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All Posts Tagged With: "Rare Date Gold"

Which Civil War Gold Coins Will Be Promoted in 2011?

I don’t consider myself to be a real pro when it comes to rare coin promotion but even I know a no-brainer when I see it. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you can bet that rare coin promotion gurus who are far more clever than I have been preparing for this event for some time.

So if you are Joe Coin Promoter and you are gearing up for the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011, what kind of gold coins can you get enough of to do a promotion? Let’s go denomination by denomination and figure this out.

I. Gold Dollars

Only two mints made gold dollars in 1861: Philadelphia and Dahlonega. The 1861-P is common and cheap; the 1861-D is rare and expensive. The 1861-D is unpromotable; it is too rare to accumulate in quantity and is already too expensive. A clever dealer could probably stealthily buy 40-50 1861-P gold dollars in lower Mint State grades over the course of a year and have enough coins to promote. He could probably find as many 1862-P gold dollars and maybe have as many as 100 coins in total. I would have to wonder, though, if the intended audience for this promotion would get excited about gold dollars as they are small, common and not really “sexy.” As a collector I’d probably avoid stockpiling any Civil War gold dollars to ride the coattails of a promotion.

II. Quarter Eagles

Two mints made quarter eagles in 1861: Philadelphia and San Francisco. The 1861-S is unheralded but scarce and I doubt if you could put together a group of more than three or four over the course of a year. The 1861-P is common in grades up to MS63 and it might be possible to accumulate enough to promote. I like the promotional possibilities of this issue and it might not be a bad idea for a collector to buy a few MS62 to MS63 pieces and see if prices increase in the next few years. None of the other Civil War Philadelphia issues can be found in enough quanity to promote. The San Francisco issues are all rare but it might be possible to put together a rag-tag group of circulated examples.

III. Three Dollar Gold Pieces

You couldn’t promote threes in Uncircirculated as all of the Civil War issues are rare enough and expensive enough to preclude this. But you might actually be able to acculate a few dozen nice circulated pieces. This promotion actually makes sense to me as the three dollar denomination is odd and interesting and it would appeal to non-collectors. It is also out of favor right now so the possibility of buying a fair quantity exists. The 1861-64 dates are all moderately scarce but available in the EF-AU range for less than $4,000 per coin. As a promotion bandwagon jumper, these three dollar gold pieces kind of make sense to me. (more…)

The Finest New Orleans Double Eagle Gold Coin to be Sold at FUN

The upcoming 2011 January Tampa FUN Signature & Platinum Night US Coin Auction features what is probably the finest New Orleans twenty of any date. Easily the finest known 1852-O double eagle, this Gem has been off the market since the early 1970s, when our consignor purchased it through a private treaty transaction with Stack’s.

This coin has long been unavailable for study by most modern researchers, although Doug Winter was aware of it when he wrote the first edition of New Orleans Mint Gold Coins: 1839-1909 in 1992. At that time, Winter considered the specimen in the Dallas Bank Collection the finest known 1852-O, with this coin listed in the number two spot. Like the present coin, the Dallas Bank specimen had only been examined by a few specialists during the 1990s.

After the collection was sold in 2001, Winter had the opportunity to view the coin, and he determined that the present specimen is actually superior to the Dallas Bank example. Jim Halperin, Co-Chairman of Heritage Auction Galleries, had the opportunity to study this coin many years ago, and he always believed it was special. Halperin states that this coin is “By far the best condition New Orleans twenty I have ever seen.” Discounting the SP63 PCGS 1856-O double eagle, a coin that many consider a full proof, no other New Orl eans Mint twenty has been certified in any grade above MS63 by NGC or PCGS.

In 1852 the New Orleans Mint produced a generous mintage of 190,000 Liberty Head double eagles, largely due to the influx of gold from the California gold fields. Because of its substantial mintage, the 1852-O is one of the more available Type One double eagles from the New Orleans Mint. Winter estimates a surviving population of 900-1100 pieces in all grades. Most examples seen are in lower circulated grades, and the issue becomes scarce in AU55 and quite rare in Mint State. Due to the availability of the 1852-O in AU, the date is always in demand from mintmark type collectors, seeking a high grade example for their collections.

Of course, the Miller collection coin is in a class of its own as a condition rarity. No 1852-O double eagle of comparable quality has been offered at auction since the Dallas Bank specimen came on the market, nearly a decade ago. In 2006, a PCGS graded MS62 specimen realized $48,875 as lot 5580 of the Denver Signature Auction in 2006, but even that coin clearly lacked the quality of this magnificent Gem, which grades a full three points higher.

As the finest known specimen of the date, with claims to the title of finest New Orleans business strike double eagle, it might be fair to compare this coin to the finest known specimens of other issues offered at auction recently. Considered as a date, the 1852-O is not in the same rarity category as the 1856-O, the classic rarity of the series, but the rarity of the 1852-O in MS65 is just as great as the rarity of the 1856-O in SP63. (more…)

The Fab Five Type Three $20 Liberty Head Double Eagles

By Doug Winter –

There are five ultra-low mintage Type Three Liberty Head double eagles that were produced for circulation during the 1880’s and 1890’s. These five issues have not necessarily received the attention that the so-called Fab Five late date St. Gaudens double eagles (the 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D and 1932) have but they are now popular with collectors and have risen dramatically in value over the last decade.

The 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886 and 1891 double eagles have a combined mintage of just 5,911. There are a number of possible reasons as to why these issues were made in such limited quantities. The first is that the Philadelphia mint was primarily interested in making silver dollars in these years and a majority of their efforts went towards these coins. I don’t find this plausible as mintage figures for other gold denominations during these years were high; as an example the mint made nearly four million eagles in 1881 alone.

The second was that there was limited demand. This is certainly possible but it does not explain why mintage figures for double eagles during these years at the San Francisco mint tended to exceed one million per annum. Another reason is that the United States economy was slow or worse during most of these years.

In looking at these dates in terms of overall rarity (the total number known) and high grade rarity (rarity in AU50 and higher grades), I rank the Fab Five as follows:

I. Overall Rarity
1. 1882
2. 1881
3. 1886
4. 1891
5. 1885

II. High Grade Rarity

1. 1881
2. 1882
3. 1886
4. 1891
5. 1885

Let’s take a look at each of these dates and discuss their overall and high grade rarity, Condition Census levels, the numbers graded by PCGS and NGC and record prices realized at auction.

I. 1881 Double Eagle

A total of 2,199 were struck of which an estimated three to four dozen exist today. There are none that I know of that grade lower than EF and around seven to ten are known in this grade range. The majority of the examples known are in the AU grades with around twenty-six to thirty-four accounted for.

I am aware of two in Uncirculated and they are as follows:

1. PCGS MS61. Heritage 4/09: 2762 ($120,750), ex Heritage 10/08: 3091 ($138,000), Heritage 1/07: 3203 ($138,000).

2. PCGS MS61. Heritage 6/04: 6363 ($57,500), probably ex Heritage 1997 ANA: 7843 ($29,325; where graded MS60 by PCGS).

The record auction price for this date is $138,000 which was set twice by the coin listed first in the Condition Census above. PCGS, as of December 2010, has graded 24 examples in all grades with just two in Uncirculated (both MS61). NGC has graded 19 in all grades with three in Uncirculated (an MS60 and two in MS61). I believe that the populations for AU coins are inflated by resubmissions. The 1881 is the rarest of the Fab Five is higher grades. (more…)

The Record-Setting Sale of an 1875 Half Eagle: What Does it Portend?

By Doug Winter –

In the Bowers and Merena November 2010 Baltimore auction, a business strike 1875 half eagle sold without a lot of fanfare for a lot of money. I think this was one of the most significant individual sales in the rare gold coin market in 2010 and I’d like to spend a bit of time analyzing both the coin that was sold and the significance it portends for both the Liberty Head half eagle series and the rare gold market as a whole.

The 1875 is the rarest collectible Liberty Head half eagle. (The 1854-S is rarer but with no pieces likely available to collectors in the near future, I regard this issue as “non-collectible.”) Only 200 business strikes were produced and the number of pieces known has generally been estimated to be in the area of ten. I think this estimate is reasonably accurate although I think the actual number known could be as low as seven or eight.

The 1875 is unknown in Uncirculated and most of the examples that exist are in the EF40 to AU50 range. PCGS has graded five coins including an EF40 and two each in AU50 and AU53 while NGC has graded four: one in EF45 and three in AU55. I believe that these figures are inflated by resubmissions and the total number of distinct 1875 half eagles in slabs is four or five. There have been 10 auction appearances since 1991. Six have occurred since 2000 but this includes a number of reappearances of the same coin(s).

The coin in the Bowers and Merena auction was graded AU55 by NGC and it appeared to have been the same coin that was offered as DLRC’s Richmond I: 1444 back in July 2004 where it brought a record-setting $86,250. There had been no other 1875 business strikes that had been available since the Goldberg 2/07: 2335 coin that brought $74,750.

The Bowers coin was part of an interesting set of 1875 gold coinage called the “Kupersmith Once in a Lifetime” collection. Terrible name but an interesting and impressive set with examples of the rare Philadelphia gold dollar, quarter eagle and three dollar gold piece from this year but, curiously without the very rare 1875 business strike (or Proof) eagle. (more…)

The DWN Rare Gold Coin Market Heat Index: 2010

By Doug Winter –

As someone who is pretty attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of the rare gold coin market, I can accurately rate how well (or poorly) a specific series is performing. 2010 was an interesting year for gold coins. We saw tremendous price increases in gold bullion but many areas of the coin market were flat. In the first annual DWN Rare Gold Coin Market Heat Index (cue sizzling sound effect…), I am going to discuss the relative position(s) of the most commonly traded areas of the market.

This totally non-scientific study is keyed to the following ratings, which go from 1 to 10:

1. This series is so cold you couldn’t give the coins away
2-5: This series ranges from ice cold to moderate strength
6-9: This series ranges from strong to very strong
10: This series is en fuego

And without further ado, let’s talk hot or cold gold…

I. Gold Dollars

There is pretty solid overall collector support for gold dollars. While there do not appear to be many specialists working on complete sets, there are a number of collectors working on focused subsets; i.e., Dahlonega dollars, Civil War issues, etc. I would say that Type One branch mint dollars are probably the strongest overall segement of this market and the weakest is, clearly, high grade non-branch mint Type Two coins.

In the Type Three series, I am noticing some strength in very high quality Philadelphia issues from the 1870’s and 1880’s. In most cases, the coins that are the strongest are PCGS graded MS67 and better pieces with great eye appeal. The Charlotte and Dahlonega market is very bifurcated. Top quality original pieces in all grades are very strong while overgraded, non-original pieces are hard to sell even at a serious discount.

OVERALL RATING: 5. This denomination is collector-driven and reasonably strong as of the end of 2010. The coins showing the greatest demand include the very rare Dahlonega issues (1855-D, 1856-D and 1861-D), mintmarked Type Two coins in “collector grades” and Finest Known or high Condition Census Type Three issues graded by PCGS and approved by CAC.

II. Quarter Eagles

This is perhaps the most mixed denomination in the entire U.S. gold oeuvre as the heat index ranges from borderline frigid to pretty toasty. Early quarter eagles are showing mixed collector support. These coins are still undervalued when compared to other early gold denominations but they are no longer “cheap.” Some weak auction results for overgraded 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles have lowered Trends but nice examples of these two significant dates are still in demand. Collectors of early quarter eagles are looking for value. They want either very rare issues that are underpriced (such as the 1826/5 or the 1834) or coins that are choice and original. (more…)

A Numismatically Significant 1859-D Quarter Eagle

By Doug Winter –

I recently bought and sold a seemingly innocuous 1859-D quarter eagle that had a great degree of numismatic significance. Before I explain why, let me give you a little background on the specific coin and on this issue in general.

This 1859-D quarter eagle has been graded as Fine-15 by PCGS. It is the single lowest graded example of this date seen by either service. In looking back through my records, I have seen very few that grade below Extremely Fine and certainly can’t recall a non-damaged Fine example.

The example I sold is problem-free and actually quite attractive despite its extensive wear. It shows nice natural coloration and the obverse is a full Very Fine from the standpoint of detail.

This is the final quarter eagle produced at the Dahlonega mint. But, for all intents and purposes, the death knell for this denomination at the Dahlonega mint had been spelled as early as 1854 when mintages figures declined precipitously from the 1840’s. In 1856, only 874 were struck; making this the lowest mintage figure of any coin ever produced at this branch mint. In 1857-D, the mintage increased to 2,364 but no quarter eagles were made in 1858. 1859 saw a resumption of the denomination but only to the tune of 2,244 coins. None were struck in 1860 and when the mint closed in 1861, no further plans had been made to coin quarter eagles.

The 1857-D and 1859-D are interesting issues among the quarter eagles from this mint. The grade distribution is different for these issues than for nearly all other coins from Dahlonega. The coins from the 1840’s and early 1850’s have what I regard as a typical distribution of survivors: most are in the VF-EF range with AU coins being scarce to rare and Uncirculated coins being very rare to extremely rare.

But in 1857 and 1859, the distribution curve looks different. These two dates are almost never seen in grades below EF and are most often seen in About Uncirculated. Both are rare in Uncirculated but not as much so as their very low mintage figures would suggest. There are as many as ten Uncirculated 1859-D quarter eagles known as well as another four or five dozen in About Uncirculated. This doesn’t seem like a lot of coins but when you consider that there are only 150 or so known from the original mintage, the fact that nearly half grade AU or better suggests that this issue didn’t circulate as freely as the quarter eagles from the 1840’s.

I had long believed that the 1859-D was an issue that saw very little circulation. The existence of the coin shown above is proof that at least a few examples did circulate. I don’t believe that this Fine-15 example was a pocket piece as it shows all the hallmarks of extensive natural circulation. Ironically, it is more rare in this grade than it is in Uncirculated and, to my way of thinking, this is one of the neater Dahlonega quarter eagles to have come up for sale this year: a highly circulated example of a date that was hitherto believed to have never seen extensive circulation. Considering that this coin cost its new owner well under $2,000 I think it is an amazing piece of Southern gold history.

Some Observations About the 2010 Boston ANA Coin Show

To be perfectly frank, I hate coin show reports. I hate to write them. I hate to read them. I don’t care what restaurants a dealer went to and what they ate and I don’t really care that Dealer X spent this much money on those coins at the show. That said, I also know that the ANA is the show that everyone who didn’t attend wants to know about. So, with these people in mind, I thought I’d share a few random observations about the ANA.

On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate this show as a solid 6; possibly a 7. Overall, I’d say a was a tiny bit disappointed. I was expecting the show to be an 8 or a 9 because of the fact that it was the first ANA in Boston since 1982 and the fact that Boston is within a few hours of huge numbers of serious collectors.

I go to coin shows primarily to buy and from a buying standpoint I was reasonably pleased. I bought some great coins. These include an 1854-O double eagle in PCGS AU55, the Garrett specimen of the 1808 quarter eagle (graded AU53 by PCGS) and over fifty crusty original 19th century gold pieces, most of which have already found their way onto my website. I would have liked to buy more buy, hey, that’s what I say at every show; even when I’m wondering how I’m going to sell all the great coins I just bought. And, yes, this paragraph is self-promotion.

Attendance seemed good and the mood among dealers and collectors seemed upbeat and positive. I didn’t have any little old ladies walk up to my table with a New England shilling in a cigar box ( a fella can dream, can’t he?) but I was fairly pleased at the number of fresh coins that I was able to purchase on the floor.

I participated in three auctions. The Stack’s sale contained an interesting fresh deal of Liberty Head eagles and prices were amazing (more on this in a future blog). The Bowers and Merena sale was reasonably strong but prices were mainly reflective on the quality of the coins. In other words, nice coins brought good prices while schlock sold cheaply if at all. The Heritage sale was strong although prices didn’t seem as off the charts as in years past. With the exception of the eagles in the Stack’s sale the coins brought basically what they were worth. That sounds trite but, in past ANA sales, many coins brought alot (stress alot) more than they were worth. Alot.

In the area of rare gold, I noticed some definite market trends. Early date (i.e., pre-1834) gold was almost non-existent. Even the low end, overpriced stragglers that had been overhanging the market seemed to have disappeared. I can’t remember an ANA at which I saw fewer early gold coins nor a major show that I purchased fewer.

There was extremely strong demand for Type One double eagles. The coins that nearly everyone seemed to want were common and somewhat better dates in AU50 and up, especially in the $2,000-7,500 price range. Demand was also strong for interesting Type Ones in the $10,000-20,000 range. Its hard to say what demand was like for expensive, really great Type Ones as there were almost none to be seen at the show. (more…)

The Ten Rarest Three Dollar Gold Pieces

top_10_three_dollarIn my continuing series that has focused on the ten rarest coins in each denomination of United States gold coin struck from the late 1830’s to the early 1900’s, I’ve nearly reached the end of the road. The last major denomination to discuss is the enigmatic Three Dollar gold piece.

This denomination was produced from 1854 to 1889. For more details and history behind the series I suggest that you read the book the Q. David Bowers and I wrote in 2005. It is available through Stack’s and fine numismatic booksellers everywhere.

The ten rarest Three Dollar gold pieces are as follows:

1. 1870-S:

The 1870-S is the only unique regular issue U.S. gold coin. The sole example resides in the Harry Bass core collection that is currently housed in the ANA Museum in Colorado Springs. Bass purchased it for $687,500 at the Eliasberg sale in 1982. It had been acquired by private treaty from Stack’s in January 1946 for $11,500. The coin is not visually impressive when you see it in person. It has the details of Extremely Fine/About Uncirculated but it was once used as a watch fob by the former Chief Coiner of the San Francisco mint. It has the numbers “893” scratched on the reverse above the wreath tips at 12:00. Nonetheless, it remains one of the two most desirable regular issue United States gold coins, along with the 1822 half eagle. What would this coin bring if sold in the near future? That’s a hard question to answer. There are not many collectors that specialize in this series and the coin itself, as I mentioned above, is not destined to win any beauty contests. That said, it’s unique and it’s a legitimate regular issue with no mystery or controversy trailing it. I’d set the over/under line at $5 million and probably take the over…if I were a betting man.

2. 1875:

This date has been a celebrated rarity for well over a century and it is the first United States coin to eclipse the $100,000 mark at public auction, all the way back in 1972. The mintage is traditionally said to be 20 pieces, all in a Proof format. We can deduce with certainty that more than this were made to satisfy contemporary demand. Today, there are between two and three dozen known. Ironically, the 1875 is among the least rare Three Dollar proofs from this era, in relation to the total numbers known. But the fact that business strikes do not exist make it a very rare issue from the standpoint of overall availability. Gems continue to sell in the $175,000-250,000+ range and the level of demand for the 1875 continues to be as strong as ever.

Previously Unknown Specimen of 1855 $50 Kellogg & Co. Fifty Dollar available at Heritage Boston ANA Coin Auction

In the words of B. Max Mehl, the Kellogg & Co. fifty dollar gold pieces are “the most beautiful of all Pioneer gold coins and one of the rarest.” While Heritage has handled Kellogg fifties on several occasions in the past, we take particular pleasure in offering this specimen, which seems to match none of the previously known examples of this extraordinary issue. A “new” Kellogg fifty is a numismatic landmark and an unparalleled opportunity for the Territorial gold collector.

For more than a century, numismatists have puzzled over the purpose of the Kellogg fifties and exactly how many were struck. All known specimens were minted in proof format, suggesting they may have served as presentation pieces for bankers and politicians: They were struck when the firm was considering a large business strike mintage to compete with the fifty dollar pieces of their competitors, Wass, Molitor and Company. The “regular-issue” coins never materialized, but the proof production has delighted and puzzled collectors since the coins appeared.

One disputed question about the Kellogg proof fifties has been the number struck. The proprietors of Kellogg & Co., John Glover Kellogg and Augustus Humbert, were partners in 1855. Both of them retained several examples of the Kellogg fifties long after they dissolved their partnership in 1860. Kellogg’s heirs, including his son Karl, remained in possession of three coins many years after Kellogg’s death in 1886. Humbert, who died in 1873, left his collection to his brother, Pierre. When Pierre died in 1901, his heirs sold the collection to Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie. As Henry Chapman relates in the introduction to the Zabriskie Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1909):

“Capt. Zabriskie some years ago had the good fortune to purchase from his executors the collection of coins left by Mr. Humbert, the California Assayer, and from which collection he derived many of the most remarkable Pioneer Gold Coins, which , added to his collection that had been forming for many years, makes his Pioneer Gold the best ever offered at public sale.”

Later in the sale, Chapman described the Kellogg fifty in lot 341, which realized $1,250, a huge price at the time. To quote his description in part:

“Sharp, beautiful specimen. The finest known, as Capt. Zabriskie had his choice of the six which Mr. Humbert had preserved. So far as I am aware, it is possible about 10 are known, in fact, this is the number it is said was coined.”

Chapman thus reveals the startling fact that Humbert saved at least six specimens of this issue until his death. We can only wonder what Humbert’s purpose was, since $300 was a large sum in 1855, too large to tie up in souvenirs. Whatever his reasons, he deserves the thanks of all Pioneer gold collectors for preserving so many of these wonderful coins. In his catalog of Humbert’s collection, which he sold in 1902, Chapman mentioned one specimen in the collection of J.W. Scott, which would be the 10th coin in his census, after the three kept by Kellogg’s family and the six in Humbert’s estate.

The trouble with Chapman’s roster is this: More than 10 specimens have always been known to numismatists since the coins surfaced. The census of known examples has gone up and down over the years, but most catalogers agree at least 13 pieces were struck, even if fewer examples seemed to be extant at a particular time. With the appearance of the present coin, we have a pictorial record of what seem to be 14 different coins. (more…)

US Gold Coin Profiles: Revisiting The 1841 Quarter Eagle

ByDoug Winter –

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about 1841 quarter eagles that basically stated that the currently-accepted belief that all of the known examples were Proofs was wrong. After recently being able to examine no less than four 1841 quarter eagles at one time, I am now totally convinced that this issue exists in two distinct formats.

Numismatic tradition states that the 1841 quarter eagle was struck only as a Proof. This has never made sense to me. With as many as 15-17 pieces known, why would the Mint have made so many Proofs in 1841 when virtually none were struck in any other year between 1842 and 1853? And why would most of the survivors be in such low grades (EF40 to AU50) when most of the Proof gold coins from the 1840’s that still exist tend to be in reasonably high grades?

This enigma has become a semi-obsession of David Hall’s and when you are the head of Collector’s Universe/PCGS you can get things done. David was able to wrangle four different examples of the 1841 quarter eagle including a PR60 illustrated below. A few weeks ago, one of his security detail flew the four coins up to my office in Portland and I am now more convinced than ever that 1841 quarter eagles exist in two formats.

First, a few words about the Proofs. One of the main reasons that you can determine that a Proof 1841 quarter eagle actually is a Proof is that is “looks like one.” These coins are not weakly struck, nor is there any question about whether they have squared edges or incomplete reflectiveness to the fields. These coins look just like other Proof gold coins from the 1840’s. They may have some mint-made flaws such as pits in the planchet or lintmarks but their appearance is not much different than Proofs from the latter part of the 19th century either.

There appear to be just three or four Proofs known. The finest is a PCGS PR64 owned by a prominent Texas collector that is ex Heritage 6/04: 6204 where it brought $253,000; it was earlier in the Eliasberg sale and it sold for $82,500 in October 1982. The second Proof is owned by a customer of mine and it is graded PR60 by PCGS. I purchased it out of Bass II in October 1999 and paid $110,000 for it. A third Proof is in the Smithsonian. I have not seen the coin in person but it has been confirmed by Jeff Garrett whose opinion I respect. A possible fourth Proof is the ex Davis-Graves coin that was last sold as Superior 2/91: 2664 at $66,000. This coin might be the piece that appears in the PCGS population report as a PR62.

When I recently examined the Eliasberg and Bass Proofs, I made the following observations about them. I’m certain they apply to the other one or two Proofs as well.

*Proof 1841 quarter eagles have fully reflective fields that look like Proofs should. They are not “semi-prooflike” or “mostly prooflike.” They are Proofs, no ifs and or buts.

*On Proof 1841 quarter eagles, there is sharpness of strike on the curls below the ear of Liberty. This sharpness does not appear on business strikes. (more…)

Legendary $20 Gold 1882 Double Eagle Coin To Be Offered by Heritage at Summer Fun Auction

The 1882 double eagle is so rare that even the Smithsonian Institution, keeper of the National Numismatic Collection, lacks an example of this issue.

While there are numerous double eagle issues from the late 1870s through early 1890s that boast extraordinarily low mintages, the 1882 is the absolute lowest-mintage of them all, at 571 coins. Any representative of this issue, in any grade, is an extraordinary rarity.

The next-lowest mintage of the denomination in the 1880s is the 1885, produced to the extent of 751 coins–an increase of over 30% in comparison to the 1882. In fact, the 1882 double eagle has the lowest mintage of any circulation strike in the double eagle series, save for the 1861-P Paquet Reverse.

The 1882 double eagle is not only an issue with a remarkably low mintage to begin with, but its rarity is compounded because so few were saved. The handful of contemporary collectors who specialized in gold–and they were few and far between–preferred proof examples, which could be had from the Mint for a modest premium.

The reasons for the minuscule mintage are complicated. Mint officials had adopted a new policy to stimulate national demand for half eagles and eagles, according to Rusty Goe in The Mint on Carson Street.

“… double eagle output was decreased on a national scale as the Treasury implemented its new policy of expanding the distribution of $5 and $10 gold pieces. It was the Treasury’s conviction that if more gold coins in denominations less than twenty dollars were in reserve at Mint offices around the country, depositors would accept these coins in payment in lieu of waiting for additional double eagles to be struck.”

At any rate, the nation’s operating mints had other troubles, as they shouldered the enormous burden of Morgan silver dollar production in 1882, amounting to more than 27.5 million pieces at four facilities.

By contrast, only three mints struck double eagles at all, as New Orleans’ last twenty was the 1879-O. In 1882 San Francisco struck 1.13 million twenties, with nearly 40,000 in Carson City–and the legendary low mintage of 571 double eagles in Philadelphia.

This coin will be offered at  Heritage’s Official Summer Fun Sale in Orlando, Fl as Lot # 1464

Population: 2 in 53, 7 finer (6/10)

The Top Ten Rarest $10 Liberty Head Gold Coins

Top Ten Rarest Liberty Head Eagles

By Doug Winter –

This article is about the Ten rarest Liberty Head eagles. Notice that I didn’t say “the ten most popular” or “the ten most expensive.” Readers may be surprised that this top ten list does not include any Carson City issues (although I was tempted to include the 1870-CC) and just one from New Orleans.

In looking over the list you will note that six of the ten coins are from Philadelphia and at least one or two are probably not all that familiar to even the most advanced collector of Liberty Head gold. Most of these dates have very low original mintage figures (one, the 1875, has a mintage of just 100 business strikes!) and nearly all have remarkably low survival rates. To qualify for this list, an issue requires a total population of under 50-60 coins.

Liberty Head EaglesIn order of their rarity, here is my list of the ten rarest Liberty Head eagles.

1. 1875:

The Philadelphia gold coinage of 1875 includes a number of issues with exceedingly low mintages. Only 400 examples of both the gold dollar and quarter eagle were produced but the survival rate is higher than expected. The three dollar is a Proof-only issue that has sold for over $100,000 since the 1970’s while the half eagle is a major rarity with probably no more than 10-12 known from the original mintage of 200. I believe that the 1875 eagle, however, is the rarest of all these impressive Philadelphia issues. I have seen it stated that as many as 12-15 are known but I believe that this figure is on the high side and that the actual number is more likely seven to nine. I have personally seen two or three that I would grade AU including Superior 6/97: 1541 and B&M 3/98: 2207 that were graded AU53 and AU50, respectively, by PCGS. The all-time auction record is $74,750 for an NGC AU55 sold as Lot 2102 in DLRC’s Richmond I auction in 2004.

Every business strike 1875 eagle (and I haven’t seen once since Heritage offered a PCGS VF35 in January 2006) is characterized by excessively abraded surfaces and inferior eye appeal. Some of the coins that have been certified as business strikes by both services are actually Impaired Proofs. Proof 1875 eagles have a different date position than business strikes and use a different reverse with the top of the second vertical stripe in the shield incomplete.

I believe that this is an extremely undervalued issue and if it were part of a more popular series it would be a $100,000++ coin. (more…)

Carson City Double Eagles Gold Coins: An Introduction and Overview

By Doug Winter –

Carson City twenty dollar gold pieces, or double eagles, are the most available gold coins from this mint. Only one date in the series, the 1870-CC, can be called truly rare, although a number of other dates are very rare in high grades. Amassing a complete collection with an example of each date is an enjoyable pursuit. And if you decide not to include the 1870-CC because of its prohibitive cost, don’t despair; many collections do not include this date.

A collector of average means can put together a nice set of Carson City double eagles with the average coins in the Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated range. The collector will soon learn that only the 1870-CC presents a great challenge in terms of availability. There are an estimated 40-50 examples known in all grades. This means that no more than four dozen or so complete collections of Carson City double eagles could possibly exist. In comparison, the maximum number of Carson City half eagles that could exist is around five dozen while around three dozen (or a few more) eagle sets from this mint might be formed. In each series, the 1870-CC is clearly the “stopper” or key date.

The completion of an average quality Carson City double eagle set is somewhat easier than a comparable half eagle or eagle set, provided that the collector is willing to accept coins that do not grade Mint State-60 or better. There are just 19 dates required to form a complete set. Carson City double eagles are without a doubt among the most popular United States gold coins. Their large size, combined with their romantic history, makes them irresistible to many collectors. This fervent collector base is most evident when one examines the great popularity of the 1870-CC. This issue has increased dramatically in price and popularity since the last edition of my Carson City gold coins book was published in 2001. As this is being written (2010) there are a few examples actually available to collectors but a few years back it was nearly impossible to locate an 1870-CC double eagle at any price.

The greatest challenge for the collector of these coins is not finding specific dates but, rather, locating clean problem-free coins.

As with the other Carson City gold series, it is very challenging to pursue the double eagles in higher grades; in this case About Uncirculated-55 and higher. It becomes even more of a challenge when the collector demands clean, original coins with a minimum of bagmarks and abrasions. As a rule, CC double eagles are less rare in high grades than their half eagle and eagle counterparts (at least the issues from the 1870’s and 1880’s). This means that locating really choice coins is not as difficult as with the half eagles and eagles from the first decade of this mint’s operation. (more…)

Philadelphia No Motto Half Eagles From the 1840’s: A Date by Date Analysis

By Doug Winter –

The Philadelphia mint began producing the familiar Liberty Head half eagle design in 1839. After a quick modification in 1840, this issue continued without change until 1866 when the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse.

The branch mint No Motto half eagles from the 1840’s are very popular with collectors. But their Philadelphia counterparts have lagged behind, both in price and level of demand. I would not be surprised to see this change a bit over the coming years given the fact that the Philadelphia issues are much more affordable and a complete “by decade” set from the 1840’s is within the budget of most gold coin collectors.

Here is a date by date analysis of the Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840’s, to assist new collectors.

1840: Mintage: 137,822.

This is one of the more common issues from this decade. There an estimated 400-500+ known and they are easily located in all circulated grades. In Uncirculated, the 1840 is scarce. I believe that there are around fifteen to twenty known with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. There is one Gem. It is originally ex Pittman I: 947 where it brought $41,250 as a raw coin. It last appeared as Heritage 2/06: 1853 where it sold for $43,125. It has been graded MS65 by both PCGS and NGC.

There are two varieties known. The more common has a Narrow Mill (or diameter) while the scarcer has a Broad Mill. The Broad Mill variety seems to be considerably harder to find in higher grades, especially in Uncirculated. The Broad Mill has an extremely distinct appearance and it is much easier to distinguish from the Narrow Mill than on the New Orleans and Dahlonega issues of this year.

1841: Mintage: 15,833.

The number of half eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1841 is the fewest of the decade. This is the second scarcest date in this subset but it has an interesting grade distribution. There are an estimated 125-150 known and this issue is generally seen in Extremely Fine or in the MS62 to MS64 range.

There was a hoard of 1841 half eagles that was found a few decades ago. Most are in the MS63 to MS64 range and are characterized by sharp strikes, excellent luster and rich golden coloration. I have personally seen at least four MS64 examples and believe that there are a few more known. In all, probably 10 to 15 exist in Uncirculated. The finest is Bowers and Merena 12/04: 2635, graded MS65 by NGC, which sold for a record-setting $27,600. PCGS has not graded any pieces higher than MS64 and their current listing of eight examples is certainly inflated by resubmissions. (more…)

The 1883-O Gold Eagle Coin Becomes Trendy (and Spendy…)

By Doug Winter –

With little fanfare, the 1883-O eagle has become the coin du jour in the rare date gold market. This rare date, which for years was a cult item that was seemingly overlooked by all except for a small cadre of specialists, is suddenly a coin that is bringing big bucks. What’s behind the 83-O buzz?

1883-O_10_ha_011310Let’s back up a bit and discuss some background about this issue. The 1883-O is the rarest New Orleans eagle with an original mintage of a ridiculously low 800. In my recent book on New Orleans gold, I estimate that there are three to four dozen known. This includes a single coin in Uncirculated (an NGC MS61 that I sold a few years ago) and perhaps a dozen that grade About Uncirculated.

For many years, the 1883-O eagle had sold for $10,000 to $15,000 in Extremely Fine grades when it was available. I do remember the Eliasberg coin (graded EF45 by PCGS) selling via private treaty around four years ago for $20,000 and saying at the time: “Man, that’s a lot of money for that coin!”

Things started to change for this date in the early part of 2009. The Heritage 2/09 coin, graded EF45 by PCGS, sold for an exceptional $29,388. I can remember right after the sale, a client of mine, who I had sold a lovely NGC AU58 example to a few years earlier for not much more money, said “Guess I got a good deal, no?”

Then came the Heritage 9/09: 1667 coin. It was graded NGC AU50 by NGC and, in my opinion, it wasn’t an especially nice piece for the grade. It sold for $43,125. After this lot hammered, I was really intrigued by the new levels and anxiously awaited the next auction appearance for the 1883-O eagle. (more…)

The Evaporation of the Premium Factor in the Carson City $20 Gold Coin Market

By Doug Winter –

evaporating_ccOne of the many interesting facts about the rare coin business at this point in time is that the focus in the gold market is clearly on generics and semi-numismatic items and, at least for the time being, off many rare coins. How has this shift of focus affected the Liberty Head double eagle market and, more specifically, the market for common date Carson City issues?

I look at common CC double eagles as a sort of bellwether for the dated gold market. The most common Carson City issues (such as the 1875-CC, 1876-CC, 1883-CC, 1884-CC, 1890-CC and 1892-CC) are affordable, exist in enough quantity that they are subject to occasional promotional activities and have a good enough background story that they are easy to sell to beginning collectors.

Traditionally, the price ratio for Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated Carson City double eagles versus generic common dates of this design was around two to one for XF coins and around three to one for AU coins.

A year ago, well before the current soaring gold market, a common 1904 double eagle in Extremely Fine was worth in the area of $700-800 and not an easy issue to sell. The same coin in About Uncirculated was worth just a bit more; say $750-850. At the same point in time, an 1890-CC double eagle was worth around $1,400-1,600 in EF and $2,000-2,250 in AU. This meant that the price ratio for the two issues was approximately 2x in EF and 3x in AU. (more…)

The Rare and Undervalued 1826 Quarter Eagle

By Doug Winter –

In my opinion, the 1826 is one of the rarest and most underrated early quarter eagles. Most every “fact” that is traditionally associated with this issue is incorrect.

1826_250_dw_112409I recently purchased a lovely PCGS AU55 example (see the photo below) from the Bowers and Merena Baltimore auction acting as an agent for a collector who is attempting to put together a high quality date set of early quarter eagles. It had been quite a while since I had owned a nice 1826 quarter eagle and this inspired me to gather some facts about this issue.

For many years, the 1826 quarter eagle has been called an “1826/5” overdate. This is clearly wrong and there is a very easy way to prove this. The 1825 obverse die employs large stars while the stars on the 1826 are far smaller. In addition, there is no evidence of an overdate when the date is examined with light magnification. I believe there is either some minor recutting or a small die defect. This issue should more properly be called an 1826/6.

The mintage figure has long been reported to be just 760 coins. Given the fact that around thirty or so exist, I feel that this figure is incorrect. It is probable that some of the quarter eagles struck in early 1827 were dated 1826. The actual mintage figure is more likely in the area of 1,250-1,500; possibly as many as 1,750.

One thing that is certain about this date is its rarity. It is the third rarest early quarter struck after 1797, trailing only the extremely rare 1804 13 Stars and the 1834 No Motto. As I stated above, there are an estimated thirty pieces known. Most are in the lower AU grades, indicating that this issue did not see much actual circulation. I am aware of two or three Uncirculated pieces and none of these, with the possible exception of one coin, appears to be finer than MS61. (more…)

The 1810 Half Eagles

By Doug Winter –

In a recent blog about undervalued early gold issues, I mentioned that the half eagles of 1810 were confusing enough (even to a specialist such as me) that this tends to suppress values for some of the rare issues that are known from this year. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the various 1810 half eagles.

1810_5_101409There are no less than four varieties known for the 1810 half eagles and each is distinctive. Two are reasonably available, one is very rare and the fourth is an extreme rarity.

1. 1810 Small Date, Tall 5. BD-1, Breen-6462, Miller-114. This is the second most available variety of the year. Dannreuther estimates that there are 150-225 known from an original mintage of approximately 20,000-30,000 coins. I think his number extent may be just a bit on the low side. This variety is reasonably easy to locate in all circulated grades although choice AU’s with original color and surfaces have become quite scarce. In Uncirculated, the 1810 Small Date, Tall 5 is quite scarce with an estimated five to six dozen accounted for. The finest known is a coin graded MS65 by PCGS that I have not personally seen. There are four to six known that grade MS64.

The Small Date variety can quickly be identified by its having the flag of the 1 in the date being at a steep angle that points downwards. The overall date size is also noticeably smaller than the Large Date. On the reverse, the 5 is placed low in the field and it appears to rest on the denticles. The three denticles below the 5 appear to be shortened and this exact reverse is found on the 1811 BD-1 half eagle.

Collecting $10 Liberty Head Gold Coins

By Doug Winter –

If you have deep pockets and lots of patience, assembling a set of $10 Liberty Head gold is one of the greatest challenges in all of U.S. numismatics. Even if you are lucky as far as locating the rarities in this series, you are looking at a $1-3 million commitment of funds and a time frame that should last at least three to six years; if not more.

dw_10lib_090409I once asked a $10 Lib specialist how he came to choose his set. To paraphrase his answer, he replied something along these lines: “gold dollars were too small, quarter eagles were too monotonous, three dollars and five dollars were incompletable (due to the 1870-S three and the 1854-S five) and double eagles were overpriced. That left the ten lib series…”

It’s hard to argue with brilliant logic like that. And there are a few more points to add. First, the coins are underpriced. As an example, there are a slew of issues that are really cheap (right now) when compared to coins like $10 Indians or Saints or even Liberty Head double eagles. The second is that these coins are big and contain nearly half an ounce of gold. So every time you buy a “boring” common later date issue you are still accumulating a nice chunk of this precious metal. Thirdly, you don’t (currently) have a huge number of collectors competing against you which means that if a rare undervalued coin comes up for sale, you just might be able to buy it very reasonably.

If I were a collector just beginning this series there are a few things that I would do right away.

The first is choosing a great dealer to work with you. Yes, this is a self-serving comment and yes I think I’m the right man for the job. That said, this is a long, complicated series that involves a lot of coin knowledge and good decision making. You can’t assemble a good set of $10 Libs with a mediocre dealer guiding you and you surely can’t do it on your own.