A "Short Set" of Type III Gold Dollars, 1880 to 1889

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by johnmilton, Feb 25, 2021.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    The short set concept has long been a staple for Mercury Dime and Walking Liberty Half Dollar collectors. For Mercury Dimes the short set can cover the dates from 1941, or 1934 for the expanded set, to 1945. The Walking Liberty Half Dollar set can run from 1941 or 1934 to 1947. Collecting this way offers the hobbyist an opportunity to complete a set of attractive coins, usually in Choice to Gem Mint State, without having to deal with the "impossible" key dates in the 'teens and 'twenties.


    I have been working on a date and mint collection of gold dollars for several years. I was able to the complete the Type One Gold Dollars (1849 to 1854), which interest me the most, a couple of years ago. From there I completed the Type Two Gold Dollar set (1854 to 1856). Although there are only six coins in that set, all of them range in rarity from scarce to rare.


    Collector fatigue set in when I reached the Type Three Gold Dollars. That set covers three and a half decades of coins. Several issues, including the 1856-D, 1859-C, 1859-D, 1860-D, 1875-P and most importantly the 1861-D are all very scarce and expensive. Although I have acquired some of the other Type Three Gold Dollar dates, I set my sights on completing a "short set" of the late date gold dollars from 1880 to 1889, at least for now. The results of that project are displayed here.

    1880 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    Mintage - 1,600 Business Strikes + 36 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 1,000, 975 in MS-60 or better, 650 in MS-65 or better

    The 1880 gold dollar has intrigued collectors and hoarders for over a century because its low mintage of 1,600 pieces. Ironically the coin is more common than it might appear because of extensive hoarding. The coin is “common” in MS-65 or better with an estimated 650 survivors, but it is always in demand whenever it is offered. This interest often results in strong auction prices.

    1881 Gold Dol ALL.jpg

    Mintage - 7,620 Business Strikes + 87 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 1,500, 1,400 in MS-60 or better, 500 in MS-65 or better

    The 1881 gold dollar is noted for the high quality of its survivors. This is probably the easiest gold dollar date to locate in grades higher than MS-65. A great many of these high grade survivors have Proof-like surfaces. This made distinguishing the Proofs from the Mint State coins difficult in the days before third party grading. On the day that I purchased this piece, I had two other MS-67 graded examples available to me at the same major show.

    1882 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    1882 Mintage 5,000 + 125 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors 750, 700 MS-60 or better, 250 MS-65 or better

    1883 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    1883 Mintage 10,800 + 207 Proof Coins. Proof Coin Survival 70, 69 PR-60 or better, 25 PR-65 or better

    Estimated Number of Survivors 1,750, 1,600 MS-60 or better, 600 MS-65 or better

    I have combined the commentary for these two dates to illustrate the differences between prooflike and Proof gold dollars from the 1880s. Dealers and collectors from past generations often had considerable difficulty differentiating between the two finishes. As you see from this side by side comparison, the differences are subtle and easy to miss, especially if either coin were to be examined without the other.

    Generally the Proof coins were a little brighter with more mirrored surfaces, as opposed to the slightly frosted fields of the business strike coins. The edges on the Proof are squared off and have more of a finished look, which makes the coin appear neater and tidier around its periphery. The rule of thumb in the old days was, “When in doubt, sell it as a Mint State piece.” Today certification and research on the characteristics of Proof coins have eliminated the guesswork.

    1882 David Akers noted in his gold dollar auction survey book which he published in 1975, that the 1882 gold dollar is scarcer than both the 1880 and 1881 pieces. Yet most survivors grade MS-65 or better, and many of them have prooflike surfaces. Akers noted that the Proof and Mint State coins can be distinguished by the “orange peal” surfaces that appear on the coins that were made for circulation.

    1883 I had long wanted to have an “old Proof coin” in my collection when I purchased this piece. This coin was a “splurge” on my part. The mintages for all Proof gold coins dated before 1934 is usually very low, often less than 100 pieces. The late date gold dollars are an exception. After 1883 Proof mintage exceeded 1,000 coins per year with many of those pieces going to collectors, hoarders and jewelers. Eighteen eighty-thee marked the last year that the gold dollar Proof mintage was less than 1,000 pieces.

    1884 Gold Dol All.jpg

    Mintage - 5,230 Business Strikes + 1,006 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 500, 450 in MS-60 or better, 100 in MS-65 or better

    The 1884 gold dollar is one of the scarcer dates in the late date “short set.” The estimated number of survivors is only 500 pieces, which is half the amount of some other dates from this era. It should be noted that this coin is the lowest grade piece in this collection at MS-63. After getting “blow out” at few auctions for this date, I was happy to find this piece at a show at a fraction of the cost of a higher grade example. Despite a few microscopic marks, the coin fits in well with the other pieces.

    1885 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    Mintage - 11,156 Business Strikes + 1,105 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 1,250, 1,150 in MS-60 or better, 200 in MS-65 or better

    The 1885 gold dollar falls in the middle with respect to rarity in this set. I have not seen as many examples of this piece as I have of the 1881 gold dollars and certainly far less than the 1888 and 1889 which are easily the most common dates. Although this coin is in an MS-66 holder I only regard it as an MS-65 example. It landed in my collection because the dealer charged me an MS-65 price for the coin.

    1886 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    Mintage - 5,000 Business Strikes + 1,016 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 800, 750 in MS-60 or better, 125 in MS-65 or better

    According to Q. David Bowers the Philadelphia Mint produced 5 thousand 1886 gold dollars to prevent this date from becoming a Proof only issue. This is also the explanation for some of the other small business strike mintages that were issued during the 1880s. Many prooflike examples are known of the 1886 gold dollar although this example has frosty or satin surfaces. This is a moderately scarce date in the short set.

    1887 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    Mintage - 7,500 Business Strikes + 1,043 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 1,500, 1,450 in MS-60 or better, 350 in MS-65 or better

    The 1887 gold dollar is one of the more common dates in the short set. The mintage of seventy five hundred pieces is above average for the period. There were a fair number of survivors despite that fact that many pieces were used for jewelry and some pieces were turned into the government after Franklin Roosevelt’s Gold Surrender Order of 1933. As it is for many of the gold dollars from the 1880s, prooflike pieces are not unusual.

    1888 Gold Dollar All.jpg

    Mintage - 15,501 Business Strikes + 1,079 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 2,000, 1,900 in MS-60 or better, 700 in MS-65 or better

    In 1888 the gold dollar mintage rose to over 15 thousand pieces. Gold dollar consumers may have perceived that the series was coming to an end, which prompted them to order additional pieces. Some prooflike examples are known, but many of these pieces have frosty surfaces which is reflective of the higher mintage. This coin is the second most common date in the late date gold dollar short set.

    1889 All.jpg

    Mintage - 28,950 Business Strikes + 1,779 Proof Coins

    Estimated Number of Survivors - 6,000, 5,800 in MS-60 or better, 1,500 in MS-65 or better

    The 1889 gold dollar is by far the most common coin in this “short set” and one of the most common dates in the gold dollar series. Because of their end of the series status, large numbers of these coins were saved, and many high grade examples are available today. Some prooflike examples of this date are seen, but most pieces have frosty surfaces because the higher mintage resulted in the dulling of the dies. The MS-64 example here might rate an additional grading point by today’s standards.
     
    AcesKings, jwitten, ldhair and 17 others like this.
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  3. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage!

    wow.gif Good on you for making such a beautiful set, very rare dates there, nice! :D
     
    johnmilton and spirityoda like this.
  4. potty dollar 1878

    potty dollar 1878 Florida girls have to love walking there sharks.

    Wow very nice some beautiful high grade rare gold coins there mabey I'll own them in 20 years.
     
    johnmilton likes this.
  5. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    A very nice and well matched set. The '81, '86 and '88 are my
    favorites. Thanks for sharing.
     
    johnmilton likes this.
  6. cpm9ball

    cpm9ball CANNOT RE-MEMBER

    Beautiful set! If I had to pick one (for myself) I would take the 1881.
     
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  7. micbraun

    micbraun coindiccted Supporter

    Very nice set! The 1880 and 1883 appear to have PL surfaces. Have you created a gold dollar registry set?
     
    johnmilton likes this.
  8. David Betts

    David Betts Elle Mae Clampett cruising with Dad

    Wow Jon, a beautiful set! So envious Awesome
     
    johnmilton likes this.
  9. kanga

    kanga 65 Year Collector Supporter

    Wow!!!
    I've got one for my type set; it's an 1867.
    And it's not as good as any of yours.
     
    johnmilton likes this.
  10. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    1867 is a much tougher date. The pieces from 1880s had low mintages, and many of them are Proof-Likes. Dealers and speculators saved many of them, and the survival rates are very high. These coins make idea type pieces because they are very sharply stuck and high grade.
     
    David Betts likes this.
  11. wxcoin

    wxcoin Getting no respect for 65 years

    Nice coins and write up. I don't even have gold fillings!
     
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  12. David Betts

    David Betts Elle Mae Clampett cruising with Dad

    I'll take the 80!!!!!!
     
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  13. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Pretty matching set. I love it.
     
    johnmilton likes this.
  14. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Yes, the 1880 is quite the coin. I paid a premium for that one in a Heritage auction. It looks better in person than it does in that photo.

    It's in an Old Green Label (OGL) PCGS MS-65 holder. It does not have a CAC sticker. The CAC-a-files tell us that CAC has reviewed EVERY coin that is offered in the major auctions. If this true, I guess CAC didn't like that one.
     
    David Betts likes this.
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