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A Gobrecht Silver Dollar… and a Gobrecht Gold Dollar

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In 1836 the U.S. mint finally got around to considering the coinage of a one dollar coin for use in the U.S. economy. Surprisingly the United States mint had not issued a one dollar coin for general circulation since 1804 according the mint records. The mint had produced a small number of 1804 dated silver dollars in 1834, but those coins had been made for diplomatic and collector item purposes.


While Assistant Mint Engraver, Christian Gobrecht, began work on the dies for his famous silver, treasury secretary, Levi Woodbury, was intrigued with another concept for the dollar, a gold dollar. Christopher Bechtler had been producing gold dollars at his small mint in North Carolina for a few years. The coins had circulated in the area, and had occasionally cropped in other areas of the country as well. Secretary Woodbury thought that a gold dollar should be considered, and he asked mint director, Robert M. Patterson, to have the dies prepared for such a piece.


Patterson disapproved of the gold dollar concept because he thought that a tiny coin like that would be an embarrassment to The United States. In Patterson’s opinion only second rate countries issued coins like that. Nevertheless Patterson instructed Christian Gobrecht to set aside his work on the silver dollar and concentrate on producing the gold dollar dies.


Gobrecht chose to borrow a design from the Mexican coinage which was circulating in The United States at the time. The obverse featured a Liberty cap surrounded by rays. The reverse had the required legend, “United States of America,” surrounding a rounded palm frond with the denomination “1 D.” in the center. A small number of these coins were struck to show how the proposed coinage would look.


Mint director Patterson continued to oppose the idea of a gold dollar. He argued that the coin would be too small for people to use easily, and that it would be quite prone to counterfeiting. In the end Patterson won the argument on this occasion although proposals for a gold dollar would continue to pop up until the coin became a reality in 1849.


Below is an example of the Gobrecht gold dollar. The coins were struck in 1836 and again in 1844. There were also additional strikes of these coins in the 1850s. They were the first U.S. gold pattern coins, and they have been popular with collectors for well over a century. Auction records date back to at least 1855 when “a magnificent Proof” example sold for the then high price of $5.75. The estimated popular of these coins is 31 to 75 examples. Several of the pieces that I have seen were impaired, and this is one of the best examples that I have seen.




And to round out the story, here is an example of Gobrecht's silver dollar.





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That 1836 Gobrecht no stars obv. and flying eagle amid stars rev. is probably my most favorite coin ever made in U.S. history. I have seen the Gold dollar before but I know that they are SCARCE, SCARCE, SCARCE. I think they are both SUPER!

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