The Survival Estimate represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in three categories: 1) all grades, 2) 60 or better, and 3) 65 or better. These estimates are based on a variety of sources, including population reports, auction appearances, and personal knowledge. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Numismatic Rarity converts the Survival Estimate for a particular coin into a number from 1 to 10 (with decimal increments) based on the PCGS Rarity Scale. The higher the number, the more rare the coin.
Relative Rarity By Type
Relative Rarity By Type ranks the rarity of this coin with all other coins of this Type. Lower numbers indicate rarer coins.
Relative Rarity By Series
Relative Rarity By Series ranks the rarity of this coin with all other coins of this Series. Lower numbers indicate rarer coins.
David Akers (1975/88):
One of the real rarities in the gold dollar series with only 32 offerings in 192 auction catalogues. This date is invariably weakly struck. There is rarely much detail either on Liberty's hair or headdress. The U in UNITED is always faint and on many specimens actually illegible. Grading of the 1856-D can be very difficult and one must look at such characteristics as quality of surfaces and lustre, rather than at the high points, since even the two or three known uncirculated specimens appear to be "worn". This date is certainly in the same rarity class with the more heralded 1861-D, although for some reason it has neither gained the fame nor the higher price of the 1861-D. In fact, it brings about the same as the 1860-D and yet in my estimation is probably twice as rare.
Like the 1855-D, the 1856-D is a date whose rarity has been widely overstated. In his 1965 gold dollar monograph, Breen estimated that “fewer than a dozen” examples existed. While the actual number is substantially greater, this is still a very scarce coin.
The 1856-D gold dollar is a scarce coin. It is most often seen in Very Fine and lower end Extremely Fine. It is rare in Extremely Fine-45 and very rare in the lower About Uncirculated grades. In About Uncirculated-55 and About Uncirculated-58, it is extremely rare. In properly graded Mint State, this remains one of the rarest Dahlonega gold issues.
STRIKE: None of the Type Three gold dollars from the Dahlonega Mint are well struck. The typical 1856-D does, however, show a fairly good strike compared to the 1857 through 1861 issues. On the obverse, the high points of the hair and the plumes of Liberty’s bonnet are somewhat flat, but the overall impression is rather sharp. The U in UNITED is weak on all known examples while the rest of the lettering is sharp. The milling is sharp with the exception of the 6:00-8:00 area. On the reverse, the wreath is sharp except for the bow, which may show weakness at the knot. The O in DOLLAR is filled and sometimes hard to distinguish while the 5 in the date is always weak. The milling is sharp.
SURFACES: All known 1856-D gold dollars show unusual raised segments (which may be clashmarks from the obverse border) at the reverse border. Most were struck on acceptable planchets although some are known with mint-made defects. Many have been cleaned and show hairlines; others have noticeable marks from circulation. It is possible, nevertheless, to locate a coin which has above average surfaces with minimal marks.
LUSTER: High grade examples show average to slightly above average mint luster. Most have a frosty texture with slight graininess.
COLORATION: Uncleaned 1856-D gold dollars often possess orange-gold coloration. A few are also known with deeper greenish hues. There are not many pieces left that have not been cleaned or dipped.
EYE APPEAL: While many are unappealing due to poor strikes and past cleanings, it is possible to locate an attractive Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated 1856-D gold dollar. This is one issue where the collector should be patient, as pleasing, well-detailed examples carry a surprisingly low premium over typical quality pieces.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: I have seen more damaged examples of the 1856-D than any other Dahlonega gold dollar. This includes a number that have been holed or used in jewelry. These often have traces of solder on the edges and the surfaces have a smoothed appearance. The novice collector should be careful of low grade, holed pieces that have been plugged and are offered for sale as undamaged.
DIE VARIETIES: One die variety is known. All 1,460 examples were struck from a single pair of dies in May, 1856.
Variety 8-K: On the obverse, the U in UNITED is always weak. On the reverse, the O in DOLLAR is always filled. The date is well spaced and shows an Upright 5. The digit is often weakly impressed. The mintmark is large and well centered.
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