,275 in June, 2015. Grading poorly produced gold coins such as these can be difficult, to say the least. One must consider the remaining luster and the various planchet problems to arrive at a net grade.

Mintage: 4,952
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 109 total, Mint State 32, Finest MS 65 (1)

The 1859-D is probably the most readily found Type 3 gold dollar struck at the Dahlonega Mint, edging out the slightly rarer 1858-D in availability. The most commonly offered examples of this date seem to be About Uncirculated. Most of those seen display at least some weakness of strike, but not as poor as seen on other dates from the same mint. The central portions are often very weak, with the 8 and 5 sometimes missing entirely. Mint State coins for the date are quite rare, especially near gem. To date, only one example has been graded MS 65 by NGC. The Duke’s Creek example grades MS 64 and was sold in April 2006 for $23,000.

Mintage: 1,566
NGC Population (12/31/2015):109 total, Mint State 32, Finest MS 65 (1)

The 1860-D gold dollar has long been considered a great rarity. For a coin with such a tiny mintage, there are surprisingly numerous survivors. It is estimated that perhaps as many as 100 coins still remain. This date is one of the most poorly produced of all coins minted at the Dahlonega Mint. The planchets were of poor quality, and the strike is very uneven. The U of UNITED is missing on every specimen of this date that the authors have seen. The N is also sometimes very weak or missing entirely. Most 1860-D gold dollars seen are circulated, and truly Mint State coins are very rare. The finest known example is a part of the great Duke’s Creek Collection and has been graded MS 64 by NGC. The coin last sold for $42,300 in March 2013.

1861-D Gold Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

Mintage: Unknown
NGC Population (12/31/2015): 27 total, Mint State 10, Finest MS 65 (1)

The 1861-D is the second-rarest gold dollar. Only the uncollectible 1849-C Open Wreath issue surpasses this date in rarity. After the Confederacy took over the Dahlonega Mint in April 1861, Director George Kellogg resigned and turned control over to the Confederate States of America. Using what gold bullion remained, rebel forces struck an estimated 1,000 or so coins. The 1861-D is unique as the only coin struck exclusively by the Confederacy, and is extremely popular as such. Mint State coins are offered occasionally and a small number of choice coins survive. The finest graded to date is the Duke’s Creek example, NGC MS 65. This example last traded at auction in January, 2008 for $149,500. This was a weakly struck issue, with the U of UNITED always missing. Beware of expertly repaired examples, as some were saved as souvenirs and used as jewelry.

Note: this coin is included among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (Garrett and Guth).

Jeff Garrett bio

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