Saturday Evening, October 2, 1999
[One Dollar Gold Coins: Lots 1-35]
GOLD DOLLARS 1849-1889
The Bass Collection Gold Dollars
A Complete Offering
Except for a few pieces kept by the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research foundation for its type set, the gold dollars acquired by Mr. Bass are offered in this sale and, in the year 2000, in Part III.
The present sale presents the crème de la crème of the Bass Collection business strike issues–including coins of the branch mints–as well as many incredible Proofs. Part III will emphasize Proofs, with business strikes being subsidiary.
The Bass Collection gold dollars described in the following pages are absolutely complete as to date and mintmark, from 1849 to 1889, containing at least one of each and sometimes several. The annals of American numismatics will no doubt forever remember the offering. Today, you can be a part of history as it is being made. Opportunities abound, the result of three decades of scholarship and connoisseurship by Harry Bass, combined with his hoarding instinct. If one gem was nice to own, and another came along, he would often buy it as well! Virgil Brand, who did the same thing a century earlier, would have been proud!
Highlights in the Bass Collection of gold dollars include Charlotte and Dahlonega gold dollars of the general era 1849-1861, among which will be found many Mint State coins, typically including Condition Census or finest known examples. The connoisseur and specialist in C- and D-Mint coinage will have opportunities which may well not be repeated in our lifetime, if ever.
New Orleans coins are likewise spectacular as are the issues from the San Francisco Mint. Among the latter issues of the late 1850s are some of the greatest condition rarities in the American gold series, although their elusive status is not widely known.
Philadelphia Mint coins are complete in unbroken sequence from 1849 to 1889 and include many gems and delicacies not often encountered. Again, remarkable opportunities are presented.
The History of the Gold Dollar
Interestingly, the first American gold dollars were not struck by any federal mint but, instead, were produced by a private coiner, Christopher Bechtler, who had a small mint at Rutherfordton, North Carolina, where he processed gold extracted from hills and stream beds of the nearby region. Such pieces were simple in design and consisted only of lettering and numerals. However, they served well and were popular in the Carolinas and Georgia and were occasionally seen farther afield.
In 1836 the Philadelphia Mint struck patterns for the gold dollar. These are of an exquisite design and display on the obverse a liberty cap surrounded by resplendent rays, a popular motif that recurs in numismatics (examples include the February - March 1836 Steam Coinage medal, many silver and gold coins of Mexico, Hard Times tokens, and a reverse die cut in the 1860s by James Adams Bolen).
The reverse of the pattern dollars displayed a palm branch arranged in a circle or loop. Examples were struck in gold as well as other metals. Despite the success of the patterns, gold dollars were not adopted at the time.
In January 1849 James B. Longacre engraved on gold discs several patterns for a dollar. To increase the diameter of the coin but retain the same metallic content a hole was put in the center, in the manner of Chinese coins. On March 3rd of the same year the gold dollar denomination was authorized by Congress. The weight was established at 25.8 grains.
From 1849 until the Civil War gold dollars were made in large quantities and were extensively used in circulation. Despite their inconvenient size, they found ready use in the channels of commerce. After the Civil War, with the exception of a few scattered years, coinage diminished sharply. The nadir was reached in 1875, when just 400 business strikes plus 20 Proofs were struck. The present Bass Collection offering includes two gem business strikes, itself a situation almost as remarkable as the coins themselves!
From 1879, continuing through the 1880s gold dollars became a popular item of speculation, and coin dealers, collectors, jewelers, and others hoarded them, causing current issues to sell for a slight premium. Because of this, mint-state examples of the 1879-1889 years exist today in significant quantities relative to their modest mintages. In contrast, gold dollar dates of the mid-1860s, also minted in modest quantities, were overlooked, and all are rarities today.
There are numerous rare issues among the 1849-1889 gold dollars. All pieces from the Charlotte and Dahlonega mints are elusive, and several, including 1854-D, 1855-C, 1855-D, 1856-D, 1857-D, 1858-D, 1859-D, and 1860-D are very rare. One of the most famous of all rarities is the 1861-D issue. These pieces were apparently struck after the Dahlonega Mint was captured by the Confederate States of America forces. No coinage records were kept. Most Charlotte and Dahlonega (in particular) pieces are very weakly struck. The same situation occurred with most quarter eagles and half eagles from the same two mints.
It seems that gold dollars last circulated on a widespread basis in the East and Midwest in 1861. After that time the Treasury Department stopped paying them out at face value, and examples could be acquired only by paying a premium, a situation which remained in effect until December 1878. Mintages 1879-1889, of small quantities each year, seemed to have been relegated to distribution at a small premium through banks, rather than being everyday items in pocket change.
Gold dollars were discontinued in 1889. Almost immediately, they became highly desired by numismatists, and ever-increasing premiums were paid for them. By that time many of the earlier dates were already regarded as being scarce.
The Charlotte and Dahlonega Mints
The prime desiderata in the gold dollar series are the issues struck at the branch mints in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dahlonega, Georgia. In the present catalogue, coins from these mints are presented in the various denominations from the gold dollar to the half eagle. In this connection, brief histories of each facility may be of interest:
The Charlotte Mint
Authorized by Congress in 1835, the Charlotte Mint had certain operations underway in 1837, although the opening did not occur until 1838. Gold denominations eventually coined there included $1 (beginning in 1849), $2.50, and $5.
For many years the hills of North Carolina had been a source for gold bullion. Deposits were found in streams, embankments, and in tunneled mines. During the 1820s quantities of the precious metal were shipped to the only federal mint then in operation, that at Philadelphia, a journey involving loss of time and exposure to danger. A miner or mining operator desiring to send gold to Philadelphia for coinage had to wait multiple weeks before it was returned in coin form, and only then could the proceeds be spent. Meanwhile, at least 5% had to be paid in insurance and transportation. This was a generation before John Sutter even dreamed of having his employee John Marshall and others set up a sawmill on the American River, leading to the discovery of gold on a large scale in California in January 1848. In the 1830s, gold mining was an important activity in the Appalachian Mountains in the North Carolina and Georgia area. Important gold strikes in 1830 had led to such private minters as Templeton Reid and the earlier-mentioned Christopher Bechtler producing their own gold coins. As events would prove, Reid’s activities were ephemeral, but the Bechtler enterprise was long lived.
Responding to the local demand, Christopher Bechtler, of Rutherfordton, NC, set up his own mint circa 1830, and in time produced many thousands of gold dollars (the most popular denomination), $2.50 pieces, and $5 pieces, which found ready use in local channels of commerce. Interestingly, after the Charlotte Mint became a reality in the same state in 1838, the government allowed the Bechtler family to continue its private coinage operations, which was done until circa 1852.
The following brief historical sketch of the institution is from The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1913, and includes some information not generally known to numismatists:
The United States Assay Office at Charlotte, N.C., was closed finally on June 30, 1913, Congress having failed to make provision for its support beyond that date. Such pieces of equipment as were valuable for further use were shipped to other institutions of the service and the remainder of the furniture and outfit was sold at auction on the premises and the proceeds turned into the Treasury. In recent years the receipts of bullion at the Charlotte office have been insufficient to warrant its continuance, amounting in the last fiscal year to only $29,428.30.
The Charlotte assay office was originally established as a coinage mint in an act approved March 3, 1835, which also established branch mints at New Orleans, La., and Dahlonega, Ga. The mints at Charlotte and Dahlonega were designed to serve the gold-producing districts of the southern Appalachian region, which at that time comprised the only gold-mining territory in the United States. New Orleans was an important commercial port, and the mint there was expected to operate upon foreign coin and bullion. From 1804 to 1823 small deposits of native gold aggregating in three years $47,000 had been received from this state. [Shipments] gradually increased, and in 1829 they amounted to $134,000, and there was also $2,500 from Virginia and $3,500 from South Carolina. In 1830 Georgia entered the list of gold-producing states with an output of $212,000, and the yield of the four States aggregated $466,000. In 1831 Alabama and Tennessee each made a small showing, and in 1834 the southern Appalachian region made its best output, approximately $900,000. In the following year the act providing for the three new branch mints was passed.
In November, 1835, Levi Woodbury, secretary of the Treasury, was notified by Samuel McComb, who had been appointed to select a site for the Charlotte branch, that he had purchased from William Carson and F.L. Smith a full square containing nearly four acres of land for $1,500.
Proposals for the erection of the building were advertised for in the Charlotte Journal, Washington Globe, Richmond Inquirer, and the North Carolina Standard. The contract was awarded to Perry & Ligon, of Raleigh, NC, on October 15, 1835, at $29,800, to be completed January 1, 1837. The cost of the machinery, to be furnished by the director of the Mint at Philadelphia, was estimated at $15,000. Coleman, Sellers & Sons, Philadelphia, furnished the steam engine, shaft, etc., for $8,297, while Merrick, Agnew & Tyler furnished coining presses, draw benches, etc., for $6,690. This equipment was shipped to Charlotte in April, 1837. Considerable difficulty occurred in transporting the heavy machinery to Charlotte, and the steam engine was not set up until August.
John H. Wheeler of North Carolina was appointed as the first superintendent. J.H. Gibbon and John R. Bolton, of Pennsylvania, were appointed assayer and coiner, respectively. In December 1837 the secretary of the Treasury was advised that the deposits of gold had amounted to $130,600, and the coinage to $84,165. The dies for this coinage were made at the Philadelphia Mint, and in transmitting them the director of the Mint urged Col. Wheeler, the superintendent, to hasten the coinage, and mentioned that although the dies are dated 1838, there was no objection to using them in 1837. The reason given for the haste was that the equipment might be tested, particularly the operation of the coinage press by steam power, which was regarded as, in some degree, experimental. The application of steam power to coinage was first made in this country at the Philadelphia Mint in 1836.
On the night of July 27, 1844, the Charlotte Mint was nearly destroyed by fire, which occurred in the coining room and nearly consumed the entire building. The machinery was seriously injured, but the records, being stored in the vault, were not injured. Mr. Caldwell, the superintendent, reported that evidently the fire was the work of a thief, as his living apartments had been entered and articles stolen.
The present building was authorized by Act of March 3, 1845, and was completed at a cost of $31,572.97, and occupied in 1846, and used for coinage purposes until May 20, 1861, when North Carolina entered the Confederacy and operations were suspended. The building was used during the Civil War as a Confederate hospital.
In 1867 the assay office at Charlotte was re-established by Act of Congress dated March 19, and was maintained as such until the close of the fiscal year 1913. The mint at Dahlonega was never reopened after the Civil War. Coinage operations resumed at New Orleans after the war, but were suspended and the coining machinery removed in 1910.
After the Charlotte Mint building was closed for assaying and other functions in 1913, it was largely unoccupied, although the Charlotte Women’s Club met there from time to time. By 1932 it was decided to demolish the structure to make way for an expansion of the post office. Local citizens rallied to the cause and were responsible for having the building relocated to a park-like setting, where in 1933 it received a charter as the Mint Museum of Art. On October 22, 1936, the facility was dedicated for its new use. Today, the former Charlotte Mint is an attraction in the city and houses a nice collection of art and antiquities along with some reminders of its coinage history years earlier.
The Dahlonega Mint
Authorized by Congress in 1835 and open for business in 1838, the Dahlonega Mint, nestled in the hills of Georgia, remained in operation until the first year of the Civil War, 1861. It is not widely known, but information extracted from the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, various issues of the 1850s, reveals that in several years gold from California provided the main source of bullion for this mint, located in a remote town in the hills of Georgia! Beginning in 1851 and continuing through 1854, this was the case, although substantial quantities were used in other years as well.
The Dahlonega Mint facility, small in size, produced gold coins exclusively, of the denominations $1, $2.50, $3, and $5. With North Carolina and Georgia being one of America’s earliest important sources of the precious yellow metal, most metal was taken from ore mined in the region and from placer nuggets.
In 1835 the federal government, realizing that America was expanding and that important precious metal discoveries were being made at distances from Philadelphia, passed legislation providing for the first branch mints. Facilities were to be set up in New Orleans, Louisiana (serving the rapidly increasing trade in the Mississippi River basin); Charlotte, North Carolina; and Dahlonega, Georgia. The latter two facilities were intended to make it convenient for miners and others to exchange gold bullion for coins. Otherwise, the shipment of raw gold overland to Philadelphia was fraught with peril, typically involved payment of at least 5% for insurance and transit, and necessitated a delay amounting to weeks.
An interesting view of the Dahlonega Mint, as written by Dr. Richard Doty of the Smithsonian Institution, and given in the Proceedings of the American Numismatic Society Conference, New York City, November 4-5, 1989, is quoted with permission. The story relates the travel of the Mint’s fair-haired son, Franklin Peale, who at the time was responsible for the majority of innovations made at the Philadelphia Mint and who had more knowledge of coinage procedures than anyone else on the staff (years later, Peale would fall from grace and would be fired, but that is another story):
Franklin Peale and his daughter departed Charlotte on the evening of Saturday, November 10, and they arrived at Dahlonega the following Wednesday afternoon. The trip had been arduous, "the latter part of the distance being through rough mountain roads." The ill fortune which had dogged Peale’s activities in Charlotte followed him to Dahlonega: neither Mint Superintendent Singleton nor any other official was there to receive him, and Peale was left to his own devices.
All the same, the mint building was, at first glance, in better shape than he had been led to believe. The concept of the arches (one of whose collapse had inspired his mission) had been abandoned in favor of simpler, but sturdier, construction, and Peale was of the opinion that the building would serve its purpose well enough.
Within two days, he had revised his judgment downward. Closer examination had revealed a crudity of construction, poor brickwork, and mortar inadequate to hold the bricks together, the products of "ignorance on the part of the contractor and the drunken and bad habits of the workmen" employed in the construction. But the artisans sent down from Charlotte to assist in the final phases of the Dahlonega construction were now present, and Peale was currently making rapid strides toward reforming the work, pulling down the remaining arches and overseeing the construction of the melting furnaces. He expected to finish his mission at Dahlonega in five or six days, "after which I will return home without delay, say the second week in December." He expressed guarded optimism about the mint’s reason for being–the nearby gold fields: "every hill is filled with auriferous quartz and every valley and gorge with the debris." The problem was that the workings were extremely inefficient, so that "the mining operations are at this moment languishing." Still, there was a great opportunity for improved technology, "that must some future day yield certain and great returns."
Eight days later, Peale was still in Dahlonega: the state of the mint was even worse than previously believed, and a quick return to Philadelphia (upon which the Mint Director was becoming increasing insistent) was out of the question.
The main problem centered on the mint edifice; here, Peale’s prose becomes somewhat breathless, but it is probably best to let him tell the story in his own fashion:
"The workmanship of the Mint edifice is abominable, a letter might be three times filled with the details or errors and intentional mal [sic] constructions, the first and greatest of which may fairly be traced to Philada, in ordering a brick building in a country where there is no clay, the material employed for the brick making being the red soil of the gold region, a decomposed granite" put into brick by men who certainly deserve diplomas for botching–All this in, "which would have been an ideal building material for the mint."
The theoretical overseer of the building activity was Col. Few, who had rarely visited the construction site; Peale was certain that the Colonel was responsible for many of the mint’s difficulties. The inventor had spent the past several days working furiously to shore up current problems and anticipate future ones, and he could do no more. Despite all of its defects, no alternative existed to accepting the edifice as it was, "or there will be no Branch at Dahlonega, a large amount of the appropriation having been spent;" Congress was hardly likely to be generous enough–or foolish enough–to grant a second appropriation for a second attempt. On that realistic note, Peale prepared to close out his mission and come home.
He and Anna left Dahlonega at the end of the month, making a circuitous and eventful journey back to Philadelphia. Peale’s ill luck pursued him north, just as it had followed him south. While traveling through Virginia, the train on which he and his daughter were passengers met with "the perils of the most horrible accident" that has occurred for years. A fine new engine "was thrown off the track by an iron plate rail which was raised up at one end. The engine was brought up against the side of the ditch, where a fearful crash took place."
Miraculously, no one was killed, although nearly 20 people were injured, some of them severely, Peale escaped unhurt, although his daughter received a minor back injury. He credited their deliverance to the fact that they had been traveling in the middle passenger car, which, instead of being crushed by the force of the accident, had simply been raised off the tracks and thrown to one side.
Shaken but unhurt, the little party continued its journey to Philadelphia. Peale was in Washington by December 15, and he expected to make the final leg of the journey home by steamboat on the following Sunday. By the 23rd, he was back at his desk at last, composing an outline of his travels and findings for the Mint Director.
Dr. Doty continued by relating that Peale in his report listed certain construction defects, including the substitution "of lath and plaster in the cornices, a roof which leaked, the necessary abandonment of the first-floor arches, and the poor quality of the bricks used throughout the building," placing blame for these problems squarely on the shoulders of the elusive Col. Few. Faced with these difficulties, Peale had labored manually to render the building suitable for the purpose for which it had been conceived. He thought it would now serve, and he advised its acceptance as part of the U.S. Mint. But he also thought it would be a good idea to set aside monies for the structural repairs which would certainly come due.
By 1838 the three branch mints had been erected and facilities were more or less in order. The New Orleans Mint was of immense size, and the Charlotte and Dahlonega structures were much smaller in dimension. In the same year coinage commenced, gold at Charlotte and Dahlonega, and silver in New Orleans (the New Orleans Mint would not strike its first gold coins until the next year, 1839).
By January 13, 1838, Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson was able to issue a report which noted in part:
The machinery for the branch mint at Dahlonega, in Georgia, was sent to Savannah in May, and difficulty and delay also occurred in its transportation by land. After the workmen employed at Charlotte had finished their task, they proceeded to Dahlonega, to erect the machinery there; and they completed this work early in November.
Rather than being state of the art, the equipment furnished to Dahlonega included used machinery and devices that were technologically obsolete, at least in comparison to the smoothly operating steam-powered presses that had been set up in Philadelphia and which were first used for striking medals on March 23, 1836. The refining of gold, the preparation of metal strip, the cutting of planchets, and the striking of coins seems to have been a rather rustic operation at Dahlonega, which, in terms of the coins produced, resulted in pieces that had a very distinctive appearance. Whereas gold coins struck in Philadelphia in 1838 and later years were apt to be much alike, having been made on high-speed steam presses, Dahlonega products were often crudely struck, with weak areas in the dentils or devices, and sometimes indistinct, particularly at the centers. Of course, it is precisely this rusticity that makes such pieces appealing to numismatists today. The same naive or rustic characteristics apply to Charlotte gold, but not as much as with Dahlonega products.
Gold dollars were made of three major types, as delineated below. Today, the collector of design types will seek one of each. More expansively, within the year 1849 several sub-types exist of the Type I motif.
The first design, the Liberty Head or Coronet type, made its debut in 1849 and was continued through part of 1854. The design of Miss Liberty on the obverse was of the same style used on the pattern $20 gold coins of the year. She faces left, her hair tied at the back, and wears a coronet inscribed LIBERTY. Thirteen stars surround.
The reverse depicts a wreath open at the top enclosing the numeral 1, the value DOLLAR, and the date. Varieties of 1849 gold dollars exist with "Open Wreath" and "Closed Wreath," the latter style being that continued through early 1854. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds. Measuring just 13mm in diameter, the gold dollar of the 1849-1854 type is the smallest United States coin, being even smaller than the 14mm silver three-cent piece. Production was continuous from 1849 through 1854. Examples were produced primarily at the Philadelphia Mint, but the facilities at New Orleans, Dahlonega, Charlotte, and San Francisco contributed as well. All of the Charlotte and Dahlonega coins are scarce today, and some are very rare.
The type set collector will probably want to acquire a Philadelphia Mint gold dollar in this span, for these are far more plentiful than those of branch mints and also are better struck. Charlotte and Dahlonega coins in particular are nearly always very weakly defined in certain areas. Examples of Philadelphia Mint gold dollars are readily available in various grades from Very Fine to AU. Uncirculated pieces are scarce, and superb Uncirculated coins are rare.
During the Type I period, the total mintage of business strikes amounted to 12,565,273 coins. Proof quantities were not recorded, but were a few dozen at most, if even that many.
In 1854 James B. Longacre restyled the gold dollar to an increased diameter of 15 mm, a move intended to make the gold dollar easier to handle in commerce. This diameter was retained for the rest of the life of the denomination.
The obverse motif was changed to the head of an Indian princess, wearing a feather headdress and a band inscribed LIBERTY, facing left, with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounding. The reverse shows a wreath of corn, cotton, wheat, and tobacco, similar to that used on the $3 of the same year (and the Flying Eagle cent minted later, beginning in 1856).
From the very outset difficulties in striking ensued. The high relief of the head of Miss Liberty on the obverse caused the situation in which metal flowing into the deep die recess for the obverse prevented the relief areas on the corresponding part of the reverse, particularly the central two digits of the date, from striking up properly. Also there were problems with the striking up of the wreath and certain parts of Miss Liberty’s head.
After a coinage in 1854 at the Philadelphia Mint, a coinage in 1855 at the Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans mints, and a coinage in 1856 at the San Francisco Mint only, the obverse motif was modified. In the 1854-1856 span there are several scarce issues and two rarities, the 1855-C and 1855-D.
Total business strike mintage for the Type II design, combining all dates and mints, amounted to a paltry 1,633,426. No wonder the term scarce is applicable to even the most available varieties. A handful of Proofs were also struck and were not recorded.
The type collector will have no difficulty in encountering a Philadelphia Mint coin of 1854 or 1855 in any desired grade from Very Fine through AU. Uncirculated pieces are scarce, and superb Uncirculated coins are seldom met with (the present sale being an exception!) Nearly all pieces are lightly struck at the center of the date on the reverse, so this is to be expected. Indeed, this is the reason the design was changed in 1856. The 1854-1856 dollar, usually called the Type II, is the scarcest of the gold dollar designs and is the key to a gold dollar type set.
The Bass Collection includes incredible specimens of the different varieties within the Type II design and offers opportunities never before equaled in the auction venue.
In 1856 James B. Longacre redesigned the gold dollar in an effort to create a motif that would strike up sharply and properly, the Type II being a failure in this regard. The Indian princess style of Miss Liberty was continued, but in the new version the relief is lower and the details are different. Changes were also made in the reverse wreath. The result was a coin which indeed could be struck properly, with the result that gold dollars of the Type III design usually are well struck in most areas, including the central two digits of the date (the area which caused a problem on the preceding type).
The Type III or Large Head motif was produced continuously from 1856 through 1889, although during and after the Civil War, mintages were exceedingly low for all years except a few. The nadir was touched in 1875 when just 400 business strikes and 20 Proofs were struck. Gold dollars were not circulated from 1862 to 1878, and saw only limited use after that time. Eventually the denomination was discontinued in 1889.
Along the way, the total mintage for business strikes of the Type III design amounted to 5,327,363 coins. Proofs were made to the extent of an estimated 8,500 or more, spread over all of the dates, although records are incomplete. Complicating the Proof situation is that today for some issues there is no unequivocal distinction between a Proof and a business strike, this being true for certain issues circa 1879-1889.
The type set collector can easily locate examples of the more plentiful dates in desired grades from Very Fine to AU. Uncirculated pieces are scarce, and superb Uncirculated are scarcer yet, although a flurry of investment and speculative activity which occurred among jewelers and numismatists during the 1879-1889 years resulted in the survival of more Uncirculated specimens of these dates than would otherwise have been the case. Proofs were minted of various Philadelphia Mint dates, with those struck from 1884 through 1889 being produced in relatively large quantities, although there are mysteries–such as: if the huge number of 1,779 Proof gold dollars saw production in 1889, why are only a few dozen known today.
The Charlotte, Dahlonega, and San Francisco mints each struck a few varieties in the Type III series. All are rare, some extremely so if in high grades such as AU or Mint State.
Of all gold denominations, dollars were the most popular with numismatists during the 19th century. Virtually all attention was paid to the coins by date, with few if any collectors caring whether a coin had a C, D, O, or S on the reverse. Typically, cataloguers and dealers did not even bother to notice. An 1849 gold dollar was an 1849 gold dollar. Period.
In 1893, Augustus G. Heaton published his treatise, Mint Marks, which included this commentary, giving a view of the situation at the time, this following a comment that collectors of gold coins were content to acquire coins from any mint, to satisfy the need for a given date:
"Since the suspension of the gold dollar coinage in 1889, the piece has been much used for ornament, and regardless of date or condition, now commands nearly 50 cents premium. It has attracted great attention from many collectors who have sought no other gold series, and its mint marks have become generally very rare."
Heaton was one of the great personalities in numismatics at the time, was prominent in the early affairs of the American Numismatic Association (serving for a time as its president), and did much numismatic research. He continued by listing the varieties of which he was aware, such information not being readily available in any other numismatic publication. He suggested that his little treatise might stir interest in collecting mintmarks, by finding pieces in circulation or at banks, stating that if they "should establish correspondence and exchange, one might soon hear of far advanced gold mint mark collections which would be an honor to the enterprising numismatists possessing them."
Collecting gold dollars by date and mint soon achieved a degree of popularity, with perhaps one or two dozen numismatists aspiring to form such sets. Larger denominations, particularly $5, $10, and $20, were nearly completely ignored.
Beginning in the 1930s, a passion arose for the collecting of gold coins of all denominations. By that time, many opportunities were long gone.
Today in 1999, gold dollars appeal to tens of thousands or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of numismatists, most of whom aspire to own one of each of the three design types. However, there are at least several hundred specialists who seek date and mintmark varieties, with the number of would-be acquisitors often exceeding the number of choice pieces available!
Now, the Harry W. Bass, Jr., Collection, Part II:
Outstanding 1849 Gold Dollar
Small Head, No L
1 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-65 (PCGS). Bright satiny yellow gold lustre with very few abrasions of any sort. The pattern of satiny lustre and reflective surface appears on this example as does peripheral weakness noted at the outer tip of some stars.
This variety is very scarce with a very small percentage of the 1,000 coins struck surviving today.
This is the very first gold dollar issue listed by Walter Breen in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. Breen suggested all examples of this variety were struck on May 8, to the extent of 1,000 coins. Although proposals for the gold dollar denomination had been rejected on several previous occasions, as far back as Alexander Hamilton’s original coinage proposal in the early 1790s, discovery of gold in California was enough to influence Congress to pass a proposal in 1849. The bill to coin this denomination was introduced in Congress on January 25, 1849. James Barton Longacre produced the dies which were completed on May 7, 1849. The next day, initial examples of this denomination were produced, including the present coin.
From Stack’s sale of the Jay Collection, October 1967, Lot 183.
Choice 1849 Open Wreath Gold Dollar
Small Head, No L
2 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-64 (PCGS). Very similar to the previous lot and from the same obverse and reverse dies. A lovely example with satiny yellow gold lustre. A few very minor surface marks are noted, although these are virtually imperceptible and expected at this grade level. The satiny lustre gives way to very slight reflectivity framing the bust of Liberty. Slight peripheral weakness is noted, as in the above lot, with the outer tips of some stars and the border denticles most affected.
Two stars below the bust of Liberty are sharply recut as is another star at 3:00. The reverse die has a curved bisecting crack from the rim at 2:00 to the rim at 9:30. Another crack from the rim at 11:30 joins the first crack just left of the large numeral 1. A few other minor die cracks are noted.
From Pine Tree Rare Coin Auctions’ sale of September 1973, Lot 356.
Choice Mint State 1849 Gold Dollar
Small Head, No L
3 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-63. Sharp central design details with slight peripheral weakness. Lustrous satiny yellow gold with minor surface marks as expected for the grade. From the same obverse die as in the previous lots, but with a different reverse die.
A die crack from the border passes through the upright of T in UNITED to a berry. Another crack passes between ST to the terminal leaf in the left branch. Other very minor die cracks are noted. A prominent die scratch from a leaf in the terminal triplet in the right branch extends through the upright of F to the border.
From Abe Kosoff’s sale of the Marks Collection, October 1971, Lot 1594.
4 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-62. Lustrous light greenish gold with minor hairlines resulting from an old cleaning. Same dies as previously.
The bisecting reverse crack is just beginning to form at the rim at 9:30.
Purchased from Edwin Shapiro, October 30, 1972.
5 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-60. Sharply struck central devices with satiny yellow gold lustre and peripheral weakness as described in several previous lots. Very minor hairlines and other abrasions.
Gold coin enthusiasts would do well to consider the various 1849 Small Head varieties offered in the present catalogue. In comparison to the regular (Large Head) issues these pieces are very rare. As they become better known, demand will no doubt increase.
The reverse die cracks noted previously are all visible although not as advanced.
From Rarcoa’s sale of February 1972, Lot 693.
6 Assortment of Type I and Type III gold dollars: I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-60 I 1851 MS-60 I 1852 AU-58 I 1853 MS-60 I 1856 Slanting 5. AU-58 I 1857 AU-55 I 1858 AU-58 I 1859 MS-60 I 1861 MS-60. Heavy die clashing. Small scrape is noted on the obverse I 1862 MS-60 I 1873 Open 3. MS-60 I 1874 AU-58. A well-matched grouping with the earlier dates being yellow gold and the later being orange-gold; each piece displays lustrous surfaces. An ideal opportunity to get a running start on a gold dollar collection, each piece having the memorable Bass Collection pedigree. (Total: 12 pieces)
Extensive Date Run of Gold Dollars
7 Grouping of Type I and Type III gold dollars I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6000. Small Head, No L. MS-60 I 1850 MS-61 I 1851 MS-60 I 1852 MS-60 I 1853 MS-61 I 1856 Slanting 5. AU-58 I 1857 AU-58 I 1858 AU-58 I 1858-S EF-45 I 1859 MS-60 I 1861 MS-60 I 1862 MS-60 I 1873 Open 3. MS-61 I 1874 MS-61. Only L on Headband. An attractive and lustrous grouping. Another opportunity to get a very nice start on a specialized collection by adding over a dozen pieces with the Bass Collection pedigree. (Total: 14 pieces)
Lovely 1849 Gold Dollar
Small Head, With
8 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6001. Small Head, With L. MS-65 (PCGS). This wonderful gold dollar has bright yellow gold lustre; slightly reflective obverse and frosty reverse. A few minor hairlines are noted along with scattered orange copper spots. Very narrow obverse borders are characteristic of the Small Head, with L variety. This example has flat obverse fields.
This 1849 gold dollar has a flat obverse field with little in the way of dishing or, more properly, basining. This aspect of die preparation in the mid 19th century has been treated only lightly in the literature, most often in connection with Morgan silver dollars, seldom with gold coins. Note our later commentary under Proof gold $10 pieces of the early 1860s.
Purchased from Abe Kosoff, August 3, 1971.
Gold Dollar Starter Set
9 Selection of Type I and Type III gold dollars: I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6001. Small Head, with L. AU-58 I 1850 MS-60 I 1851 MS-60 I 1852 AU-55 I 1852-O EF-45 I 1853 AU-55 I 1854 Type I. AU-58 I 1856 Slanting 5. VF-35 I 1857 VF-30. Several small scratches are noted on the obverse I 1858 AU-50 I 1858-S EF-40 I 1859 AU-50 I 1861 EF-40 I 1862 AU-50 I 1873 Open 3. AU-55 I 1874 AU-50. Another nice grouping, complete with Bass Collection background and pedigree, with most pieces displaying original mint lustre. (Total: 16 pieces)
10 Pair of 1849 gold dollars. Open Wreath. Breen-6002. Small head, with L: I MS-62. Lustrous yellow gold I MS-62. Scratched with some obverse hairlines. (Total: 2 pieces)
Splendid Gem 1849 Gold Dollar
11 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-66 (PCGS). This outstanding gem has rich, creamy yellow gold lustre on the obverse with reflective, prooflike reverse. Extremely sharp design details are evident on both sides. A stunning specimen that will delight the type collector as well as the gold dollar specialist. Quality such as this is seldom encountered anywhere.
Die polish lines are visible on the obverse with diagonal striae on the reverse. Few of the obverse stars are poorly formed with very heavy points opposite thin points. The reverse has E of STATES sharply doubled.
Purchased from the Goliad Corporation, August 26, 1980. The Bass Inventory notes that this was Lot 4656 in an unrecorded auction.
Choice 1849 Gold Dollar
12 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-64 (PCGS). This lovely example has slightly reflective yellow gold lustre on obverse and reverse. Very sharply struck save for very slight weakness on the highest points of Miss Liberty. Very minor planchet granularity is noted on both sides, as struck, and weakening the digit 8 in the date.
Third of four types identified for the gold dollars of 1849. The Small Head, No L and Small Head, With L types are scarcer than this Large Head variety or the Closed Wreath variety.
Minor striae are noted on obverse and reverse. A fine die crack from the border through I of UNITED continues through the wreath and DOLL to the digit 9.
Purchased from Stanley Kesselman, August 23, 1971.
Another Choice 1849
13 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-63. Frosty yellow gold lustre with very minor hairlines and abrasions are mixed with thin die polish lines. An attractive example.
Minor die cracks connect the tops of some letters on the reverse.
Purchased from Abner Kreisberg, April 23, 1973.
14 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-62. Reflective bright yellow gold with a few very minor surface marks. A pleasing example of the Large Head type with Open Wreath. All details are boldly defined.
Die cracks connect the tops of some letters on the reverse.
Purchased from World-Wide Coin Investments, April 16, 1967.
15 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-62. Satiny yellow gold lustre with sharp design details and very minor surface marks. A pleasing example.
A die crack through I of UNITED, the wreath, DOLL, and the digit 9, continues through the right wreath and final A to the border.
Purchased from Edwin Shapiro, December 16, 1971.
Lustrous Grouping of Gold Dollars
16 Lustrous grouping of gold dollars: I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-60 I 1851 AU-50 I 1856 Slanting 5. AU-50 I 1857 AU-55 I 1858 AU-55 I 1859 AU-58 I 1861 AU-50 I 1862 AU-55 I 1873 Open 3. AU-58 I 1874 AU-58. Only the letter L is seen on the headband, a curious situation of incomplete lettering sometimes also seen on other dates, most notably those of 1873. (Total: 10 pieces)
Selection of Gold Dollars
17 Selection of gold dollars: I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. MS-60 I 1852 AU-55 I 1856 Slanting 5. EF-45 I 1857 EF-45 I 1858 AU-53 I 1859 AU-55 I 1861 EF-40 I 1862 AU-50 I 1874 AU-58. No LIBERTY on Headband. A well matched grouping with each piece displaying various degrees of mint lustre. (Total: 9 pieces)
Another Grouping of Gold Dollars
18 Grouping of gold dollars grading AU-58, except where noted: I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head I 1853 I 1856 Upright 5 I 1857 AU-55 I 1858 I 1869 MS-60 I 1861 AU-55 I 1862 I 1873 Open 3 I 1874 Only L on Headband. Each display some original mint lustre. (Total: 10 pieces)
Value-Laden Group of Gold Dollars
19 A very nice group of gold dollars, no duplicates, containing a number of scarce, rare, and interesting pieces: I 1849 Open Wreath. Breen-6003. Large Head. AU-50 I 1850 AU-55 I 1851 AU-55 I 1851-O AU-50 I 1852 AU-55 I 1852-O EF-40 I 1853 AU-55 I 1853-O AU-55 I 1854 Type I. EF-45 I 1854 Type II. EF-45. Double Date. Always popular for type set purposes, and additionally interesting because of the date I 1855 EF-45. Closed 5s. Popular Type II design I 1856 Upright 5. VF-30. Notably scarcer than the usually seen slanting 5 variety. I 1856 Slanting 5. VF-35 I 1857-S VF-30. Medium S. Date a little above center I 1858 AU-50 I 1858-S VF-35. Not expensive, but certainly scarce I 1859 AU-50 I 1860 AU-58 I 1861 VF-35 I 1862 AU-50 I 1866 AU-50, polished. One of the key dates of its era, rare in any and all grades I 1871 AU-58. Same comment as preceding concerning rarity I 1873 Open 3. AU-50 I 1874 AU-50 I 1876 AU-55. A nice example of the Centennial year I 1877 AU-55 PL. Low mintage issue always in demand I 1880 AU-50, polished. Another popular low mintage issue I 1884 AU-50. Low mintage. (Total: 28 pieces)
Gem Mint State 1849 Gold Dollar
20 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6005. MS-65 (PCGS). A superb gem example with frosty yellow gold lustre and virtually pristine surfaces. Extremely sharp design details are noted on both obverse and reverse. Perhaps the most pleasing 1849 gold dollar in the present sale. A true winner from an aesthetic viewpoint. Examine it in person, and you will fall in love with it–as did the cataloguer. Certainly, it is one of the most pleasing 1849 gold dollars in existence anywhere.
PCGS Population: 5; 2 finer (MS-66).
This is Breen’s Heavy Date variety, perhaps the most common of all 1849 gold dollar varieties, however, none are common in gem Mint State condition. Perfect dies.
Purchased from the Goliad Corporation, December 16, 1971.
Pleasing 1849 Closed
Wreath Gold Dollar
21 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6005. MS-64 (PCGS). An attractive, sharply struck example struck in bright greenish yellow gold. Full frosty lustre is evident on both obverse and reverse. A few very minor surface marks are noted only with magnification. Heavy Date variety.
From Stack’s sale of October 1971, Lot 655.
Mint State 1849 Gold Dollar
Kagin: "Presentation Piece?"
22 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6005. MS-62 (PCGS). Fully prooflike and highly attractive with sharp central design motifs. Minor hairlines are mixed with die striae and scattered surface marks, all very minor in nature. An aesthetically pleasing example of the Heavy Date variety. Offered by Kagin’s in 1977 as "1849 Presentation Piece?" The circumstances of mintage and distribution are not recorded, but the prooflike surface of this piece is quite special, and just as it was worth a second glance to Art Kagin and Don Kagin over 20 years ago, we suggest that the prospective bidder take a lingering view of it today.
Interesting horizontal die scratches are noted at the bottom of the reverse.
From Kagin’s ANA Sale, August 1977, Lot 4702, described there as very unusual and rare prooflike (possibly 1849 presentation piece.)
23 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6005. MS-62. Heavy Date variety. Attractive light yellow gold lustre with a few very minor abrasions.
Purchased from John N. Rowe III and Michael G. Brownlee (Rowe and Brownlee), February 24, 1967.
Octette of Gold Dollars
24 Group of About Uncirculated gold dollars: I 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6005. AU-58. Light toning over lustrous surfaces I 1856 Slanting 5. AU-50. Light striking visible on both obverse and reverse I 1857 AU-50. Some light striking is noted mostly on the obverse I 1858 AU-53. Lustrous I 1859 AU-58. Lustrous I 1861 AU-50. Lustrous I 1862 AU-50. Minor obverse rim nicks noted I 1874 AU-58. (Total: 8 pieces)
Treasure Trove of Gold Dollars
25 A nice selection of various gold dollar mints, dates, and types–a numismatic treasure trove: I 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6005. AU-50. Some mint lustre remaining I 1849-O VF-20 I 1851 AU-50. Heavy die crack connects stars two through four, several other minor cracks are noted I 1851-O EF-45 I 1852-O VF-25 I 1853 EF-45 I 1853-O AU-55 I 1854 Type I. EF-40. Partly repunched date I 1854 Type II. EF-40. Triple row of beads above LIBERTY. Always popular because of the design type I 1855 EF-40. Thin letters and date. Another popular Type II issue I 1856 Slanting 5. VF-20. Damage noted in right obverse field I 1857 VF-25. Small obverse rim nick at 11:00 I 1857-C F-12. Struck on a problematic planchet with areas of heavy porosity surfaces burnished to hide same I 1857-S VF-35. Medium S with date well below center I 1858 AU-50. Some mint lustre remaining I 1858-S VF-30. Repunched mintmark I 1859 EF-45. Hairlines noted on both surfaces I 1860 AU-55. Heavy die clashing I 1860-S EF-45. Attractive surfaces. Scarce in all grades I 1861 VF-30 I 1862 EF-40. A few obverse digs, heavy die clashing on reverse I 1866 AU-53. Lustrous. Very elusive. A century ago this was recognized as a prime key date in the gold dollar series, but since then the limelight has faded or has even been extinguished, and while the 1866 remains as elusive as ever, not much attention is paid to it I 1871 AU-55. Lustrous. Another hard to find Philadelphia Mint business strike issue I 1873 Open 3. AU-50. Raised die line from ear lobe to base of bust I 1874 VF-35. Obverse marks noted I 1877 MS-60. Lustrous orange-peel surfaces. A pleasing example of this exceedingly popular date I 1878 AU-50, polished I 1884 MS-60. Brilliant and lustrous. (See our expanded comment concerning 1884 business strikes under Lot 235 of the present sale) I 1889 MS-60. Brilliant and lustrous. Last of the long line of gold dollar dates. (Total: 29 pieces)
Lovely 1849 Gold Dollar
26 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6006. MS-65 (PCGS). Bright and frosty yellow gold lustre with a few minute surface marks. An aesthetically desirable example of the final type of 1849 gold dollars. This Closed Wreath type continued through the end of the design in 1854. This variety has thin numerals in the date, described by Breen in his Encyclopedia as very rare.
PCGS Population: 5; 2 finer (MS-66).
The reverse has several die cracks from the border through various letters of AMERICA.
It is to be remembered–and we reiterate this several times throughout the present sale–that grading numbers are one thing, and aesthetically desirable coins can be something else entirely. During his collecting career, Harry Bass strove to acquire coins that had excellent appearances. Thus, as his holdings expanded and his connoisseurship was sharpened, many pieces of exquisite quality were obtained. Today in 1999, probably nine out of 10 Bass Collection gold coins in the present sale are above average for their grade number, sometime far above average. When comparing population reports and surveys, it should be considered that in all likelihood the number of examples would fall short of comparable pieces in the Bass Collection. Moreover, while population reports are interesting, there is a passion for resubmitting coins to the same and other services, with the result that a listing that appears to represent several coins may in fact be for only one single specimen.
The seller of this coin, Don Quiggins, listed in the pedigree, is not remembered by us. The Bass Collection sources represent a veritable Who’s Who in American Numismatics, ranging from famous dealers, collectors, and auctions, to obscure personalities. The sylloge now in preparation for the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation is planned to contain a biographical listing of all identified coin sources.
Purchased from Don Quiggins, November 4, 1972.
27 1849 Closed Wreath. Breen-6006. MS-62. Variety with thin numerals in the date. Light greenish gold with very slight surface reflectivity and minor hairlines, along with a few other abrasions.
From New Netherlands Coin Company’s 61st Sale, June 1970, Lot 419.
Mint State 1849-C Gold Dollar Rarity
Among the Finest
28 1849-C Closed Wreath. MS-61 (PCGS). Lustrous light greenish yellow gold with typical design definition for this issue. Lightly abraded surfaces as expected for the grade. The obverse has a convex appearance resulting from the basined coinage die.
A lovely, indeed incredible example of this important rarity, one of just five or six Mint State survivors from a mintage of just 11,634 coins. This mintage figure includes both the Closed Wreath reverse and the few struck with Open Wreath.
According to Douglas Winter’s census in Charlotte Mint Gold Coins, there is one gem MS-65 and four other Mint State coins, all approximately MS-60. He was unaware of this coin when compiling his reference. Actual comparison with these other four coins may be necessary to determine the actual rank among the finest known of this issue. In Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, the author succinctly stated "Usually VF or worse; prohibitively rare choice." By any evaluation, the Bass Collection coin stands high among surviving pieces. As such, the opportunity is exceedingly important.
PCGS Population (July 1999): 3; 5 finer (MS-63 finest).
Again, we call attention to the possible duplication, sometimes extensive, in population reports. A better view of true rarity can be obtained from the Douglas Winter text or any other detailed numismatic study (should anyone care to compile such). Population reports are very "rough" and tend to distort true rarity, making pieces appear more plentiful than they are–due to resubmissions.
On June 10 and on June 13, die pairs for 1849-C gold dollars were shipped from the Philadelphia Mint (where dies for branch mints were made) to Charlotte. On July 10, two more reverses were sent. Most probably, the shipment of June 10 had the "old" reveres with open wreath, as used on Philadelphia Mint coins earlier in the year, but in this instance with a tiny C mintmark–creating the 1849-C Open Wreath of which just five specimens are known today.
From the other dies were made the 1849-C Closed Wreath, to the extent of 11,634 pieces, a quantity just about half of that of the next smallest production, that of the Dahlonega Mint, and but a tiny fraction of that registered at Philadelphia. The 1849-C gold dollars were placed quietly into circulation, apparently without any ceremony or special notice. Not a single example was set aside for the Mint Cabinet. Over a century later, in 1988 Walter Breen made specific note of what happened regarding availability (as quoted in the main description in the present lot).
Purchased from Rowe and Brownlee, February 24, 1967.
Choice Mint State 1849-D Gold Dollar
29 1849-D MS-63 (PCGS). Highly lustrous light greenish gold with extraordinary design definition. Both obverse and reverse borders are extremely sharp. Slightly reflective fields gradually change to frosty lustre at the borders. A few very minor surface marks are noted. A minor scratch from the F in OF extends below AM. Two varieties of this issue are known, both from the same obverse die. Probably one of the finest six or seven known examples of this date. In Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, author Douglas Winter noted that this issue "is very rare in Mint State-62 and it is extremely rare in accurately graded Mint State-63."
As a class, Charlotte and Dahlonega gold dollars are exceedingly rare in Mint State. The Bass Collection offering handily eclipses any other auction or presentation of which we are aware, bringing to market a remarkable combination of exceedingly high quality plus in many instances depth in the form of duplicates. Of all of the mints active in America during the 19th century, fewer pieces were struck at Dahlonega than anywhere else, followed by Charlotte. Moreover, such coins were not numismatically desired in their own time, and not even the Mint Cabinet saved specimens. Thus, pieces slipped into circulation where they soon became worn or lost, or eventually melted. The word O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y comes to the fore in almost countless times in the present sale, including among the stellar listings of Charlotte and Dahlonega issues.
PCGS Population: 6; 3 finer (MS-64).
The reverse exhibits extensive die cracks, both radially from the border toward the center, and peripherally through the legend.
First year of the gold dollar. All pieces are of the Open Wreath or later configuration, as the dies were shipped from the Die Department of the Philadelphia Mint, June 2-4, 1849 (received in Dahlonega on June 16); by this time the Closed Wreath style had been superseded.
From the outset, striking of Dahlonega Mint gold dollars was typically light and irregular. Quoting David Akers’ 1975 study, "The 1849-D is often softly struck on the hair, giving the appearance of wear even if there really is none."
From Abe Kosoff’s sale of the Julian Marks Collection, October 1971, Lot 1597.
Another Mint State 1849-D Gold Dollar
Rare and Beautiful
30 1849-D MS-62 (PCGS). Bright yellow gold lustre with a few very minor surface marks. Sharply struck with strong border details. From the same reverse die as the preceding lot. Not only is this the first year of issue for the denomination and mint, but also the first of two varieties in the emission order. This example is probably among the top dozen known examples.
Shattered reverse although the die cracks are not as advanced as noted in the description of the previous lot.
Purchased from Rowe and Brownlee, February 24, 1967.
Choice AU 1849-D
31 1849-D AU-58 (PCGS). Lustrous greenish gold with lightly abraded surfaces as expected for the grade. Quite sharply struck although the borders are poorly defined. This example and the next are from a different reverse die. Only a few collections over the years have had an 1849-D gold dollar in a high grade such as this. In a relative sense, except for the Bass Collection, here, indeed, is a rarity!
From Abe Kosoff’s sale of the Shuford Collection, May 1968, Lot 1690.
A Fourth 1849-D Gold Dollar
As Incredible as
32 1849-D AU-55. A fourth example of this issue, in this case very lightly circulated. Traces of wear are visible on the highest points of the design. Nearly full greenish gold lustre with very pleasing surfaces, in fact, nicer surfaces than the MS-60 offered in the lot above.
Purchased from Stanley Kesselman, August 30, 1971.
Amazing Gem 1849-O Gold Dollar
33 1849-O MS-65 (PCGS). A wonderful example with frosty greenish gold lustre and pristine, virtually mark-free surfaces. Very sharply struck, in fact, fully struck save for very slight weakness at the borders. Although 215,000 were minted, perhaps only 40 to 50 Mint State examples survive, and most of those are just MS-60 or MS-61 at best. The cataloguer for Paramount, in 1975, noted: "this frosty gem is as choice as any that I have ever seen of this date and I would not be surprised to see it bring close to four figures." Of course today, a quarter century later, the prospective purchaser should change "close to four figures" to read "close to five figures."
PCGS Population: 3; 1 finer (MS-66).
The reverse exhibits light die rust and extremely faint clash marks.
We have no way of determining what is "out there" in the rest of the numismatic field, but we feel this to be a truly amazing coin, as did the Paramount cataloguer, and we seriously doubt if it can be exceeded in the combination of numerical grade plus all important aesthetic value by any other specimen.
From Paramount’s sale of the Davies and Niewoehner Collections, February 1975, Lot 408. Pedigree incorrectly stated by Winter in "New Orleans Mint Gold Coins" as Superior 2/1975, Lot 408.
34 1849-O AU-58. Lustrous light orange-gold with only faint traces of wear.
Several obverse die cracks and a short reverse crack through M of AMERICA.
From Stack’s sale of the DiBello Collection, May 1970, Lot 515.
35 1849-O AU-55. Light yellow gold with considerable frosty lustre impaired only by very light wear. Pleasing surfaces with only a few very minor hairlines and other abrasions. A nice example of the grade.
Purchased from Rowe and Brownlee,
February 24, 1967.