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All Posts Tagged With: "Collecting Tips"

Is It Time to Buy an S.S. Central America Double Eagle Gold Coin ?

By Doug Winter –

For many years, it’s been no secret that I haven’t been a big fan of the 1857-S double eagles that trace their origin from the famous S.S. Central America shipwreck. I’ve written that price levels of these coins haven’t made sense to me and I’ve have had problems with their appearance. More than a decade after they were first released onto the market, has my opinion changed?

I believe that this is (finally) a sensible time to purchase an S.S.C.A double eagle. But there are some important parameters for the collector to follow when considering a purchase. Some of these are as follows:

1. Be Selective. There are over 5,000 1857-S double eagles from this shipwreck and they range in grade from Extremely Fine to Mint State-67. With this wide variety of grades, there are a tremendous number of coins to choose from. At any given major auction, there are typically three to five available and it isn’t terribly hard to find them in specialist dealer’s inventories. I have noticed a huge variation in quality for coins in the same grade. As an example, I’ve seen some in MS63 holders that I’ve loved and I’ve seen some in MS63 holders that I thought were horrible. Spend 10-20% more and buy a coin that is high end and attractive. In some instances, you will be able to buy nice, high end examples for little or no premium.

2. Find the Sweet Spot. In my opinion, the “right” grade range for one of these 1857-S double eagles is MS63 to MS64. There is not much of a premium for these two grades over AU and lower Mint State grades and when you buy a coin that grades MS63 to MS64 you are getting good value. In the current market, AU58 examples can bring as much as $3,500-4,000. An MS63 is worth around $7,000-8,000 while an MS64 is worth $8,000-9,000. It seems to me that an MS63 at around 2x the price of an AU58 is good value. And it also seems to me that an MS64 at around $1,000 more than an MS63 is good value as well.

3. Stick With Coins in Original Holders. It is important to focus on 1857-S double eagles that are in their original gold foil PCGS holders. And having the original box and other packaging is an added benefit. Avoid coins that are not in these holders and stay clear of NGC graded S.S. Central America double eagles. They may be nice coins but they have been cracked from their original holders and probably upgraded.

4. Avoid Coins That Have “Turned” in the Holder: All of the coins in this treasure were conserved after they salvaged. The conservation process has been well-documented and, in some cases, the work was outstanding. But there are other coins that have “turned” in the holder. These can be identified either by very hazy surfaces or unnatural splotchy golden color. Avoid these coins and look for pieces that are bright, lustrous and evenly toned. At this point in time, coins that haven’t turned are probably not going to.

5. Disregard The Die Varieties. All 1857-S double eagles from the shipwreck are attributed to a distinct die variety. There are over 20 varieties known. Some are probably rare but it is even rarer to find a collector who cares. I’d suggest not paying a premium for these.

6. If You Are Buying a PL or DMPL Example, Carefully Study the Market. A very small number of 1857-S double eagles were designated as either Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by PCGS. These are some of the most visually arresting coins from the shipwreck. I have seen a few pieces in the last few years bring extremely high premiums. These are no doubt very scarce and very flashy coins but I question the premium that they are currently bringing. If you do decide to purchase such a coin, carefully check auction prices for comparable examples and make certain that the price you are paying is in line with the last auction trade. (more…)

Coin Collector Tips: The Twenty Five Most Overlooked Early Seated Coins

By Ken Cable-Camilleis E-Gobrecht

The following is a collector value assessment of coins within the portion of the Liberty Seated series spanning the years 1837 through 1852, all denominations. The foregoing analysis is based on several factors, including but not limited to the PCGS Population/NGC Census Reports, various pricing guides, and extensive personally compiled data and statistics related to general market presence. This compilation indicates, based on my observations and research, what in the realm of mainstream numismatics could be the 25 most underrated Seated coins within this period.

1846 Half DimeMy research suggests that presently there are no overpriced Seated coins dated prior to 1853. I also surmise that most of the dimes and quarters minted from 1840 through 1851 are dramatically undervalued in the mainstream market. While working from such a large sample space of dates and varieties within the five Seated denominations covering the 16-year span of 1837-52, it was a tough call to narrow the field down to 25 specific coins that have especially captured my attention.

The reader should bear in mind that the coins enumerated in this work are not all “classic rarities” because current pricing may have already taken their rarity into consideration. They are simply coins that have received too little attention, or coins that can be obtained relatively cheaply. Some of these coins may already be recognized by LSCC members or other numismatic specialists as having been overlooked. Their market values are not, however, reflected in the most influential price guides, especially the Coin Dealer Newsletter “Greysheet” Quarterly (CDNQ) which since 1992 seems to have been the predominant buyer guide for Seated material.

1848 Seated QuarterAnother observation is that most certified coins of 1837-52 are “market graded” for their assigned grade. Therefore, I have taken into consideration that many Seated coins of this period that are certified MS60 to MS62 may actually have cabinet friction, obtrusive field abrasions or hairline scratches, poorly struck stars and areas within devices, or wear which is confused with poor strike. I have even seen Seated coins slabbed MS63 to MS65 for which I would assign technical grades in the AU range! Choice pieces seem to represent less than 25% of third-party-graded Seated coins from 1837 through 1852, and even some that have few blemishes are not fully struck (that is, all 13 stars, full head/shield details, full eagle features, and anything else that is supposed to be struck up).

The notation “ATB” means across-the-board, that is, all grades from Good through mint state (and proofs where applicable), “MS” means MS60 or better business strike, and “GEM” means MS65 or better.

25. 1840-O No Drapery 25c, ATB. This is a cute coin. I’ve developed a soft spot for this one-year-one-mint style, for which a cameo-like effect is produced with the placement of devices against the backdrop of the fields. I have found this date somewhat tough to obtain problem-free. In MS64, it appears priced almost right, but considerable upward adjustments should be made for all circulated grades and the lower MS grades. I really enjoyed the article in the CDN Monthly Supplement for December 2007 by Larry Briggs on Seated quarters … as I’ve enjoyed his great publication work of 1991. I believe that most of the mint-state coins of this issue that came from the New Orleans hoard have environmental damage from having been buried in the ground, perhaps making them not certifiable by PCGS or NGC.

24. 1848 5c Medium Date, GEM. Although a relatively “high-pop” coin, my analyses suggest that this more common variety of the 1848 Philly half dime is not as easy to find in MS65 as has been believed. In fact, its O-mint counterpart appears on the market with much greater frequency. (more…)

Which Gold Coins Are Popular and Why: Part One

BY Doug Winter –

A question that I am often asked by new collectors is “which gold coins are popular?” I think this is a great question and one certainly deserving of a blog. I’m going to not only answer this question for each denomination, I’m going to give a few reasons why I think certain coins/types are or are not popular.

I. Gold Dollars

People tend to be in one of two camps when it comes to gold dollars: they either love them or they hate them. This is mainly due to these coins small size. I am clearly in the “love ‘em” camp and have, over the years, handled many finest known and Condition Census pieces.

In my experience, the most popular gold dollars are the Dahlonega issues. Produced from 1849 through 1861, they are very collectible and a number of the issues are quite affordable. The most popular is the 1861-D which, at this point in time, is the single most popular gold dollar of any date. This is clearly due to this coins historic significance.

At one time, the Type Two issues were extremely popular with date collectors. But the values of the 1854 and 1855 Philadelphia issues have dropped considerably in recent years. At the same time, the branch mint issues of this design (1855-O, 1855-C, 1855-D and 1856-S) have become exceedingly popular.

Type Three gold dollars tend to be overlooked but offer the collector a number of very good values. The best known–and most popular–issue is the ultra-low mintage 1875.

II. Quarter Eagles

As a denomination, quarter eagles are fairly popular and they are clearly increasing in popularity each year.

The pre-1834 issues are all rare. They are not as popular as the half eagles and eagles of this era but there are a number of people who specialize in them and they are seldom overlooked when offered for sale. The most popular early dates are the 1796 No Stars and the 1808. Both are one-year types that have low original mintage figures. (more…)


by Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle Rarities

pinnacle_commems_092409Between 1892 and 1954, there were 50 different silver commemoratives authorized by Congress: 48 Half Dollars along with a single Quarter and Dollar. Because many of these were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins that constitute the Classic Silver Commemorative category. Many of the coins were designed in contest by important sculptors and among them are some of the most creative examples of coinage art in all of numismatics. They also form an instructive history course of our nation, as each commemorates an important event.

Commemoratives differ from regular issue coins as they are struck primarily for collectors rather than to circulate as money, although they are legal tender. Most Classic Commemoratives were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, typically to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the particular celebration. The very first such exhibition was the 1892 Chicago World’s fair, which produced the 1892 Columbus Half Dollar, honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

Silver Commemoratives can be assembled in nearly an endless number of ways, in all price ranges, making them an easy area to pursue. Purchasing one of each of the 50 unique designs is referred to as a type set. The ambitious pursuit of a complete set requires one of each of the 144 dates and mintmarks referenced above. If you prefer a less daunting task, you can choose among any number of sub segments to match your particular interests.