US Coins

1855-C Indian Head gold dollar poorly plugged

An entry-level 1855-C Indian Head gold dollar graded PCGS Genuine, Fine Details, Plugged, brought $552 at an October 2017 Heritage auction.

Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Major grading services use Details grading to encapsulate coins that have been cleaned, are holed, have severe scratches or other issues that prevent them from being assigned a grade from 1 to 70. For coins with such problems, details grading assigns an adjectival grade based on the amount of wear as a result of circulation, and the surface problem is noted on the certification label.

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. defines a holed coin as “a coin that has had a hole punched in it post-minting,” and uses the term “plugged” for “ones that were previously holed, typically for suspension as jewelry, and have had their holes filled in to conceal the damage. As the affected area usually includes design features, these will show evidence of re-engraving.”

Here is one particularly remarkable plugged coin that traded at a recent auction:

The Lot:

1855-C Indian Head gold dollar, PCGS Genuine, Fine Details, Plugged


The Price:


The Story:

With a diameter of just 14.3 millimeters and weighing in at a puny 1.7 grams, an 1855-C Indian Head gold dollar is a tiny coin. Just 9,803 gold dollars were produced at the Charlotte Mint in 1855 and PCGS CoinFacts suggests that 175 exist today in all grades. PCGS CoinFacts also notes that the issue has the unfortunate distinction of surviving in the lowest average grade of any gold dollar.

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The issue is popular with series specialists and Charlotte Mint aficionados as it’s the only Indian Head small-sized (Type Two) gold dollar struck at that facility. Most examples were struck on poor quality planchets. Gold specialist Doug Winter observed that any example of this date with even marginally good eye appeal is very rare, concluding, “The quality-conscious collector of Charlotte coinages will have to relax his standards when it comes to this issue.”

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This one, graded PCGS Fine Details, Plugged, sold for just $552 last autumn, making it the cheapest example to sell in recent memory. Of course, a hole and subsequent crude repair is especially problematic on a small coin and this one also has a large gash on the reverse. Considering that a problem-free Fine example might sell for around $2,000, this provided an entry-level opportunity for a value-conscious collector.

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