The 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar is one of the rarest and most valuable coins in the U.S. gold series. As Doug Winter states in Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint (2008):
The 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar is the rarest coin ever produced by the Charlotte Mint. It is the rarest gold dollar from any mint and it also ranks as one of the rarest gold coins made as a business strike issue. Despite an example having sold for a high six-figure price in the last few years, this variety remains underpublicized among non-specialists. Among Charlotte collectors, it has assumed near-mythic proportions.”
Two pairs of dies were shipped from the Philadelphia Mint to Charlotte on June 10 and 13, 1849. The reverse of these dies was apparently the Open Wreath type and coinage of gold dollars commenced on July 3, 1849. Director Patterson received two coins from the first delivery for his inspection and expressed his opposition to the design in his reply. Patterson notified the Charlotte staff that new dies were being sent and included two examples of the new design, which were struck at Philadelphia, as examples of how the coins should look.
Apparently, only a small number of Open Wreath gold dollars had been struck before Patterson’s message was received and coinage of the denomination was suspended until the new dies were on hand. Of the 11,634 gold dollars struck at the Charlotte Mint in 1849, Q. David Bowers estimates no more than 125 examples featured the Open Wreath reverse. The small initial mintage suffered heavily from attrition over the years and only five examples of the Open Wreath type are known to numismatists today.
It is tempting to speculate that the coin we are offering might be the discovery piece described by Mehl in the Belden Roach catalog in 1944. That example was described as Uncirculated and this coin is the only Mint State specimen known to collectors today, at an NGC-certified MS63 Prooflike grading a full five points better than the second-finest specimen. The surfaces show prooflike reflectivity in the fields and the design elements are sharply detailed in most areas, attributes that would suggest it was “Almost equal to a proof” to Mehl. The high borders and small stars mentioned by Mehl are immediately evident on this coin as well, but those features are common to all specimens of this variety.
The first appearance of this coin that can be reliably established is lot 1005 of the Richmond Collection, Part I (David Lawrence, 7/2004). The coin was the only piece in the catalog that was not owned by the Richmond collector himself. It had come on the market a few months earlier, and the owner consigned it to David Lawrence Rare Coins as one of the few gold issues not already included in the collection. The lot realized a record price for any gold dollar of $690,000. As the finest-known example of this classic gold rarity, with outstanding eye appeal and intense historic interest to match its technical quality, we would not be surprised to see it set another record when this lot crosses the block.
To be sold in the 2015 April 22 – 27 Heritage CSNS US Coins Signature Auction in Chicago .
Roster of 1849-C Open Wreath Gold Dollars
1. MS63 Prooflike NGC. Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 1005, realized $690,000; to a partnership of Heritage Rare Coin Galleries, Martin Paul, and Steve Contursi; sold to a private collector in 2005 for a sum reportedly close to $1 million.
2. AU58 PCGS. Robert Schermerhorn Collection; 1956 ANA Sale (James Kelly, 8/1956), lot 1571; later, a Midwestern Collection; Auction ’79 (Stack’s, 7/1979), lot 749, realized $90,000; New England Rare Coin Galleries; private collection; 1982 FUN Sale (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 1/1982), lot 1350, realized $55,000; Southern Collection; Kevin Lipton; Winthrop Carner; North Georgia Collection; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/1999), lot 7722, unsold; Doug Winter and Hancock and Harwell; James Blanchard & Co.; North Carolina Collection (Heritage, 4/2006) lot 1520, unsold. The March 1951 issue of The Numismatist carries a notice from Robert Schermerhorn that he acquired his coin “about eight years ago.”
3. XF45 NGC. Jefferson Coin and Bullion; purchased by a private collector; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2010), lot 1359, realized $218,500.
4. XF. New England Rare Coin Galleries (8/1978); Delaware Collection. The New England coin remains in the Delaware Collection where it has resided since 1978.
5. Fine 15 NGC. The reverse is scratched and shows traces of an old jewelry mounting. Leo Young; Charles Southwick; 1974 GENA Sale (Pine Tree Auctions, 9/1974), lot 1952, realized $35,000; Elrod Collection (Stack’s, 5/1986), lot 1330, realized $25,850; a California Collection (via Winthrop Carner for a reported $150,000); Heritage Rare Coin Galleries (1997); William Miller Collection; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/1999), lot 6086, unsold; 2000 FUN Sale (Heritage, 1/2000), lot 7549, realized $86,250; Ashland City Collection (Heritage, 1/2003), lot 4607, realized $97,750; a North Carolina Collection (via Doug Winter).