The 1863 Gold Dollar is the first of a low
series of Civil War dated gold dollars, which continued
for the rest of the series as well. A total number of just
6,200 pieces were produced for general circulation, together
with a total of 50 proofs produced for collectors who could
afford them in the middle of the Civil War.
The gold dollar denomination is now one
of the forgotten denominations. Introduced in 1849, the
denomination was minted for 50 years in varying mintages.
Except for the earliest issues up to the Civil War, the
other issues were widely hoarded and did not circulate much.
As a result, most of the pieces that are available to collectors
in modern times are in AU and Mint State. The low mintages
have created many rarities, and the 1863 certainly is one
This issue is the scarcest gold dollar struck
in the Civil War, although both the 1864 and 1865 have lower
mintages. Presumably many pieces were melted either during
or after the Civil War, and this issue is only slightly
more available than the 1875, which is considered to be
the rarest of all gold dollars with a mintage of just 400
pieces. Examples only occasionally come on the market, and
gem pieces are of great rarity. In fact, this issue is much
scarcer than lower mintage dates of the following decades.
Even though the number of gold dollar collectors
is relatively small, pieces are still in demand for Civil
War sets. However, the number of available specimens is
very small, with an estimated 25-30 uncirculated coins known
to exist. A limited number of AU pieces are available as
well, but even when those are added this remains a very
rare issue, and one of the scarcest Civil War gold coins
in any condition.
The pieces that do exist in high grades
usually have considerable eye-appeal, especially when they
are struck from an early die state. Luster usually is very
attractive, with semi-prooflike, subdued looks. Breen does
not note the exact number of dies that were used for producing
this issue, but does note that circulation strikes were
made between June 24 and November 30. As the circulation
strikes were made from leftover proof dies, it can be assumed
that only one pair of dies was used for the full mintage.
These circulation strikes were made after
the total number of 50 proofs, which were all made on March
23. One has to wonder if the only reason for producing circulation
strikes was to keep the proofs from becoming true rarities.
It is known that the Mint in the 1880’s, when silver
quarters and half dollars were not need in commerce and
produced in limited quantities, only produced circulation
strikes to prevent the proofs to become ultra rarities.
Although the time frame and historical aspect is totally
different, this could also be a reason for the very limited
mintage of these and many subsequent issues as well.
Of the original proof mintage, less than
25 pieces are still known to exist in all proof grades.
These have always been regarded as true rarities, and priced
as such. Most pieces lack frost on either one or both sides,
making full Cameo pieces very are. Quality is usually average
for the period, with most pieces grading between PR-62 and
PR-64. Gems are scarce, and finer pieces are rarities. A
NGC graded PR-67CAM is usually considered to be the finest
known, and that piece sold for an amazing $34,500 in early
2007. Only a handful of pieces have been graded Deep Cameo,
and the finest is a PCGS graded PR-65DCAM which sold for
$20,700 in March 2008. Although this issue is still underrated
compared to other Civil War dated coins, prices for this
issue have slowly been moving upwards during the last few
This is the definitive key date for a set
of Civil War dated gold dollars. Premium quality pieces
with good eye-appeal have fetched 5 figure sums at public
auction during the last years, and they only come occasionally
on the market. Any collector wishing to own a nice example
of this issue, in any grade, should be prepared for intensive
searching to find the right coin. When found, this will
be one of the highlights in such a collection.