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Gold 1855-D Wanted as Date and Type
By Paul M. Green, Numismatic News
September 12, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Many suspect the 1855-D gold dollar is a good coin, although they are probably not sure just how good it really is as to understand just how good a really nice 1855-D is you almost have to be a student of gold dollars and those numbers are very few.

The 1855-D has a lot of things going to it. It is the only Dahlonega Type II dollar. That makes it a necessity for both date sets and type coin sets. This double demand insures that there always seems not to be enough to go around.

The Type II is an interesting group. The size was changed slightly and someone got the idea of putting a headdress of ostrich featers on Liberty, which suddenly makes it an “Indian Head” gold dollar. That’s frankly a little farfetched as no Native American used ostrich feathers.

Whatever reason for the design, it did not last long. What matters is the 1855-D had a mintage of just 1,811 pieces. That is probably the good news. The bad news is that there were no collectors around to save nice examples. That has wreaked havoc with surviving supply.

There are a lot of factors taht have to be considered when discussing the 18855-D. The first is the strike, which can be called irregular. We could easily be more blunt, but maybe the best way of putting it is that if you look at auction listings over the past century they almost never mention strike as there is almost never anything good to say about it. Instead, descriptions focus on how few exist.

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The poor quality of strike is not enhanced by wear. Almost any 1855-D will be worn. At Numismatic Guaranty Coproration, they have seen only 27 examples of the 1855-D and of those only two, an MS-60 and an MS-63 were called Mint State. In the case of the Professional Coin grading Service, of the 48 seen, four range from MS-61 to MS-63.

Those numbers result in a price of $48,000 in MS-60. In fact, the price should be higher. It is in a class with and perhaps should be even better than the 1861-D when it comes to number of Mint State coins known to exist.

The 1855-D simply is elusive in top grade. If placed side by side with a Philadelphia piece, the difference in strike will be apparent.

In the case of circulated examples, which most collectors will have to be satisfied with, the coin lists for $3,250 in F-12. There is probably something to be said for this grade. You can blame the appearance on wear and not a soft strike.

In XF-40, the price is $9,800. In AU-50 it is $22,000. Those two grades are probably the likely grades for those wanting a nice example, but who are unable to find a Mint State. In such grades, you will again be confronted with the usual weak strike issues, but in those grades you are still getting an above average example.

The fact is that any example of the 1855-D has to be seen as exceptional. Even in lower grades it is a very tough coin.

It is remarkable that this pre-Civil War coin survived even in the limited numbers that it has. Perhaps that explains the auction descriptions. Dealers of the early 1900s knew somethiing we forgot.

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