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    Description

    Miraculously Preserved
    1855 Type Two Gold Dollar, MS66

    1855 G$1 MS66 PCGS. CAC. Diminutive yet precious, the gold dollar holds a special place in the hearts of many a collector. The denomination was born out of the flood of gold that came from California beginning in 1849. The nation's mints began producing large quantities of gold dollars, which had their greatest commercial use on the West Coast but gained acceptance nationwide.
    Breen comments in his Complete Encyclopedia that from 1849 through 1854 "gold dollars formed the bulk of the nation's legal circulating medium between the 3c and the $2.50 denominations," eagerly sought by the public as alternatives to the often worthless and unredeemable private bank notes and store scrip, both of which flooded the country as the value of gold and silver fluctuated. The little gold dollar was hardly worth melting, compared to the eagle, and was highly useful, accounting for its broad acceptance in the 1850s. But the coin proved to be too easily dropped--and lost--in its initial version.
    Beginning in August 1854, a new, thinner but wider-diameter version appeared--what we call the Type Two gold dollar. Liberty was replaced by a charming, feathered Indian princess--the first obeisance on national coinage to Native Americans, who were not to become a "national enemy" until the Indian Wars that followed the Civil War and intensified in the 1870s.
    Mint Director Snowden requested the new design from his talented engraver, James Longacre, along with a "bigger sister," the three dollar gold piece. Longacre intended the image of Liberty as a Romanesque version of the classic Venus (from a marble statue he saw in a Philadelphia museum) but the public saw the headdress and a classic was named. In fact, it became the inspiration for the Indian cent. The new-style gold dollar, however, lasted only a matter of months. The government's set exchange rate--the ratio of gold to silver--could not be maintained, constantly threatening all gold pieces with private melting for profit. Many gold dollars struck during the period of this type's manufacture (less than two years) failed to survive the decade, accounting in part for their rarity today.
    The style was elegant, a deft rendering of Liberty in her feathered bonnet, in noticeable high relief, but as Breen says, "The coins proved unsatisfactory from the beginning. Longacre had miscalculated, overestimating the power of the coining presses then in use." It was a sheer manufacturing problem, especially for the Southern mints, which used older presses discarded by the main facility at Philadelphia. The coins most often were poorly struck, with weak features that wore quickly in use. Many were officially melted. The final type of this denomination, made beginning late in 1856, was the same size but in lower relief yet more deeply engraved, making the coins easier to produce with full details, and therefore they would endure far longer. What did not endure, in any number, were the Type Two issues--most of them unsharp to begin with, easily worn, largely melted and recoined into the new type. High-grade survivors such as this exciting piece somehow escaped, and as such are miraculous reminders of those perilous days so long ago.
    The surfaces of this piece are exceptional in every regard, as the grade indicates. The life of the coin, its luster, is thick and frosted, and unbroken by the abrasions that usually afflict Type Two gold dollars. The striking details are uncommonly sharp, with only the slightest hint of softness in the centers. The bright yellow-gold surfaces show a moderate overlay of light reddish patina. One of only 13 pieces so graded by PCGS, with a mere four coins finer (12/09).
    From The Longfellow Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 25C4, PCGS# 7532)

    Weight: 1.67 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Longfellow Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    4th-7th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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