Monday, February 1, 2010

Coin Monday: Wreath Arms Wide Open

Feb. 1, 2010
Written by John Dale

My taste in coins is well-defined: I favor proof Seated silver, classic and modern commemoratives, and obscure 19th century gold rarities.

My taste in music, on the other hand…well, calling it a “taste” stretches the definition of the word. But decidedly under-represented in the mix: power ballads. Pat Benatar is acceptable, but I draw the line at Michael Bolton, and ditto for any song title combining the words “arms” and “open” (see Journey, “Open Arms,” and Creed, “With Arms Wide Open” [JDB, I have to take issue with the Journey diss. Those guys stuill rock! In fact, my frist concert, at age 13, was Journey and Bryan Adams at the now-gone Reunion Arena here in Dallas! - NTF).

When the arms are those of a wreath, however, I do like open arms — and in the case of the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar, those open arms hold immense rarity, not to mention potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in value. Heritage is offering an 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar, believed to be one of just five known, in the swiftly approaching February 2010 Long Beach U.S. Coin Auction. For many years, the fifth example was only rumored, though within the last couple of weeks Heritage has received information that all but confirms the existence of the fifth coin.

There are two major design varieties among gold dollars struck in 1849, the first year of the denomination, at the mint in Charlotte, NC. The “Open Wreath” coins have the ends of the wreath far away from the 1 in the denomination. The “Closed Wreath” coins, such as this example, have the ends in much closer. Both coins are from The Longfellow Collection, a remarkable gathering of gold dollars with the 1849-C Open Wreath as the cornerstone.

What makes the Open Wreath 1849-C gold dollar so rare? Between both Open Wreath and Closed Wreath coins, there were just 11,634 1849-C gold dollars struck. Researchers believe the Open Wreath coins were struck first, but only a couple hundred of them were made before the Closed Wreath design replaced the Open Wreath. Mint officials found fault with the technical details of the Open Wreath reverse, hence the replacement. For a Charlotte gold dollar issue, a survival rate below 3% is not unusual, so if, for example, 200 Open Wreath pieces were made originally, it wouldn’t be strange for just five coins to remain today.

Some rarities are famous, others obscure. To the collecting population at large, the Open Wreath 1849-C gold dollar is the latter, but the catalog description quotes Douglas Winter as saying, “Among Charlotte [gold] collectors, it has assumed near-mythic proportions.” What will it bring? A coin so infrequently seen is hard to predict, but a six-figure sum is virtually assured.

It’s time for me to go back to cataloging. I often catalog to music, and this time, I think I’ll make an exception to my usual rule about power ballads. Bring on the Pat Benatar! But should I start with “Shadows of the Night” or “Invincible?” Decisions, decisions… [I can only assume, John Dale, that you went with “Invincible.” – NTF]

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-John Dale Beety

1 comment:

  1. Let's see proof of the fifth coin! There has been too much talk of it. I have seen 2 of the 4 open wreaths in person, so I would be very interested is seeing the existence of the 5th.