I have written previous articles about CAC population figures. To me, CAC populations help to quantify quality. By this, I mean that if 8 examples of a specific date of Liberty Head half eagle have been approved by CAC, we can assume that there are at least 8 above-average examples of this date with some degree of originality and eye appeal. A figure of “8” at PCGS is not as quantifiable when it comes to quality.
Before I begin, I want to add a few points so not as to see naïve in my devotion to CAC. The first is that CAC figures are subject to resubmissions. When you crack a coin out of a CAC approved holder, it takes some effort to have this deleted from CAC’s database and even I am guilty of not always making this effort. Secondly, the percentage of all nice dated gold coins which have been sent to CAC is still not even close to 50%. It is, however, large enough to represent a more than adequate sample size for articles such as this. Thirdly, I don’t always agree with CAC’s opinions. There are coins which flunk at CAC which I really like, and coins that have passed at CAC which I don’t care for at all. That said, CAC provides us with an interesting laboratory to make some observations about issues with surprisingly low or surprisingly high pass rates.
Issues with Surprisingly Low CAC Populations
1858-D $1.00 (CAC population of 6 coins). No Dahlonega gold dollar should be easy to find with CAC stickers as these coins were not made well and tend to come processed. But the 1858-D surprises me as I have personally handled a number of very nice, original pieces in grades ranging from EF40 to MS62. I’m guessing that it is happenstantial that some of the nicer 58-D dollars just haven’t been sent to CAC yet.
1846-C $2.50 (3). This date’s low CAC population doesn’t really surprise me as it is poorly made and almost all of the circulated examples I’ve seen have poor eye appeal. I am somewhat surprised that none of the small number of (relatively) high grade 1846-C quarter eagles have yet to make it to CAC. I know of at least two or three nice Uncirculated which have yet to be sent to CAC, so this scenario might change in the future.
1857-D $2.50 (2). If I asked you which date had the lower CAC population between the 1856-D and 1857-D quarter eagles, you’d bet the ranch on the former, right? Shockingly, the 1857-D has just two approved (both AU58) versus seven for the 1856-D (I think this number is inflated as four are graded AU58). The 1857-D is an issue which generally comes pretty nice except for one thing: many pieces have a slight clean-y look, likely due to having come from a small hoard which was conserved. This is the exact sort of look which CAC hates and this is my best guess as to why so few 1857- D’s have qualified so far.
1843-O Small Letters $5.00 and 1856-O $5.00 (5 and 4, respectively). It is interesting to me that the two lowest CAC population half eagles aren’t the 1842-O and 1847-O, but rather the 1843-O SL and the 1856-O. The former is more of a surprise as I’ve handled a pretty decent number of choice EF and AU examples and there are a few really nice Uncirculated examples known. This means that either a) the nice coins have all been ruined or b) they are owned by collectors who don’t use CAC (or “c” which is a combination of “a” and “b.”). The 1856-O isn’t as much of a surprise. I almost never see nice examples of this date in collector grades, and I count on one hand the number of CAC-worthy higher grades.
1890 $5.00 (4). This somewhat scarcer late date is a total mystery to me. Not a single circulated example has been stickered at CAC. This is somewhat understandable as it is a pretty mundane coin in circulated grades. But some dealers (guilty as charged…) send mundane gold coins to CAC and I would, for one, have no problem sending in a nice AU. Uncirculated 1890 half eagles are scarce and most of the ones I have seen are very over-abraded Euro-look MS60 and MS61 coins with the exact look that CAC doesn’t care for. I would have to assume that as soon as people figure out the CAC population is so low, more will be sent in and the population will expand rapidly.
1844 $10.00 (1). This issue is well-known by eagle collectors as a rarity and it is one of the two rarest pre-Civil War Philadelphia issues of this type along with the 1839 Head of 1840. But, still, only one coin (an AU55) thus far stickered? I sold the stickered AU55 a few years ago and at the time I made the comment to the buyer that this issue was extremely rare with choice, natural color and clean surfaces. But still…only one coin?
1864 $10.00 (0). Among the rare Civil War eagles, the 1864 is not the rarest issue; that honor belongs to the 1863 and 1864-S. But for some reason, not a single 1864 has yet to be accorded a sticker by CAC. This isn’t shocking but if I sit and think, I can recall at least one or two nice EF/AU 1864 eagles I’ve owned which have been choice and reasonably original. And, I have to think there are a few CAC-worthy lower grade 1864 eagles which will be submitted sooner or later.
1866 With Motto $10.00 (1). Only a single higher grade 1866 Motto eagle (an AU58) has been stickered at CAC. I have handled a number of nice EF40-AU50 examples and wonder why none of these have yet to sticker. This is a date which often comes “baggy” and I have found from experience that CAC tends to not like excessive contact marks; even on a coin which is otherwise choice and original.
1882-S and 1905-S $10.00 (5 and 6). Certain coins are what I refer to as “happenstantial CAC scarcities.” Neither the 1882-S nor the 1905-S eagles are scarce in nice AU to MS62/63, and both are well-made issues which come with choice surfaces and pleasing color. For whatever odd reason(s) there haven’t been a lot of these sent in yet to CAC, hence the populations are currently low. I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes in the next year, especially after this information is digested by collectors who own a nice 1882-S or a 1905-S.
1871-CC $20.00 (8). I’m not shocked that this coin has a low CAC population as it is rare. But the fact that 7 of the 8 approved by CAC are EF45 leads me to conclude that this figure is inflated. And, I’m surprised that only one 1871-CC in grades higher than EF45 has been approved so far. CAC populations for CC double eagles have proven to be higher at this point than I expected, so I would have thought that at least a few AU50 to AU55 1871-CC’s would have stickered by now.
Issues with Surprisingly High CAC Populations
1875 $1.00 (12 with 8 in Uncirculated). The 1875 has the lowest mintage figure of any business strike gold dollar (save for the excessively rare 1849-C Open Wreath) and it is a famous coin. I rarely see nice 1875 dollars and most of the ones I’m offered have been dipped, recolored or cleaned. It surprises me that eight Uncirculated pieces have stickered thus far. Except for one thing: coin collectors in 1875 knew this was a low mintage issue and a number were “put away”. That said, my guess is there is some duplication thus far from the submissions approved at CAC.
1848 CAL. $2.50 (11 with seven in circulated grades). The ultra-popular CAL. quarter eagle seems to come in two flavors: very ratty or very nice. I am very surprised that 7 circulated examples have thus far been approved by CAC. I have seen a number of VF, EF and lower end AU 1848 CAL. quarter eagles in straight-graded third-party holders which have been very “problematical” and it seems highly unlikely that CAC would miss these coins if submitted. I’m not surprised by the number of higher grade pieces known, although I am aware of a few Gems which have been doctored.
1854-D $3.00 (16 with eight in AU55 to AU58). This rare and popular standalone issue is more available in higher grades than generally believed. But most of the AU55 and AU58 examples which I have seen have been blatantly overgraded and seem unlikely to sticker at CAC. I’m guessing that the 16 approved by CAC is inflated by resubmissions. I can’t imagine there are as many as 16 1854-D threes in total which are CAC quality, and certainly not every one of them has already been sent to CAC.
1873 Closed 3 $3.00 (5). While I don’t always buy Three Dollar gold pieces anymore (they aren’t easy to sell), one issue I will still buy is the rare but affordable 1873 Closed 3. In the last decade, I’ve been offered as many as 20 different pieces ranging in grade from EF40 to MS62, and each one has been terrible. Not sorta kinda overgraded, but blatantly terrible. So that’s why I am surprised that as many pieces (5) have been beaned as the CAC population report suggests. If I would have been allowed to bet on the number I would have picked the under and guessed just 2 or 3…
Common Date C+D Mint $5.00’s (Various). Let’s pick two random common date southern branch mint half eagles: 1847-C and 1852-D. I would have guessed the number approved by CAC would have been less than 20 for each. Wrong! For the 1847-C the total approved as of 6/16 is 32 (with a dozen graded AU50 and finer) and 31 for the 1852-D (with 14 graded AU50 and finer). I guess I’m not shocked by the lower grade numbers (i.e., those in VF and EF) but given the quality of the typical southern branch mint half eagle in, say, AU50 to MS62, I find these numbers to be very surprising.
1841-O and 1856-O $10.00 (7 and 9). The 1841-O is the rarest No Motto eagle from New Orleans; the 1856-O is not as well-known but it is extremely hard to find in CAC-worthy grades. Of the 7 1841-O eagles approved by CAC, 5 grade EF40 and finer. I find this to be pretty amazing, given that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen five really nice 1841-O eagles…and I’ve seen more of them than literally anyone else. The 1856-O has a CAC population of 9 with all of these grading EF45 or finer. Again, where are these coins and why aren’t I seeing them?
1862 $10.00 (20). Until three or so years ago, this date was considered very scarce and now it seems to be all over the place. I’m guessing a small hoard broke but come to think of it, I’ve handled a lot of 1862 eagles in the last few years and they didn’t all have a “hoard-y” appearance. Of the 20 approved by CAC, no less than 16 are in AU grades. This generates a giant “hmmmm….” in my coin brain but I have no good explanation for this seemingly ultra-inflated number.
1864-S $10.00 (7). The 1864-S is the second rarest Liberty Head eagle after the 1875 and with just 30 or so known, you wouldn’t expect 7 examples to have been approved by CAC. I can vouch for 4 of these as I have “made” them at CAC and, interestingly, 3 of the 4 grade VF30. Even more interesting is the fact that all 3 of these were fresh coins from “out of the weeds.” I find it even more interesting that as rare as this date is, a decent percentage of the surviving pieces are choice and original.
1861-O $20.00 (9). When I first became aware of this date’s scarcity and multiple levels of demand, it seemed reasonably easy to find nice, original VF and EF 1861-O double eagles. Fast forward to 2016 and seemingly every 1861-O I see is scrubbed, scuffy, and overgraded. I am really surprised to see that CAC has approved 9. I am responsible for just 2 of these, so I’d be pretty curious to see the other 7 coins.
1866-S No Motto $20.00 (13). As a keen student of the Type One double eagle series, I am well aware of just how hard it is to locate nice 1866-S No Motto $20s. Due to some findings in Europe, comparably higher grade pieces are more available than they were a decade ago, but most of the nice ones from this source(s) are overgraded and/or scuffy and don’t seem like candidates to sticker at CAC. The number which has stickered is far greater than what I would have expected.
What gold coins surprise you with their low or high CAC population figures? Please share your findings below!