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1861-D Gold Dollar
1861-D Gold Dollar

In 1861, the year that the Civil War commenced, the Dahlonega Mint struck a limited number of coins of just two denominations, being gold dollars and half eagles. Of these, the gold dollar is the scarcest, and a true key date, both within gold dollars as well as Civil War coinage. The total number struck remains to be unreported, but reasonable estimates show 1,000 to 1,500 pieces being struck in April and May 1861.

In December 1860, two reverse dies were struck to the Dahlonega Mint, showing both the Mintmark as well as the date. The obverse dies were still available, although the Philadelphia Mint at the time was unaware of the lack of quality on the remaining obverse dies. On January 7, 1861, these reverse dies arrived at the Dahlonega Mint and were put to storage, waiting to be used by Union workers for minting gold dollars.

The Union, however, did never strike gold dollars at the Dahlonega Mint in 1861. The gold dollars of this issue that survive were struck under the Confederate States of America, although bearing the USA legends. It is unknown why exactly this denomination was struck, as the remaining gold have also could been used for the half eagle denomination. With the reverse dies still in storage, it can be suggested that the rebels considered it to be uneconomical to throw the dies away, and used these dies to strike a limited number of gold dollars.

Whatever the reason was to strike these pieces, history shows that they were struck after Mint director George Kellogg had resigned. They were not reported to the Philadelphia Mint as United States Coins. As a result, this is the only issue that was solely struck under the auspices of the Confederate States Of America. With no Mint Director, the amateur minters cared little about quality, and the majority of the remaining pieces lack that quality.

As no new obverse dies were shipped with the reverse dies in December 1860, the obverse die of the previous year was reused. This die, now showing considerable wear features several distinctive features. These include a weak UN in UNITED and ICA in AMERICA, along with other design elements often weak. Even pieces that show a somewhat sharper strike are rare and are seldom encountered.

Only one of the two reverse dies was actually put into use. On this die, the date is positioned somewhat to the left and is of a small logotype. Soon after being put into use, the dies were extensively lapped, with the result that certain features of the wreath show considerable weakness. This was most likely done after the dies clashed, as clash marks are frequently encountered on this issue as well.

An estimated 55 to 65 1861-D gold dollars remain to exist in all grades. This low number makes this issue to be the scarcest gold dollar from the Dahlonega Mint, as well as the scarcest gold dollar struck in the Civil War. Unbelievably, at least a dozen pieces remain to exist in uncirculated grades, which were no doubt saved as souvenirs. Even a single gem piece, graded by NGC exists, which shows considerable luster but is still weaker than other gold dollars from this era. However, this has not withheld it to bring a 6 figure price at auction in recent times.

The natural coloration of this issue is an orange-red gold color, often showing various degrees of toning. Luster is often very satin, although slightly lustrous pieces exist as well. As previously mentioned, one piece graded MS-65 exists, which is the Duke’s Creek coin. For both MS-63 and MS-64 grades, one piece each has been graded as well.

The Dahlonega Mint was closed by an order of the CSA government on June 1, 1861. The facility was, unlike the New Orleans Mint, never reopened. This historic issue, although expensive, is very popular as a representative for the start of the Civil War, and examples are always in demand. Thanks to several Mint workers or CSA officials, a relatively large number of pieces were saved as souvenirs and high grade pieces are occasionally available.



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