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1861-D Gold Dollar - Produced by the Confederate States of America
By Jaime Hernandez - June 23, 2008

Every day, we spend (and sometimes collect) coins which help us relive American history. Decades ago, it was still possible to collect significant treasures from circulating coins. Over one hundred years ago the 1861-D Gold Dollar also circulated through our monetary system. Today this coin is definitely an important part of American history. The 1861-D Gold Dollar is the only regular issue U.S. coin whose entire mintage was produced by the Confederate States of America. The compelling history behind the 1861-D Dollar has inspired many Gold Dollar specialists and collectors because of the intriguing story and harsh era in which the 1861-D Gold Dollars were produced.

"So, you can hardly blame me if I still consider the 1861-D Dollar my favorite coin." This was a remarkable phrase used by Max Mehl, one of America's greatest numismatists, when he was describing an 1861-D Gold Dollar he was offering for sale. Significantly, Mehl also used different grading terminology when describing the condition of an 1861-D Gold Dollar such as "slightest cabinet friction," a popular term for describing AU coins at the time.

In the early 1820s, the United States was experiencing one of its first major gold rushes in the South. During this period, it wasn't safe to transport any valuables from one part of the country to another. Transporting mined gold from Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia to the Philadelphia Mint proved to be very challenging and extremely dangerous. Transporting gold was very costly and consisted of traveling through inhabited territory, and the journey to Philadelphia took weeks. Many times bandits would try to steal the gold that was being transported to the Philadelphia Mint.

The solution for this problem was to build branch mints in the South. On March 3, 1835 Congress established a new bill allowing three branch mints to be developed in the South. The Dahlonega Mint began striking its first coins in January 1838. The staff at the Dahlonega Mint consisted of only four men. For every 500 coins struck, one assay coin would also be sent off to the Philadelphia Mint to verify its gold content and purity. For 22 years, the Dahlonega Mint struck coins under the authority of the United States of America. However, in 1860 there was major disagreement over slavery laws and political issues between the North and the South which caused several Southern states to secede from the union of the United States of America.

In 1861, the Civil War began. This same year, the governor of Georgia ordered Confederate troops to take over the Dahlonega Mint, which they did. On March 9, 1861 the Confederacy passed a bill authorizing the New Orleans Mint, Charlotte Mint and the Dahlonega Mint to continue producing coinage under the Confederacy. However, due to an evaluation completed by the Confederacy, the mints would not generate enough income to support their own minting and on March 14, 1861 the Confederacy decided to close the branch mints instead, effective June 1, 1861.

In the meantime, the 1861-D Dollars would still be struck sometime in April or May of 1861. The Confederates used an old obverse die of an 1860-D Gold Dollar to strike 1861-D Dollars. Additionally, there were very little gold reserves in the Confederacy for producing the 1861-D Gold Dollars, and this is why there was such a small mintage.

Overall, it is a numismatic wonder that 1861-D Dollars exist today, since there was a very short time period for the coins to have been produced and they were produced under extremely harsh conditions. Some specialists suggest that anywhere from about 1,000 to 1,500 pieces were produced, while others have estimated anywhere from 2,350 and up to 3,250.

The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, and the Union States of America regained control of the Southern States. The Dahlonega Mint would never be reopened again. Therefore, the 1861-D Gold Dollar is the last gold dollar the Dahlonega Mint ever produced.

Currently, the 1861-D is the second rarest U.S. Gold Dollar following the 1849-C Open Wreath. Nevertheless, the 1861-D Gold Dollar still remains the most intriguing coin of the Branch Mint gold dollars. The fact that the 1861-D Gold Dollar was struck by official U.S. coin dies under a U.S. Branch Mint during the Civil War by the Confederacy only adds to its mystique. Therefore, the 1861-D Gold Dollar has all the ingredients of being an important piece of American history and numismatics.

PCGS


1861-D Gold Dollar - Produced by the Confederate States of America

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