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San Francisco $1 part of Gold Rush history

item0108_1.jpgWhile not common, the 1854-S gold dollar is certainly not a great rarity. As a souvenir of the famous California Gold Rush, however, it?s hard to find a better item.

The story of the 1854-S gold dollar begins in a stream back in 1848 when John Marshall discovered the first nugget of gold in California. It was a good day for Marshall and an even better one for California. The gold rush was on.

In a short time, the port of San Francisco became one of the most active ports in the world. The city grew by leaps and bounds, if not in the most perfectly planned manner. The new mint in San Francisco was no exception to the rule. It was little more than an improvised structure.

 Congress apparently did not want to invest a lot of money in a facility for the unwashed mob of fortune seekers that called San Francisco home.
Things did not happen fast. For a number of years large shipments of gold were sent to the mints in the East, but that basically came to an end when the San Francisco Mint opened for business in 1854.

The first coin was struck in San Francisco on April 15, 1854. It was a double eagle. In fact, the 1854 mintages were primarily double eagles and gold eagles.

The priority in 1854 and for years after would be large gold coins. There would be heavy shipments of the coins produced so double eagles were a natural choice. The local economy seemed to get by no matter what was in circulation.

The 1854-S mintage was an interesting case of extremes. The eagles and double eagles were produced in fairly large numbers of more than 100,000 of each. Half and quarter eagle totals were less than 300. There were 14,632 gold dollars minted.

Item0108_2-b.jpgOf the gold denominations, the 1854-S dollar mintage was quite low, but not  rare, which may have reflected some need in commerce at the time. There were assorted private mints generally making denominations higher than $1, so there may have been a need for dollar coins.

Coin collecting was not in its heyday at the time, but the 1854-S is relatively available today despite the very low mintage.

In F-12 the 1854-S lists for $260. That has to be viewed as a great price given the mintage of less than 15,000. It lists at $2,450 in MS-60. This price raises the question of how many there can possibly be today in Mint State.

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen 135 examples of the 1854-S. A total of 61 were called Mint State. Two were called MS-65. Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 96 examples. Thirty-five were called Mint State, and two were named MS-65.

The 1854-S?s surprisingly high numbers make for more opportunities to own an historic coin from an historic place and event. That?s a combination one cannot often find.

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