In 1877, a third type of double eagle was created when the reverse valuation was changed from TWENTY D to TWENTY DOLLARS. Liberty Head double eagles were produced with just one interruption (1886) from 1877 through 1907. This is a very easy series to complete as all thirty issues are readily available in the lower Uncirculated grades and many of the post-1890 date can even be found in Gem.
I would recommend this series for beginning collectors or advanced collectors who are more interested in grade than absolute rarity. What follows is a date-by-date analysis of each issue.
1877-S: This is the most common Type Three San Francisco double eagle from the 1870’s. It is common in grades up to an including MS62. It becomes scarce in MS63 and is very rare in MS64 and above. Most are seen with good luster and nice color but heavily abraded surfaces. The finest known is Stack’s 1/09: 1420, graded MS65 by NGC, which set a record price for the date at $29,900.
1878-S: The 1878-S is scarcer than the 1877-S but it is still a fairly easy date to find in grades up to an including MS62. In MS63 it is rare and it is extremely rare above this. The finest that I have personally seen is the high end PCGS MS63, ex Heritage 9/06: 4139, which sold for a strong $23,000. This date is characterized by soft, frosty luster and heavy abrasions on the surfaces.
1879-S: This is easily the scarcest San Francisco Type Three double eagle from the 1870’s and it is one of the harder SF issues of this type to locate. It is scarce even in the lowest Uncirculated grades and it is very scarce in properly graded MS62. In MS63, the 1879-S is very rare and there is but one example graded better than this, a PCGS MS64, ex Heritage 9/07: 3851, which sold for an amazing $63,250. Virtually every known example is marred by excessive bagmarks and many have impaired luster as a result.
1880-S: The 1880-S is only marginally scarce in MS60 to MS61 but it becomes a hard date to find in properly graded MS62. It is rare in MS63 and very rare above this but there are a few very high quality pieces known. The best is a superb NGC MS66, ex Heritage 2004 ANA: 7626, which brought a hefty $92,000 and the second best is an NGC MS65, ex Bowers and Merena 2/06: 603 that was bid up to $54,625. These are the two best early date Type Three San Francisco double eagles that I have personally seen.
1881-S: The 1881-S is much more available in the MS60 to MS62 range than the 1879-S and 1880-S. It is only moderately scarce in MS62 but it becomes rare in MS63 and I have never seen one that graded higher than this. The best I am aware of are a small group of nice PCGS MS63 coins, the last of which to sell was Heritage 4/09: 2763 (at $17,250). As with all of the early S Mint Type Three issues, this date is characterized by good luster and color but heavy surface marks.
1882-S: Beginning with this issue, the Type Threes from San Francisco become more available in the lower Uncirculated grades. The 1882-S is very common through MS62 and slightly scarce in MS63. But it is very rare in properly graded MS64 and I am not aware of any Gems. The best I know of is ex Heritage 7/06: 1714; a PCGS MS63 that brought $23,000.
1883-S: The 1883-S is very common through MS63 but it becomes very rare in MS64 and it may not exist in Gem. This date is seen with good luster and color but is almost always very heavily abraded. There is a small group of properly graded MS64’s known and the last of these to sell was Heritage 1/10: 2261, graded by NGC, which realized $16,100.
1884-S: The 1884-S is among the more common SF double eagles from the 1880’s. It is easy to find in MS60 through MS63 but it is very scarce in properly graded MS64. In MS65 it is extremely rare and the only one I can recall having seen was a PCGS coin sold as Lot 2036 in Heritage’s 2007 ANA that brought a very strong $46,000. This is yet another date that is characterized by heavily abraded surfaces.
1885-S: The 1885-S is very common in grades up through and including MS63. It is moderately scarce in MS64 but it is extremely rare in MS65 and I’ve never seen a Gem. There is no clear-cut finest known example as many of the MS64’s are similar in quality.
1887-S: This is a “sleeper” date that is considerably rarer in terms of total known that the other SF issues from this era. It is slightly scarce in the MS60 to MS62 range, rare in MS63 and very rare above this. There are actually a few Gems known including the Eliasberg coin (which does not appear to have surfaces since it was sold in 1982) and Superior 6/97: 1566, graded MS65 by NGC.
1888-S: The 1888-S is the most common SF Type Three issue from this decade. It is very common through MS63 and it is scarce in MS64. I have never seen a Gem although I wouldn’t be surprised if one exists. Many of the MS64’s are similar in quality and there is no clear-cut finest known.
1889-S: This date is very common up to MS63. It is rare in properly graded MS64 and doesn’t appear to exist in full-blown Gem. There have been three PCGS MS64 examples to sell at auction since 2006 and they have realized $13,800, $17,825 and $18,400 respectively.
1890-S: The 1890-S is very similar in overall and grade rarity to the 1889-S. It becomes rare in properly graded MS64 and there is just one Gem (an MS65) at PCGS. There have been eight coins graded MS64 sold at auction since the beginning of the 21st century and the highest price realized is $13,800 set by Goldberg 2/07: 2560.
1891-S: The 1891-S is more common than the 1889-S and 1890-S. It is readily available in MS63 and is seen much more often in MS64 than these two other dates. I have never seen a Gem.
1892-S: The 1892-S is another date that is common in grades up to and including MS63. It is only moderately scarce in properly graded MS64 but it is extremely rare in Gem. The finest known is ex Bowers and Merena 3/09: 3978, graded MS66 by NGC, which brought a strong $46,000.
1893-S: This date is very common in MS63. It is scarcer in MS64 than the 1890-S through 1892-S double eagles and it is extremely rare in Gem with just one graded as such (an MS65) by PCGS. The highest prices realized at auction is $18,400 set by Heritage 6/06: 3808, graded MS64 by PCGS.
1894-S: The 1894-S is among the most common San Francisco double eagles. It is easy to find in Uncirculated through MS64 but it is extremely rare in Gem. The finest I am aware of is an NGC MS65, ex Stack’s 1/09: 1439, which sold for $19,550.
1895-S: This date is very common in MS63 and only marginally scarce in MS64. There are probably as many as ten to twelve Gems known but none finer than MS65. The best I have seen is ex Heritage 2007 ANA: 2040 that sold for $12,650; it was graded MS65 by NGC.
1896-S: The 1896-S is more common than the 1895-S. It is easy to locate in MS63 and even MS64’s are not really scarce. Gems are extremely rare. The finest known is an amazing PCGS MS67 that is ex Eliasberg: 996; it sold for $13,200 back in 1982.
1897-S: The 1897-S is similar in overall and high grade rarity to the 1895-S. Gems are extremely rare. There is a pair of PCGS MS67’s known. One is ex Superior 2/05: 3410 (at $60,375), Eliasberg: 998.
1898-S: This is the most common 19th century S mint double eagle by a fairly significant margin. It is the only 19th century Type Three issue from this mint that is available in MS65 for a reasonable sum. The finest known is a PCGS MS67 that is ex Bowers and Merena 3/04: 3263, Eliasberg: 1000.
1899-S: The 1899-S is very common through MS64 grades. In Gem, it is extremely rare with just three to five known. The best, by a huge margin, is a superb PCGS MS67 that is ex Eliasberg: 1002. It brought $16,500 back in 1982.