Gold nanoclusters protected by a thiolate monolayer (MPC) are widely studied for their potential applications in site-specific bioconjugate labeling, sensing, drug delivery, and molecular electronics. Several MPCs with 1-2 nm metal cores are currently known to have a well-defined molecular structure, and they serve as an important link between molecularly dispersed gold and colloidal gold to understand the size-dependent electronic and optical properties. Here, we show by using an ab initio method together with atomistic models for experimentally observed thiolate-stabilized gold clusters how collective electronic excitations change when the gold core of the MPC grows from 1.5 to 2.0 nm. A strong localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) develops at 540 nm (2.3 eV) in a cluster with a 2.0 nm metal core. The protecting molecular layer enhances the LSPR, while in a smaller cluster with 1.5 nm gold core, the plasmon-like resonance at 540 nm is confined in the metal core by the molecular layer. Our results demonstrate a threshold size for the emergence of LSPR in these systems and help to develop understanding of the effect of the molecular overlayer on plasmonic properties of MPCs enabling engineering of their properties for plasmonic applications.