By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
Using the revised population estimates in the third edition of my book, it is possible to make some interesting observations and conclusions regarding coinage from the Dahlonega Mint. As an example, it is possible to estimate the average number of survivors for each denomination, the percentage of survivors by grade, and an overall percentage of survival for an entire denomination.
Estimated Number Extant: 2415-3025
Issues Struck: 13
Average Extant Per Issue: 185.76-232.69
Total Extant by Grade:
- Very Fine and Below: 227-319
- Extremely Fine: 916-1,110
- About Uncirculated: 1,125-1,385
- Uncirculated: 147-211
% of Total Population:
- Very Fine and Below: 9.39-10.54
- Extremely Fine: 36.69-37.92
- About Uncirculated: 45.78-46.58
- Uncirculated: 6.08-6.97
Original Mintage Figure, all issues: 73,259-74,209
(NOTE: this is expressed as a range due to the fact that the original mintage figure for the 1861-D dollar is not known)
Estimated Survival Rate: 3.28-4.08
The data from the third edition of this book shows that gold dollars from Dahlonega continue to be easier to locate in higher grades than their quarter eagle and half eagle counterparts. The average number of coins known per issue is slightly lower than one might expect. But given the small size of these coins and the conditions by which they circulated, it remains a wonder that as many have survived as are known today.
It is interesting to compare the survival rate of Dahlonega gold dollars to other branch mint coins of this denomination. As a rule, for branch mint coins struck prior to the Civil War, the survival rate is generally in the range of 1% to 2%. For gold dollars, this seems to be higher. But in the case of the Dahlonega issues, much of this has to do with the high number of 1849-D dollars that have survived. If you remove this date from the equation, the surviving percentage fits nicely within the parameters of the above-referenced survival range(s).
Dahlonega gold dollars are certainly more available in higher grades (About Uncirculated and above) than the quarter eagles, three dollars, and half eagles from this mint. Over 50% of all known Dahlonega gold dollars grade About Uncirculated or Uncirculated and close to 90% grade Extremely Fine or better. This is considerably higher than it is for the other denominations from this mint.
This suggests at least two things: that Dahlonega gold dollars did not circulate as long and as hard as the other denominations, and that relatively large quantities of higher-grade Dahlonega gold dollars have become available as the result of hoards and/or accumulations. Another possible explanation for the high survival rate in higher grades might be that the small size of the dollars did not make them as attractive to melters as the larger-sized issues were, and this made them somewhat more likely to survive.
The overall population of many dates in the gold dollar series has been underestimated for many years.
As an example, in the 1960s and ’70s, it was often written that fewer than a dozen 1856-D dollars were known. We now know that the actual number might be as great as 100 or so coins. One of the reasons that the rarity of this date was overstated (along with the 1854-D, 1860-D, and 1861-D) is that these issues all had tiny original mintages.
The 1856-D is a good example to illustrate this. Only 1,460 were produced. Using the assumption that around 1% of these should have survived one can see how an estimate of a “dozen or so” might have come about.
Dahlonega gold dollars are a good example of the adage that you can’t judge the rarity of a specific issue solely by its original mintage figure.
Estimated Number Extant: 3,195-3,915
Issues Struck: 20
Average Extant Per Issue: 159.75-195.75
Total Extant By Grade:
- Very Fine and Below: 716-926
- Extremely Fine: 1,270-1,533
- About Uncirculated: 1,037-1,245
- Uncirculated: 104-141
% of Total Population:
- Very Fine and Below: 22.41-23.65
- Extremely Fine: 39.15-39.74
- About Uncirculated: 31.80-32.45
- Uncirculated: 3.25-3.60
Original Mintage Figure, all Issues: 197,850
Estimated Survival rate: 1.61-1.97
Quarter Eagles remain the rarest of the three primary denominations of coins struck at the Dahlonega Mint, both in terms of overall rarity and rarity in high grades.
When I last did this statistical analysis, I believed that around 70% of all Dahlonega quarter eagles were in lower grades; i.e., Extremely Fine and below. Today, I estimate this number to be like 60%. This shift is due to gradeflation and many coins that were formerly VF became EF (and EFs became AU’s).
Uncirculated quarter eagles from this mint remain very rare. Less than 3.5% of all known Dahlonega quarter eagles are Uncirculated and this number is more impressive when you consider that five dates (1839-D, 1844-D, 1847-D, 1848-D, and 1857-D) constitute around 75% of the known Dahlonega quarter eagles in Uncirculated. The rarity of high-grade Dahlonega quarter eagles has remained remarkably consistent since I last updated my book.
In the last edition, I suggested that the estimated survival rate for this denomination was between 1.18 and 1.37%. I believe that this was a bit too low and now the range is from 1.61 to 1.97%. As time passes, it is likely that the survival rate will become slightly higher than 2% of the original mintage figure for this denomination.
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About Doug Winter
Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.
In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.
Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and a recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought-after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality, and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.
Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Red Book”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues.
In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
- Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
- Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
- Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
- The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
- Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
- An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
- The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
- A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
- The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
- Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis
Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.