The Dahlonega Mint

The Dahlonega, Georgia Mint (1838-1861)

by Timothy O’Fallon  Tim@GibraltarCoins.com
 
When a young hunter accidentally bagged a gold nugget in 1828, Georgians experienced their own gold rush.   Due to the rich and vast gold deposits, the Federal government authorized the construction of a United States Mint in the new town of Dahlonega, Georgia. This new Mint was joined by Mints in Charlotte, North Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana.  No silver or copper coins were minted in Dahlonega: only gold, sweet gold.  After a rocky start, the very first gold coins were produced in 1838: gorgeous $5.00 “half eagle” coins. In 1839, the first $2.50 “quarter eagles” were made, and in 1849 the Mint began producing $1.00 gold coins as well.  The Confederacy seized the Dahlonega Mint in January of 1861, and produced a number of $1.00 gold coins and $5.00 gold coins that year. After 1861, the minting of coins ceased forever at the Dahlonega Mint. After a fire destroyed the building in December of 1878, all that remains of this fascinating Mint is a single photograph and the coins that were produced there.
 
 

How to Collect Dahlonega Gold Coins

I have found the following to be some of the best (and most profitable in the long run) ways to collect gold coins from Dahlonega:
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1The Basic 3-Coin Type Set:  This consists of any date $1 gold coin, any date $2.50 Coin, and any date $5.00 coin from the Dahlonega Mint. In “About Uncirculated” Condition, a pleasing basic 3-Coin Type set may cost somewhere in the $11,000 range and take a moderate amount of time to assemble in current market conditions. I think a few hundred sets can be assembled in “AU” or better condition.
 
2. The Full 10-Coin (11 Coins with Optional $3 Indian Princess) Type Set: This consists of one coin from each denomination and major design from the Dahlonega Mint.  This set may take a couple of years or more to assemble, and in “About Uncirculated” condition may cost in the $120,000 range ($165,000 range with the inclusion of the $3 Indian Princess). I think no more than about 12 collectors in the world can assemble the set in “AU” or better condition. The set should include:
 
Dahlonega Mint PageThe $1 Gold Type 1 (1849-1854)

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $1 Gold Type 2 (1855 only)

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $1 Gold Type 3 (1856-1861)    

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $2.50 Classic Head (1839 only)    

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $2.50 Liberty Small Date (1840- 1843)    

Picture9The $2.50 Liberty Large Date (1844-1860)    

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $3.00 Indian Princess (1854) Optional    

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $5.00 Classic Head (1838 only)    

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $5.00 Liberty Obverse Mint Mark (1839 Only)    

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $5.00 Liberty Small Letters (1840- some of 1842)  

Dahlonega Mint PageThe $5.00 Liberty Large Letters (some of 1842-1861)    

 

 

3. The $1 Set - 13 Coins: As a set, the Dahlonega $1 gold is among the rarest of all branch mint gold collections, but due to the small size of the $1 coins the value is extremely good. A complete set in “AU” condition should be possible to assemble for approximately $130,000.00. This presents an excellent opportunity to own an extraordinarily historic set (including the elusive 1855-D $1 coin and the 1861-D $1, the latter of which was minted exclusively under Confederate authority) for a reasonable price. Since $1 gold coins are small, this series has been ignored by many, providing the intelligent collector with an excellent opportunity to acquire an extremely rare complete set at an extremely good value. I think no more than about 10 sets can be assembled in “AU” or better condition. See the $1.00 Gold section below for a list of dates.

 

Dahlonega Mint Page4.The $2.50 (quarter eagle) Set – 20 Coins: The Dahlonega quarter eagle ($2.50) set, which includes 20 coins, has a growing following. The coins are beautiful, interesting, and in some cases extremely challenging to find. About the size of a dime, complete sets are elusive, with the finest in history being the “Duke’s Creek Collection” which was broken up and sold individually some years ago (the $5s remained intact).  It would almost certainly take several years to find all the coins. A complete set in “AU” condition can likely be assembled for in the $185,000.00 range. This price can rise in the time it takes to complete the set, increasing the cost (and the value) of the set. In my opinion, it is only possible for about 6 or 7 of these sets to be assembled in “AU” or better condition. See the $2.50 Gold section below for a list of dates.

 

Picture185. The $3.00 Gold Indian Princess – 1 Coin: Among the most sought-after and elusive of all coins from the Dahlonega Mint is the $3 Gold “Indian Princess”, produced for only one year at Dahlonega – 1854. A single coin completes the set. Owning a coin in any grade, even with damage, is a major accomplishment. NGC or PCGS Certified “Very Fine” examples can run over $20,000.00, “Extremely Fine” coins upwards of $35,000.00, “AU” coins over $50,000.00, and Mint State Coins close to $200,000.00. While 40 or so of these coins may exist in AU condition, they are very rarely found and snapped up quickly because of their desirability as part of sets of all $3 gold coins, and as a desirable part of a Dahlonega Type set.

 

 

Picture196. The $5.00 (half eagle) Set – 26 Coins: A complete set of nice quality Dahlonega $5 gold coins is something few individuals have ever accomplished. Incredibly popular among collectors, these are the largest coins produced at the Dahlonega Mint (somewhere between nickel and quarter size). The Dahlonega $5.00 coins of 1861 were all minted under Confederate supervision. Few series in U.S. numismatics are more important or evoke more envy. There are a total of 26 coins in the set, and in About Uncirculated Condition a complete, quality set would run in the $250,000.00 to $300,000.00 range. Partly because of the popularity of the 1861-D $5, the serious rarity of the 1842-D Large Date, and the demand for 1839-D $5.00 coins for type sets, I estimate fewer than 6 complete sets of Dahlonega $5 can be assembled in “AU” or better condition. This is a true challenge that would require patience. See the $5.00 Gold section below for a list of dates.

 

7. The Complete Dahlonega Gold Set*: Assembling one each of every collectible Dahlonega gold coin (60 coins) in About Uncirculated condition or better, would make the kind of collection that has only been assembled a handful of times in U.S. history. Finding the right coins would likely take over a decade and at current market levels might run in the $600,000 to $700,000 range. But the issue is availability, with some coins coming onto market very infrequently. Perhaps only 1 or 2 nice complete Dahlonega Gold sets like this can be assembled going forward, especially with other collectors and investors pursuing denomination-specific sets only.  

 

The Coins

 

Click here to see our current Dahlonega coin inventory

 

United States Mint Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861

 

The “mintage” is the number of coins produced that year in Dahlonega. The “Estimated Survivors” refers to undamaged and never harshly cleaned coins that can be certified by NGC or PCGS. The Estimated Survivors numbers cited are from PCGS CoinFacts, a valuable numismatic resource.

  

 

$1.00 Gold 1849-1861

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1. 1849-D $1. Mintage: 21,588 – Estimated Survivors: 300

2. 1850-D $1. Mintage: 8,382 - Estimated Survivors: 125

3. 1851-D $1. Mintage: 9,882 – Estimated Survivors: 175

4. 1852-D $1. Mintage: 6,360 – Estimated Survivors: 125

5. 1853-D $1. Mintage: 6,583 – Estimated Survivors: 125

6. 1854-D $1. Mintage: 2,935– Estimated Survivors: 90

 

 

Type II $1 Gold

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7. 1855-D $1. Mintage: 9,803 — Estimated Survivors:  175

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Type III $1 Gold

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8. 1856-D $1. Mintage: 1,460– Estimated Survivors: 95

9. 1857-D $1. Mintage: 13,280– Estimated Survivors: 140

10. 1858-D $1. Mintage: 3,477– Estimated Survivors: 175

11. 1859-D $1. Mintage: 4,952– Estimated Survivors: 200

12. 1860-D $1   Mintage: 1,566– Estimated Survivors: 100

13. 1861-D $1. Mintage: Unknown (900?) – Estimated Survivors: 75

 

 

$2.50 Gold 1839-1859

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 Classic Head $2.50 Gold

  1. 1. 1839-D. Mintage: 13,674– Estimated Survivors: 200

 

 

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Liberty Head $2.50 Gold, Small Date

2. 1840-D. Mintage: 3,532– Estimated Survivors: 65

3. 1841-D. Mintage: 4,164– Estimated Survivors: 75

4. 1842-D. Mintage: 4,643– Estimated Survivors: 80

5. 1843-D. Mintage: 36,209– Estimated Survivors: 340

 

 

 

Liberty Head $2.50 Gold, Large Date

6. 1844-D. Mintage: 17,332– Estimated Survivors: 225

7. 1845-D. Mintage: 19,460– Estimated Survivors: 200

8. 1846-D. Mintage: 19,303– Estimated Survivors: 200

9. 1847-D. Mintage: 15,784– Estimated Survivors: 225

10. 1848-D. Mintage: 13,771– Estimated Survivors: 225

11. 1849-D. Mintage: 10,945– Estimated Survivors: 150

12, 1850-D. Mintage: 12,148– Estimated Survivors: 150

13. 1851-D. Mintage: 11,264– Estimated Survivors: 120

14. 1852-D. Mintage: 4,078– Estimated Survivors: 100

15. 1853-D. Mintage: 3,178– Estimated Survivors: 90

16. 1854-D. Mintage: 1,760– Estimated Survivors: 75

17. 1855-D. Mintage: 1,123– Estimated Survivors: 60

18. 1856-D. Mintage: 874– Estimated Survivors: 50

19. 1857-D. Mintage: 2,364– Estimated Survivors: 125

20. 1859-D. Mintage: 2,244– Estimated Survivors: 175

 

 

$3.00 Gold 1854 Only

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Indian Princess $3.00 Gold

1. 1854-D. Mintage: 1,120– Estimated Survivors: 300

 

 

$5.00 Gold 1838-1861

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Classic Head $5.00 Gold

  1. 1. 1838-D. Mintage: 20,583– Estimated Survivors: 275

 

 

Liberty Head $5.00 Gold, Mintmark on Obverse

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  1. 2. 1839-D. Mintage: 18,939– Estimated Survivors: 150

 

 

Liberty Head $5.00 Gold, Small Letters Reverse

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3. 1840-D. Mintage: 22,896– Estimated Survivors: 165

4. 1841-D. Mintage: 29,392– Estimated Survivors: 297

5. 1842-D (Small Date). Mintage: 37,917– Estimated Survivors: 200

6. 1842-D (Large Date). Mintage: 21,691– Estimated Survivors: 90

7. 1843-D. Mintage: 98,452– Estimated Survivors: 475

 

 

Liberty Head $5.00 Gold, Large Letters Reverse

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8. 1844-D. Mintage: 88,452– Estimated Survivors: 250

9. 1845-D. Mintage: 90,629– Estimated Survivors: 275

10. 1846-D. Mintage: 80,294– Estimated Survivors: 140

11. 1846-D/D. Mintage: Included Above– Estimated Survivors:  125

12. 1847-D. Mintage: 64,405– Estimated Survivors: 250

13. 1848-D. Mintage: 47,405– Estimated Survivors: 175

14. 1849-D. Mintage: 39,036– Estimated Survivors: 185

15. 1850-D. Mintage: 43,984– Estimated Survivors: 175

16. 1851-D. Mintage: 62,710– Estimated Survivors: 175

17. 1852-D. Mintage: 91,854– Estimated Survivors: 300

18. 1853-D. Mintage: 89,678– Estimated Survivors: 365

19. 1854-D. Mintage: 56,413– Estimated Survivors: 315

20. 1855-D. Mintage: 22,432– Estimated Survivors: 165

21. 1856-D. Mintage: 19,786– Estimated Survivors: 400

22. 1857-D. Mintage: 17,046– Estimated Survivors: 145

23. 1858-D. Mintage: 15,362– Estimated Survivors: 165

24. 1859-D. Mintage: 10,366– Estimated Survivors: 175

25. 1860-D. Mintage: 14,635– Estimated Survivors: 190

26. 1861-D. Mintage: 1,597– Estimated Survivors: 75

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Privately Minted Dahlonega, Georgia Gold

The First privately minted U.S. gold coins of the 18th century were produced by a man named Templeton Reid (b1789-d1851). He was a blacksmith from Milledgeville, Georgia (the state capital at the time), who saw a need for local gold coins to make shopping a lot easier in gold rush Georgia. It is estimated that only 1 U.S. minted coin per citizen actually existed in the United States in 1830, and buying provisions with gold dust had its drawbacks. Templeton Reid used relatively primitive equipment to produce beautiful $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00 gold coins starting in July of 1830. Unfortunately for Mr. Reid, an anonymous local launched a campaign to discredit Templeton and his money. The anonymous critic, named “No Assayer” in the newspapers, claimed that the actual melt value of the $10 coins was only $9.38, giving Mr. Reid an “obscene” 7% profit. Apparently Templeton Reid was using mostly raw gold, and did not have the assay equipment to purify it. The controversy ruined him, and minting ceased in October of 1830. The Reid mint thus only produced coins for 4 months. Nearly all these coins were melted, and a few scant survivors are all that remain to tell of this chapter in Georgia gold rush history. Of the three denominations he produced, most survivors are the $2.50s. The $5 and $10 gold coins are extraordinarily rare. In 1849, Templeton Reid was working as a blacksmith, jeweler, and cotton gin maker in Gainesville, Georgia when he decided to make a couple of new coins out of California gold, in honor of the California gold rush.   He made a $10 “California Gold” coin and a $25 “California Gold” piece, probably from gold coming back to Georgia from the California gold rush. The $10 coin dated 1849 is in the Smithsonian, and the whereabouts of the $25 coin is unknown. If you find it in your grandpa’s stuff in the attic, please give me a call. Here are the possible coins to collect, valued at between $150,000.00 and $1 Million each:

 

1830 Issue

  • Georgia $2.50 Gold – Perhaps 20 Known
  • Georgia $5.00 Gold – 7 known
  • Georgia $10.00 Gold (2 varieties) – 9 known

 

1849 Issue

  • “California” $10.00 Gold – 1 Known, Smithsonian
  • “California” $25.00 Gold – 1 Made, unknown whether it has survived

 

 

The Story of the Dahlonega, Georgia Mint

He Got A Lot More Than A Buck

On Benjamin Park’s 25th birthday, he decided to go deer hunting. He knew that patch of north Georgia forest like his own backyard, because years before that autumn day in 1828 he’d been granted the right to hunt it and graze his small herd of cattle there. In fact, as he sought a good trophy Buck he passed by the old hollowed-out log filled with salt to which he’s often led his cattle. “Bennie”, as his friends called him, nearly turned his ankle on a slippery rock near a creek bed. He grumbled. The new boots he’d gotten for his birthday were going to be harder than expected to break in. Suddenly he froze. Was that movement in the underbrush across the creek? Did he spot an antler? Raiding his nearly six foot long-rifle, “Old Suzie”, to his shoulder, Bennie planted his feet to steady himself…and promptly slipped on a stone. The slip caused a clatter that sent the young buck leaping away in the distance. Furious, Bennie picked up the offending stone and flung it to the ground, splitting it open at a weak point. The broken rock glinted yellow in the sunlight, and Bennie bent down to take a closer look. He swallowed hard. That was no ordinary rock.

From Lick-Log To Yellow Money

Dahlonega Mint Page

 

In a matter of months the area around Bennie’s “Licklog” in Georgia became the center of a national gold rush, and by the 1830’s a small town had sprung up on the site. Since the name “Lick-log” didn’t properly reflect the luster of the new golden settlement, the populace renamed it “Dahlonega”, which came from a Native American word meaning “yellow” or “yellow money”. Prospectors could not contain their excitement over the quantity and the quality of the gold there. Bennie himself, having regrettably sold his claim to the veteran statesman John C. Calhoun, was able to gather 50 pure ounces a month just from the land around his own homestead! And the gold was pure indeed, the purest naturally occurring gold in the United States. In 1830, a blacksmith from Milledgeville, the enterprising Templeton Reid, offered his services as a moneyer to convert the gold dust and nuggets discovered by the prospectors to actual coins. He made over 1,500 coins but was forced to close in October of the same year due to the efforts of an anonymous individual who repeatedly sent letters to the local newspapers disparaging the purity of Reid’s coinage. Almost all were melted. Gold was plentiful; minted coins were in very short supply. To solve this problem, an act of Congress under the urging of President Andrew Jackson approved the construction of three southern branch Mint facilities:

  1. The Charlotte, North Carolina Mint (site of the first U.S. gold rush in 1799)
  2. The Dahlonega, Georgia Mint (this would be the most imposing building in the small town)
  3. The New Orleans, Louisiana Mint (to process and coin the raw gold and ingots coming into the port of New Orleans from Mexico and South America)

 

A "Few" Problems

The Dahlonega Mint

 

For some reason, the Mint chose as supervisor of the design and construction of the Dahlonega Mint building a part time Methodist minister with little experience in construction. His name was Ignatius Few. Few paid scant attention to the project. He lived out of town, visited the site infrequently, failed to communicate with Mint officials in Philadelphia, and was distracted with the founding of what would later become Emory College. The Mint directed Few to hire out “skilled labor” but it was anything but. As a result, when the Chief Coiner at the Philadelphia Mint visited the construction site in September of 1837, he wrote that the workmen at Dahlonega “certainly deserve diplomas for Botching”. By the time coining commenced in 1838, the building was finished but the roof leaked and some of the supporting beams were poorly placed. The employees were already disgruntled, the “state of the art” equipment was flawed, and communications between the Dahlonega Mint and the Philadelphia office went from bad to worse. Under these conditions the production of gold coins was a small miracle. The few surviving pieces are highly prized by collectors. Along with gold coins produced by the Charlotte and New Orleans Mints, Dahlonega coins have an elite reputation in the numismatic community and among knowledgeable American historians.  

 

 

 

“Thar’s Gold In Them Thar Hills!"

The Dahlonega MintDahlonega Mint Page

The beginning of the end of the Dahlonega Mint was caused by a gold rush in a different part of the country: California. In 1849 miners left the Georgia fields in droves to try their luck west of the Sierra Nevada. The gold in California was nowhere near as pure as that found in Georgia, but according to the ‘49ers it was more plentiful. Matthew Stephenson, assayer at the Dahlonega Mint, tried to stem the outgoing tide of miners. Pointing to Findley Ridge, he shouted at 200 men from the balcony of the Dahlonega Courthouse, “Why go to California? In that ridge lies more gold than man ever dreamt of. There’s millions in it.” Mark Twain later sensationalized Dr. Stephenson’s remarks to “Thar’s gold in them thar hills!”

 

 

 

 

The Fog Of War And The Mists Of Time

Dahlonega Mint Page

The Dahlonega Mint continued to eke out coins until 1861, when Confederate forces seized the facility. Interestingly, a few $1 gold coins and $5 gold coins were produced while the Confederate army had possession of the mint. After the war, the building was used as the main building for the North Georgia College, founded in 1873. In December of 1878, a fire completely destroyed the Dahlonega Mint building. Another building was erected on the site, the “Price Memorial Hall”, and local citizens covered its steeple in Dahlonega gold leaf in 1972. And Bennie Parks, the young hunter who accidentally started the Georgia gold rush? He outlived the Dahlonega Mint, making trips on foot back to his old homestead until his death in 1895 at the age of 90, still carrying his rifle “Old Suzie” over his shoulder. And each trip, he would stop by a schoolyard along the way to tell the children stories about his gold discovery and other adventures. Perhaps he even amazed them with a gold coin from his pocket, a coin marked “D” for Dahlonega, the U.S. Mint down the road apiece, where he used to lead his cattle to lick a log of salt. Questions?  Feel free to contact us here.