HomeUS Coins1861-D Gold Dollar : A Collector's Guide

1861-D Gold Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1861-D Gold Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1861-D Gold Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

History of the 1861 Dahlonega Gold Dollar

During the lead-up to the Civil War, branch mints in the southern United States began preparing for the war.

While the Treasury Department decided not to send any additional bullion, the Philadelphia Mint shipped two pairs of dies to the mint in Dahlonega, Georgia. But two weeks after the dies arrived on January 7, 1861, the State of Georgia officially seceded from the Union. Despite proposals from unionists to seize the mint, Georgia state officials took over the branch’s building, equipment, and materiel under orders of Governor Joseph E. Brown. Rebel Confederate troops officially occupied the mint on April 8, forcing Superintendent George Kellogg to surrender, stating that “Georgia has turned all public property … of the United States over to the Confederate States Government” in a letter to President Lincoln (Lester).

Despite few records referencing this period of Confederate control, it is known that the previous staff remained and struck $3,000 (face value) in gold coins before the mint was closed in June 1861. This total issuance is split between gold dollars and half eagles. While 1,597 half eagles were struck before the Confederate takeover, no dollars were struck before April. This makes the 1861-D Gold Dollar the only circulating U.S. coin struck exclusively by Confederate authorities.

Despite new dies being shipped to Dahlonega, an older 1860-D obverse die was used. This is demonstrated by a dramatic spot with “profound weakness” that “completely obliterate[s]” the U in UNITED on many pieces (Stack’s Bowers, 2016). Compounding this weak obverse legend was the abysmal production quality. In fact, not only was the strike weak but many of the planchets used had poor surfaces and small defects, or even cracks.

Two months after the Dahlonega Mint was officially closed in June, it was converted into an assay office that opened on August 24, 1861. As such, the 1861-D Gold Dollar was also the last coinage struck at the Georgia facility.

How Much Are 1861 Dahlonega Gold Dollars Worth?

Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding this issuance, the mintage is only between 1,000 and 1,500 pieces and is rare in all grades. However, new research by Carl Lester, a scholar on the history of the coinage and operations of the Dahlonega Mint, posits that as few as 500 pieces could have been struck. Today, it is thought that only between 50 and 60 pieces survive.

In fact, this is the second-rarest gold dollar. Certified Mint State examples are offered only occasionally and just a handful of examples come to auction each year. While an MS64+ earned the auction record of $180,000 in a 2020 Heritage Auctions sale, coins graded and certified as MS65 sell for between $140,000 and $150,000. These prices are not current, since the last auction record for an MS65 was for a 2008 sale. More recently, MS65s are worth between $240,000 and $250,000.

In mid-Mint State (MS62 – MS63), examples sell for an average of $43,000, with a high of $112,000 for an MS63 and a low of $16,500 for an MS62. However, these prices are valid only from 1982 to 2013. More recently, MS63s sell for $145,000 and M62s for around $100,000.

When low Mint State examples (MS61–MS60) come to market, they command between $80,000 and $90,000. Prices have increased dramatically since 2005, when auction results hovered around $30,000 to $35,000. About Uncirculated pieces, when available, sell for $60,000 to $72,000. Lower-grade and “Details” pieces sell for $15,000 to $30,000.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS64+ (1, 6/2024), NGC MS64 (2*, 6/2024), and CAC MS64 (1:0 stickered:graded, 6/2024).

*NGC population data includes the Duke Creek coin at MS65 (now in PCGS MS64+) and the Freedom Collection MS64 (now in PCGS MS63).

  • PCGS MS64+ #40323807: Dr. Philip Weinstein; Tony Terranova; Stack’s; “The Leon Farmer Collection,”; Hancock and Harwell; As NGC MS65 #302712-009. “The Jeffrey Fisher – Duke’s Creek Collection of Dahlonega Gold,” Heritage Auctions, April 7, 2006, Lot 1493 – $138,000; “The Madison Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2008, Lot 3050 – $149,500. As PCGS MS64+ #40323807. “The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part I,” Heritage Auctions, September 17, 2020, Lot 10114 – $180,000. Simpson novelty insert. Toned.
  • PCGS MS63 CAC #05974082: I.M. Bates, June 1895; John M. Clapp; “The John M. Clapp Collection,” Stack’s, to Louis El. Eliasberg, Sr., via sale, 1942; “The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection,” Bowers and Ruddy, October 1982, Lot 49; Sotheby’s, June 1996, Lot 1; Tangible Investments of America; Hancock and Harwell; “The Duke’s Creek Collection,”; Bob Harwell and Jeff Garrett; Doug Winter, August 2000; “The Green Pond Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2004, Lot 1014 – $86,250; Heritage Auctions, May 3, 2023, Lot 3184 – $180,000. Eliasberg on insert. Pedigree information assisted by Heritage Auctions.
  • PCGS MS63 CAC #25035240: As NGC MS64 #5075626-001. “The Freedom Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 2007, Lot 2263. As PCGS MS63 CAC #25035240.  “The James O. Sykes Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 25, 2022, Lot 6016 – $180,000.
  • PCGS MS63 CAC #60026338: Heritage Auctions, January 30, 2004, Lot 9002 – $43,125; Heritage Auctions, June 6, 2013, Lot 4697 – $111,625.
  • PCGS MS63 #6586099: Heritage Auctions, November 9, 2003, Lot 7072 – $52,900.

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Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the Type III Indian Head, which was struck from 1856 to 1889, displays a bust of Lady Liberty as an anglicized Native American. Her long flowing hair covers the top of the ears and drops down to the nape of the neck. Her headdress has seven large feathers standing vertically. On the band of the headdress is the legend LIBERTY. Yet this headdress does not represent any realistic Native American clothing. The country name UNITED STATES OF AMERICA rings the bust. In this design, the head of Lady liberty was made slightly larger and has slightly less relief than the Type II design.

Reverse:

The reverse of this is centered on the date 1861 and denomination 1 DOLLAR. The agricultural wreath used to encircle the date and denomination was also used by Chief Engraver James B. Longacre on the Flying Eagle Cent and the Three-Dollar Gold piece. The wreath is allegorical for American agriculture and is comprised of cotton, corn, tobacco, and wheat. Below the ribbon, tied at the bottom of the wreath is the “D” mintmark for the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia.

Edge:

The edge of the 1861 Dahlonega gold dollar is reeded, a common anti-counterfeiting tactic.

Designer

James Barton Longacre (1794-1869) was one of the most famous US engravers and medallic artists of the 19th century. Longacre was appointed the fourth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint by President John Tyler after Christian Gobrecht died in 1844. Before his appointment, Longacre worked for the Philadelphia engraving company Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co. until he began working for himself in 1819. As an independent engraver, Longacre produced a series of famous plates that featured the Founding Fathers, President Andrew Jackson, and Senator John C. Calhoun. Once he became Chief Engraver at the Mint, he produced such famous pieces as the Flying Eagle Cent, the Indian Head Cent, the Shield Nickel, and the Coronet Head Double Eagle $20 gold coin.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year of Issue: 1861
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mintmark: D (Dahlonega)
Mintage: 1,000
Alloy: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Weight: 1.70 g
Diameter: 14.30 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: James Barton Longacre
REV Designer: James Barton Longacre
Quality: Business Strike

 

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Sources

Lester – https://www.goldrushgallery.com/dahlmint/c_history_outline.html

Stack’s Bowers – https://auctions.stacksbowers.com/lots/view/3-5TAUU/1861-d-gold-dollar-ms-60-pcgs

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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