Auction Benefits Foundation for the Carolinas Features 1861-D Gold Dollar

On November 2, 2022, Heritage Auctions will offer Mike Coltrane’s U.S. coin collection at an unreserved Signature Sale. Mike enjoyed a variety of numismatic pursuits including currency (to be sold in a Showcase auction on October 30), coins, and related financial documents. He was a student of history, always seeking to learn something new as his boyhood hobby progressed into an avocation. His interests encompassed Colonial issues, Federal coppers, and early half cents, as well as early, branch mint, and Territorial gold. Mike was a lifelong resident of Concord, North Carolina, and included Charlotte Mint gold bullion deposit records and other related documents in his collection; they are also being offered in this sale. Mike was committed to his hometown and was generous with both his time and money. Proceeds from this auction will be donated to charity, through the Foundation for the Carolinas, to assist individuals in need as well as for community betterment.

Below is the 1861-D gold dollar lot description.

1861-D G$1 AU50 PCGS. Gold CAC. Variety 12-Q. The Dahlonega Mint’s last report to the Director at Philadelphia occurred on February 28, 1861. Gold deposits were at $63,193 for the fiscal year up to that point, with $60,946 worth of coinage produced. That coinage included 1,597 half eagles struck during the first two months of 1861, but no gold dollars, even though the dies had already been supplied.

The Confederacy took control of the Dahlonega Mint in April. Mint Director James Pollock, in his Annual Report for the fiscal year ending June 1861, spoke harshly of the defection of the southern branch mints and the perceived effects on their coinage:

“Whether the coinage at these branches continues to conform to the laws and standard of the United States mint cannot now be ascertained. Efforts have been made to procure specimens of the gold and silver coins of the branch at New Orleans, since its defection, for the purpose of determining whether any adulteration or reduction in value of the issues of that branch had been attempted; but thus far no such specimens could be obtained. The treason that can refuse to recognize the lawful authority of a just government, would not hesitate to adulterate the coin made in an institution wrested from that government by lawless violence; nor would it blush to conceal the wrong under the emblems and devices of an honored national coinage.”

Contrary to Pollock’s expectations, coinage standards at the southern branch mints did not falter under the auspices of the Confederacy. Brief experiments with new cent and half dollar designs occurred in New Orleans, but the bulk of the coinage produced in the South after its secession was with existing federal dies. After the 1,597 coins reported in February, Dahlonega Mint personnel struck a small number of additional half eagles for the Confederacy, as well as a new coinage of gold dollars. Mintage figures were unrecorded, but study of the survivorship suggests that the Confederacy struck 1,000 to 2,000 half eagles at Dahlonega sometime after the end of February 1861, and 500 to 1,000 gold dollars. Thus, the 1861-D gold dollar is distinguished as having been entirely produced under the auspices of the Confederacy.

The circumstances of the 1861-D gold dollar’s production, presumably scant mintage, and modern-day rarity make it the most sought-after gold dollar of any date and mint, with perhaps the sole exception of the 1849-C Open Wreath, which is essentially uncollectible. Gold scholars David Akers and Doug Winter have both noted that while the 1861-D is rare overall, surviving examples tend to grade in the AU and low Mint State ranges more often than other Dahlonega issues. While that narrative remains true, it requires amendment. The entire survivorship of this issue is estimated to be only 65 to 75 coins. A significant portion of that population is cleaned, repaired, or otherwise damaged, and those coins form a disproportionately large portion of the public auction appearances for this date. Problem-free 1861-D gold dollars are incredibly rare, and most of those known are held in strong collections.

This coin, housed in an old “rattler” holder, is high-end for the grade. Smooth, satiny surfaces yield blended olive-gold and peach-yellow color, with original luster in the fields. The Dahlonega specialist will recognize the weak strike below Liberty’s bust, but the complete reverse border is a welcome refreshment. The central devices exhibit a degree of sharpness seldom seen on any Type Three D-mint dollar, let alone an 1861-D. A truly memorable example. Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2020), lot 4319.(Registry values: N7079)

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

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