San Francisco Double Eagles: A Date by Date Analysis Part Two

The second part of this study on San Francisco double eagles deals with the Type Two issues struck from 1866 to 1876. There are no absolute rarities in this series as with the Type One issues but there are a number condition rarities as well as affordable dates that are easy to locate in Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated grades. Let's take a look at each date and focus on the higher grade coins as these tend to be the most interesting Type Two double eagles from this mint.

1866-S With Motto: After a small number of No Motto double eagles were struck in San Francisco in 1866, the change was made to the new With Motto design. The 1866-S With Motto is desirable as a first year of issue date but it is not really rare in terms of overall rarity. It tends to be found in lower grades (EF40 to AU50) and is nearly always seen with heavily abraded surfaces and poor eye appeal. It is scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and rare in Uncirculated with an estimated two to three dozen known. It is extremely rare in MS62 above and none have been graded better than this by PCGS or NGC. The population figures in MS61 seem to be very inflated at both services and a few of the coins that I have seen in MS61 holders are marginal at best for the grade. The current auction record is $39,100 set by Bowers and Merena 7/06: 1667, graded MS62 by PCGS.

1867-S: The 1867-S is a bit more available than the 1866-S With Motto in terms of overall rarity. In Uncirculated it is actually more rare with an estimated 15 or so known. The finest is a single MS63 at NGC; another five or six are known in MS62. This date is typically seen with a flat strike, very "ticky" surfaces and poor luster. Examples with good eye appeal are quite hard to locate and are worth a good premium over typical coins. Properly graded AU55 to AU58 pieces are very scarce and any example that grades above MS61 is extremely rare. The current auction record is $22,425 set all the way back in 2002 by Superior during the ANA auction; this was for a coin graded MS62 that is still the best that I can recall having seen.

1868-S: The 1868-S is the most common Type Two double eagle from San Francisco struck during the 1860's. It is plentiful in grades below AU55 but it is scarce in properly graded AU58 and rare in Uncirculated. I think there are around three dozen known in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS61. Above MS61, the 1868-S is extremely rare. The highest graded is a single MS64 at NGC; the services have combined to grade four in MS62 with just one of these at PCGS. This date comes better struck than the 1866-S and 1867-S and has better luster as well. Like all San Francisco double eagles of this type, it is plagued by excessive surface marks. The natural coloration is often a pleasing rose-gold; others are found with orange-gold or greenish-gold hues. The current auction record was set by Heritage 2006 ANA: 5644, an NGC MS62 that sold for $32,200.

1869-S: The 1869-S is just a touch less available than the 1868-S in circulated grades but it is more available in Uncirculated. There are as many as 50-75 known in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. This date is extremely rare in MS63 and above although there are a few really nice MS64 pieces known. The population in MS64 is currently eight coins (five at PCGS and three at NGC) but this includes some resubmissions. Interestingly, the NGC population in MS64 declined from nine in November 2009 to its current three and this indicative of the fact that one coin has been resubmitted numerous times in an attempt to make the first MS65 of this date. The 1869-S tends to have better luster than the earlier Type Two SF issues but it is nearly always found with abraded surfaces. The current auction record is held by Heritage 2005 ANA: 10413, graded MS64 by PCGS, which brought $83,375.

1870-S: I regard the 1870-S as one of the real "sleeper" dates in the Type Two SF double eagle series. It is similar in rarity to the 1869-S in EF and mid-range AU grades but it becomes very scarce in properly graded AU58. It is quite rare in Uncirculated with around 40-50 known but nearly all are in the MS60 to MS61 range. In MS62, the 1870-S is extremely rare (I know of only two) and there is just one graded better than this, an MS63 at NGC. This date has decent luster and can be found with an acceptable strike but many of the higher grade pieces have been processed and nice, original coins with decent surfaces are rare. The current auction record is $33,350 which was acheived by Heritage 4/10: 2311. This coin, by the way, was the single best 1870-S double eagle that I have personally seen.

1871-S: In my experience the 1871-S is considerably more common than the 1869-S and 1870-S although the populations figures for the 1871-S are just a bit higher. It is readily available in EF and AU grades and it is much less rare in Uncirculated than the preceding Type Two issues from SF. There are around 75-100 known in Uncirculated and examples in MS60 to MS61 are reasonably priced and available from time to time. In MS62, the 1871-S is rare and it is extremely rare above this. PCGS and NGC have both graded a single example in MS64 while only four are recorded in MS63 (three at NGC and one at PCGS). This date is sometimes seen with semi-prooflike surfaces and it tends to be well struck by the standards of Type Two double eagles. Surface marks and lack of originality are always a problem with the 1871-S. The current auction record is Heritage 1998 ANA: 7856 which brought $32,200. It is graded MS64 by NGC.

1872-S: The 1872-S is generally lumped with the 1871-S but I think it is a harder coin to find in all grades and it is somewhat undervalued. It is a well-made issue with a good strike and nice luster but surface marks tend to be a problem and it is very hard to find choice. The 1872-S is seen from time to time in the lowest Mint State grades but it becomes very scarce in MS62 and it is extremely rare above this. PCGS has graded nothing higher than MS62 (and just four at this level) while NGC shows a single MS63 and MS64 as well as three in MS62. The current auction record is Stack's 9/09: 5570, graded MS62 by PCGS, that brought $12,075.

1873-S Open 3: There are two varieties of double eagle known for the 1873-S. The Open 3 is the rarer of the two. It is usually seen in the AU50 to AU55 range and it is scarce in the lower Uncirculated grades. It is very rare in MS62 and appears to be unknown above this. Most examples are a bit flatly struck and are almost always severely abraded. It is also very hard to find pieces with nice natural color. NGC and PCGS have combined to grade only seven in MS62 and the current auction record is $28,750 set by Heritage 9/09: 1818 (graded MS62 by PCGS) which is, by the way, the only certified MS62 1873-S Open 3 double eagle to have ever been sold at auction.

1873-S Closed 3: This is the more common of the two varieties. I regard it as around three times more common than the Open 3. It is easy to locate in all circulated grades and it is not especially scarce in MS60 to MS61. It becomes scarce in MS62 and it is extremely rare in MS63. The finest graded are a pair of MS63's at PCGS; NGC shows nothing better than a group of fifteen in MS62. The 1873-S Closed 3 is nearly always very heavily abraded. It tends to have better color and luster than its Open 3 counterpart but it is clearly an issue that was handled roughly with many coins transported loosely in bags. The current auction record is Stack's 6/97: 1583 which brought $15,400. I do not know the current location of this coin or what it grades by today's standards.

1874-S: The 1874-S is one of the more common Type Two double eagles from the SF mint but it is less available than the 1875-S and 1876-S. It is well struck and lustrous but most higher grade pieces show numerous marks on the surfaces that limit the grade. It is reasonably available in the lowest Mint State grades but it becomes very scarce in properly graded MS62 and it is quite rare in MS63. The combined PCGS/NGC population for this grade is just seven coins with none better and I do not recall having seen more than two or three in MS63 that I thought were choice. The current auction record is $18,975 for an NGC MS63 sold by Heritage in their 1998 ANA auction as Lot 7861. Remarkably, this is still the only certified MS63 to sell at auction.

1875-S: The 1875-S is the second most available San Francisco Type Two double eagle. It is very common in all circulated grades and plentiful in the MS60 to MS61 range. It is moderately scarce in MS62 and very scarce in properly graded MS63. In MS64 it is extremely rare with a current PCGS/NGC population of just six. There is just a single Gem known and it is a mind-boggling PCGS MS67 (it has been graded as such by NGC as well) that was originally ex Stack's 3/95: 715 where it brought $82,500 as a raw coin. It traded for more than five times this amount last year when it was sold by private treaty. It is the single finest known Type Two double eagle of any date or mint.

1876-S: This is easily the most common San Francisco Type Two double eagle and this makes it perfect for the type collector who is seeking a single high grade issue from this mint. It is very common in the lower Mint State grades and it can be found from time to time in properly graded MS63. It is very scarce in MS64 and extremely rare in Gem. PCGS has graded just one in MS65 while NGC has graded two. The current auction record is held by Heritage 1/10: 2257, graded MS65, that brought $207,000. This is an all-time record for any Type Two double eagle from this mint at auction; at least one coin has brought more via private treaty.

The Type Two double eagles from this mint are a short-lived set that contain no rarities. The set can be assembled in Uncirculated grades although a few of the issues are essentially unavailable above MS61 to MS62. These coins are currently somewhat out of favor and it seems like a good time for the savvy collector to consider working on a nice, evenly matched set of San Francisco Type Two double eagles.