1855 Gem Proof Gold Dollar, Ex: Starr1855 G$1 PR65 PCGS. Ex: Starr. The story of the short and ill-fated Type Two gold dollar is really a story of miscalculation on the part of Mint Engraver James Longacre. When redesigning the coin in 1854, he chose a variant of the three dollar gold piece. This is a design that Longacre repeated throughout most of his career and included not only the three dollar and Type Three gold dollars, but also included such diverse pieces as the double eagle, the Indian Head cent, the three cent nickel, several pattern nickels, and finally the pattern eagles from 1868 that he engraved only a few months before his death. Longacre's miscalculation was twofold. First, he designed Liberty's head in high relief, and second, he overestimated the power of the coining presses then in use. These miscalculations had varying effects, depending upon where the coins were struck. Pieces minted in the Philadelphia facility generally showed at least some weakness in the center of the obverse on Liberty's hair, and the corresponding area on the reverse: the LL in DOLLAR and the middle digits of the date. However, the striking definition on coins produced in Charlotte and Dahlonega was even more unsatisfactory, with only a short time in circulation necessary to unduly wear down the design elements. Clearly, something had to be done, and the design was changed again in 1856.
The dies for the Type Two gold dollar were completely hubbed except for the dates and mintmarks, which had to be entered by hand, as usual. As a result, the proofs produced the previous year and also in 1855, do not show evidence of these miscalculations. The only weakness on this coin is on the 8 in the date (a diagnostic of all known 1855 proofs), which is most likely from that digit having been punched too shallowly into the die. To call this coin "rare" does not really convey its true elusiveness. Only eight pieces have been positively pedigreed and two of those are permanently impounded, one in the Smithsonian and the other in the ANS holdings. With thanks to David Akers for his research that helped straighten out the pedigrees of the eight known examples, we would like to reproduce his roster of known specimens:
1. Smithsonian Institution.
2. ANS, J.P. Morgan.
3. John Jay Pittman. Ex: Thomas Melish, lot 1743; William H. Woodin, lot 852; Lorin G. Parmelee, lot 1255.
4. Harold Bareford, lot 29. Ex: "Memorable," lot 9; "World's Greatest Collection," lot 9; John Story Jenks, lot 5822.
5. Norman Stack. Sold with his type set in 1990. In the Stack Collection since at least 1971, per Harvey Stack.
6. Ed Trompeter, lot 1. Ex: Louis Eliasberg, Sr., lot 26; John H. Clapp; Elmer Sears (1909).
7. Mocatta Metals. Purchased privately in 1975.
8. Floyd T. Starr, the present specimen. Probably Ex: George H. Hall, lot 1678; J.F. Bell, lot 9.
The most recent appearance at public auction of a proof 1855 was in Akers' offering of the Pittman Collection in 1997. Glancing over the scant offerings in our auction archives gives one the impression that one of these proofs is offered on average every 8-10 years.
This fabulous coin is from the landmark collection assembled by Floyd Starr. The fields show full mirrored flash with only the slightest hairlines present. The devices are noticeably frosted and present an impressive cameo appearance against the illimitable depths of reflectivity in the fields. A couple of shallow planchet flakes are located below the F in OF, and serve as positive pedigree identifiers of this coin. As indicated in the Starr catalog, the upper leaves on the wreath on the reverse show "full flash," obviously from overvigorous polishing of the die. Rich reddish-golden color completes the physical description of this rarity. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this offering, and It will be interesting to see how the market values this piece. When it was last sold in 1992, this coin brought $82,500. Five years later, the Pittman coin, which is a PR66, realized $121,000. Now, eight years have passed and we are in the midst of a very strong collector-based boom in the coin market. It will be very interesting to see how this piece will be valued by bidders at this memorable FUN Sale.
From The Gold Rush Collection.(#7602) (Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 25DW, PCGS# 7602)
Weight: 1.67 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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