1852 Ring Dollar in Gold, Judd-145, Thin Planchet PR68 Cameo, Finest Certified

The Mint experimented with pattern gold dollars in 1852, producing those patterns now known as Judd-136 to Judd-148. The objective was to provide a larger, more convenient diameter for these coins. Because gold dollars were so small, they were easily lost, and in the early 1850s they represented a substantial amount of money for the average worker.

Convenience lost out, however, to a more practical solution: The amount of silver was reduced in most subsidiary coinage in 1853, which returned the silver denominations to the channels of commerce rather than going to the melting pot. And the gold dollar diameter was eventually increased in 1854 when the design was changed to the Type Two format.

Heritage’s 2011 March Sacramento Signature ANA US Coin Auction features the finest certified example of one of these interesting patterns. Lot 4368 is an 1852 annular (ring-shaped) gold dollar, with a wide center hole that restricts the legends to the date, denomination, and country name.

The lower half of the reverse displays a wreath. This pattern, cataloged as Judd-145, is struck in gold with a plain edge. Both thick and thin planchet variants are known of this pattern. The thicker variant weighs around 32 grains, and examples are believed to be original strikings. The restrikes weigh around 25 grains and are struck on thinner planchets.

It is tempting to call the Proof-68 Cameo piece flawless. We can find no technical flaws on either side, and obviously NGC thought the same. The fields are heavily striated and give each side deep reflectivity. By way of contrast, the devices are heavily frosted, which gives the piece a cameo effect.

For pedigree identification — which is important on a gold pattern in such a high grade — there is a small lint mark near the reverse rim, to the right of the R in DOLLAR. No one will probably ever duplicate the collection of gold patterns assembled by Dr. John Wilkison, but the ambitious collector today could assemble a set of gold dollar patterns. This piece would be the cornerstone of such a collection.