Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 48

Lot 1220

1855-D $1 Gold Indian. NGC graded MS-64. In NGC holder 1891934-005. Well struck with a bold date and mint mark. Light clash marks on both sides as made and a touch of softness on the uppermost forehead curls. The luster is intense with traces of reflectiveness here and there. The rarest by far of all type two gold dollars.

Perhaps surprisingly for an issue with such a limited original mintage, the 1855-D was struck using two die marriages. The present Winter 7-I example (second 5 in date centered beneath A in DOLLAR) is one of the finest-known examples of both varieties, and it is an absolutely stunning representative. The '55-D typically displays varying degrees of striking irregularity in the center of the reverse that affects several of the letters in DOLLAR and the digits in the date. On this piece, however, one will see a sharply executed reverse strike that qualifies this piece as a Full Date example as defined by Doug Winter. In the 2003 book Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint: 1838-1861, the author states,

"Among specialists, full date 1855-D gold dollars trade for a strong premium; in some cases as much as thirty to fifty percent above the price level for a coin with a typical weak date."

The obverse impression is overall bold, and both sides possess pleasing color that blends orange-gold and green-gold shades. With satiny surface texture and a noteworthy lack of grade-limiting abrasions, this beautiful near-Gem comes highly recommended for both the Southern gold specialist and the advanced numismatic investor.

As the only Type 2 gold dollar from the Dahlonega Mint, the 1855-D is an understandably popular coin among collectors. It is also a very rare issue, the original mintage being a mere 1,811 pieces and the total number of survivors probably numbering no more than 70-80 distinct examples. Conditionally rare starting at the Choice EF grade level, Condition Census begins in AU55. The 1855-D is the overall rarest Dahlonega Mint gold dollar after only the 1861-D, and it is prime condition rarity in the D-mint portion of this series.

Supposedly because it was smaller and thicker than should have been, Mint Director Colonel James Ross Snowden ordered the gold dollar redesigned in 1854 to accomodate an increase in diameter to 15 millimeters. Although Chief Engraver Longacre dutifully carried out this request, his work caused striking problems on this occasion. His Type 2 designs were difficult to strike and wore down rapidly in circulation. These deficiencies affected all issues of this type, and they resulted in its replacement by the Type 3 pieces in 1856 (1857 for the San Francisco Mint).

Due to its brevity, there are only six issues in the Type 2 gold dollar series: 1854, 1855, 1855-C, 1855-D, 1855-O, and 1856-S. The '55-D is by far the rarest, followed by the '55-C, '56-S and '55-O. Even the "common" 1854 and 1855 are relatively scarce coins in an absolute sense that are quite rare in Mint State from a market availability standpoint.

The true origins of the gold dollar as a denomination lie in John Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848. Although a coin of this face value had been proposed on several occasions in the past, and the Bechtlers actually struck examples in North Carolina beginning in the 1830s, Congress did not authorize the United States Mint to produce gold dollars until March 3, 1849. The primary reason Congress finally relented in that year was because the immense quantities of gold being mined in California forced silver coins out of circulation. Since few people in the United States of the late 1840s/early 1850s placed much trust in paper currency, the gold dollar was seen a logical replacement for the now-absent silver coinage in commercial channels.

This denomination remained in production from 1849-1889, during which time it appeared in three distinct types. The abolition of the gold dollar was included as part of the Mint Act of September 25, 1890, and it probably resulted from the (by then) long-established unpopularity of the denomination as a circulating medium of exchange. Many issues in this series are scarce, if not rare, chief among which are the 1849-C Open Wreath, 1855-D, 1856-D and 1861-D. Pop 3; none finer. Tied for finest graded at either service. (PCGS # 7534) .
Estimated Value $120,000 - 130,000.


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