On August 11, 2006 ANR sold the Old West Collection of Carson City half eagles and eagles. This was the single most important specialized sale of Carson City gold coinage held since the Lang Collection was auctioned by Bowers and Merena in July, 2002. This sale, thus, provided collectors with an excellent opportunity to gauge the current state of the market for high quality Carson City gold issues. On a personal note, this was also an interesting sale for me. The consignor of the Old West collection is a good customer and friend of mine and I sold him all of the eagles and a number of the half eagles in the collection. So I was participating in this sale not only as a bidder but as an interested “friend of the collection” as well.
I. HALF EAGLES
The Old West collection lacked two issues to be complete (the 1873-CC and the 1876-CC) but it did include a number of important condition rarities. My personal observation was that this was a very nice group with some great individual coins but the eagles were better matched, more original and of a generally higher overall quality.
1870-CC PCGS AU58: This was the Bass II: 1170 coin which sold for a strong $69,000 in October, 1999. It is the single best circulated example of this date I have ever seen and it certainly had the appearance of an MS61. My personal feelings about this coin was that it sold for too much in 1999 but that the market had probably risen to the point where it would sell for around the same amount as it had brought seven years ago. It realized $80,500 (note that all prices realized in this article include the 15% buyers premium charged by ANR).
1871-CC PCGS AU58: I purchased this coin out of the Richmond Collection sale in 2004 where it realized $18,400. This is not an easy coin to figure value-wise as there is no Trends above AU50 and very few high grade examples have sold in the past few years. It commanded a winning bid of $27,600 which I thought was a very solid price.
1872-CC NGC AU58: I’m not exactly sure how or why, but high grade examples of this date seem to be everywhere. I’ve seen at least a half dozen AU55 and better 1872-CC half eagles at auction in the past year or so. Some of these are undoubtedly coins that are recycling while others are overgraded examples that were formerly in lower grade holders. Regardless, this date has lost a bit of luster in my eyes but the NGC AU58 in the Old West collection is still among the highest graded. I thought it was nothing special from a quality standpoint and it brought $29,900.
1874-CC PCGS AU58: This is the most common Carson City half eagle struck during the early years of the Mint’s operation but properly graded AU55 and higher pieces are quite rare. I wasn’t all that crazy about this coin but it had a decent commercial appearance and a much better strike than usual. It opened at $12,000 but was bid all the way up to $27,600 which has to be a record price for a circulated example of this date. With AU58 Trends at “only” $25,000 I would assume that the consignor was thrilled with the prices that this coin brought.
1875-CC PCGS AU55: This was a decent coin except for the fact that it had a large, nasty reeding mark right on the jaw of Liberty. It sold for $17,250 which is a little bit more than 70% of Trends. I would assume that the consignor probably broke even on this coin or possibly made a bit of money but it clearly was not one of his best purchases.
1877-CC PCGS AU55: I thought this was a decent, fairly original coin which would bring around $10,000-11,000. But it sold for $17,250 to one of the sharpest “crackout” dealers in the business so I’m assuming that this piece will soon be a bright, shiny AU58.
1878-CC PCGS AU50: This was my least favorite half eagle in the collection. The obverse coloration was artificial and had been applied to cover an old cleaning. Despite this fact, there is no denying the rarity of this date and the Old West coin was bid to a fairly respectable $16,100 which is nearly 75% of Trends. I think if this exact coin had been offered for sale in the regular section of the ANR catalog it would have brought 15% less.
1879-CC PCGS AU58: I had purchased this coin in the Richmond collection sale in an NGC AU58 and paid somewhere in the area of $9,000 thinking it would upgrade to MS61. It never worked for me and I sold it to the Old West collection’s owner for a small profit. This time around, the coin was sold to a savvy collector who paid $12,650. I’m assuming he didn’t buy it to play the upgrade game and if he keeps it in the PCGS AU58 holder he’ll own probably the nicest “slider” example of this date in existence.
1880-CC PCGS MS62: Here was an interesting coin to ponder when considering how the market for high grade Carson City gold has fared since 2000. In May of that year, this lovely example sold in the Bass III auction for a then-reasonable $13,800. In the Old West collection auction, six years later, it sold to the same collector who purchased the 1879-CC for $29,900. While this seems like a stunning increase, I still think this was a good value. It is arguably the second finest known example of the date and it has a superb pedigree (ex: Old West, Bass, Norweb and Melish collections). In today’s market, truly rare coins with great pedigrees such as this are held in high esteem by sophisticated collectors.
1881-CC NGC MS62: I regard this as one of the highlight coins in the Old West collection but it did not meet its reserve and did not sell. Shameless plug: I will have this coin available for sale at my table at the Denver ANA and I would strongly suggest that any serious collector of Carson City gold coinage who wants an unimprovable example of the rarest half eagle from the 1880’s should give this coin careful consideration.
1882-CC PCGS MS62: The 1882-CC is the most common Carson City half eagle from the 1880’s but there are not many pieces out there that compare to this example. It was the second best that I have personally seen and it brought $32,200 which I believe is a record price for this date.
1883-CC PCGS AU58: The rich orange-gold coloration that this coin displayed on the obverse made it uncommonly attractive for the grade but I don’t think anyone looked at this coin as having the potential to upgrade to MS61 if resubmitted. Thus, its price realized of $9,775 is very surprising in my opinion. Trends is $11,000 but I have seen other similar quality examples of this date trade for less money. In an auction environment, however, such considerations are often forgotten.
1884-CC PCGS AU58: Before I sold this coin to the owner of the Old West collection I tried it a number of times to grade higher at both PCGS and NGC. Someone who is better at the crackout game then I am paid $12,650 for this coin and if it works, he’ll have a nice little score. If it doesn’t work, he’ll have a problem on his hands as AU58 Trends is only $10,000.
1890-CC PCGS MS64: This is not a rare coin in this grade but I thought it was an uncommonly nice piece for the grade. It brought $9,775 which I thought was a fairly strong but not ridiculous price given the overall tone of this sale.
1891-CC PCGS MS65: I had sold this coin to the owner of the collection around a year ago for a price somewhere in the mid-$30’s. It was hard to gauge what it would bring in this sale. I thought there was actually a chance it could bring over $50,000 if two deep-pocketed type collectors butted heads, but I also could have seen it bringing in the low $30’s. It opened at $18,000 and there were numerous people bidding until two people remained at $35,000. The final price realized was $43,700 which is certainly a lot of money for an example of this common date but considering it is the only MS65 graded by PCGS I could have seen it selling for more.
1892-CC PCGS MS63: This attractive, original example was a very good value at $5,750. I have seen a few far inferior examples in MS63 holders sell for $5,000 or so and I thought this coin was really PQ for the grade.
1893-CC PCGS MS62: With Trends at $4,000 I expected this coin to sell for around $2,750-3,000. Instead, it brought a very strong $4,600.
I had sold the entire group of eagles in the Old West collection intact to its current owner around three years ago. It had formerly been known as the Orange County collection and I had assembled the collection between 1996 and 2002. It included a number of important Condition Census pieces and pre-sale buzz regarding the coins seemed very favorable.
1870-CC PCGS AU55: When I first bought this coin in June 2000, I don’t think more than a handful of people realized its importance. In a nutshell, it is the finest known example of the rarest Carson City eagle. With unattractive Extremely Fine examples of its big brother the 1870-CC double eagle now selling for close to $200,000, this coin seemed to have potential to bring a record price. When the dust cleared, it sold for $115,000; clearly a record price for the issue but still a reasonable level when one considers the big picture. If eagles ever become as popular as double eagles, I could see this coin becoming worth $200,000+ in the near future.
1871-CC PCGS AU55: I always thought this was a fairly mediocre coin for the grade but other people thought it had a shot to come back as an AU58 if it were regraded. It sold for $25,300 which means, basically, that I was wrong and maybe it was actually a pretty decent coin after all.
1872-CC PCGS AU55: I liked the originality of this coin and thought that if it were dipped it would probably windup in an AU58 holder. It sold to a crackout dealer for $34,500 and I would not be shocked to see it offered as a bright AU58 with a $50,000+ price tag in the next few weeks.
1873-CC PCGS AU50: Maybe I’m just too picky but despite this coin’s excellent pedigree, I thought it was not terribly appealing for the grade. I was clearly in the minority as it brought a very healthy $32,200 which is nearly 10% above AU50 Trends.
1874-CC PCGS AU58: Now here was a coin that I did like. A lot. It was fully original with great color and surfaces. I had hoped to place it with a major collector and bid up to $32,000 but was foiled by a dealer who bid $33,000. With its final price realized at a hefty $37,950, this means that the buyer graded this coin at least MS61. It will be curious to see if a “fresh new” MS61 appears on the market soon.
1875-CC PCGS AU53: In the past fifteen years, I’ve bought and sold this coin at least three times. Way back in 1992, I paid $12,000 for it at auction. It brought $32,200 in its most recent sale which is about 15% more than I expected it to.
1876-CC PCGS AU58: This was one of my favorite coins in the collection. I love gold coins with great color and this piece has always appealed to me due to its natural fiery orange-red peripheral hues. I purchased this coin for $39,100 and thought it was one of the better deals in the sale as I expected it to bring 10-15% more.
1877-CC PCGS AU53: I like this date very much and I really liked the coin for the grade (I thought it graded AU55). Apparently, someone else did as well as I was outbid at $27,600.
1878-CC PCGS AU55: No one other than me seemed to find this coin’s price realized of $39,100 to be extremely strong but I think this had to be a record price for a slabbed AU55 example of this date. I didn’t see the coin has having the potential to upgrade so I am assuming it was purchased by a collector as exactly what it was: a nice representative high grade example of a very scarce date.
1879-CC PCGS AU55: It’s funny how market perceptions and values change over time. As recently as five years ago, the 1879-CC sold for more money than nearly any other Carson City eagle. But after a group of really ugly, overgraded AU examples sold at auction in the last few years, Trends dropped and today the 1879-CC is now one of the most undervalued Carson City eagles from the 1870’s. This coin sold for $32,200 which is more than Trends but which still seems to be a good value relative to other less rare CC eagles from this era.
1880-CC NGC MS61: The date run of Carson City eagles from the 1880’s in the Old West collection is probably the best ever assembled. The 1880-CC was a lovely coin with great color and fresh, original surfaces. I thought it had a good shot to grade MS62 and it sold for a strong $18,400.
1881-CC NGC MS64: What a great coin this is. It is the single finest Carson City eagle from the 1880’s, it has a glorious pedigree (ex Eliasberg, Clapp and obtained from a bank by Clapp in 1895) and it is a stunning piece from a visual perspective. I bought it out of the Lang sale in 2002 for $25,300 and upgraded it from MS63 to MS64. I really wanted to buy this coin again and bid up to $60,000 but it sold to a determined phone bidder for $74,750.
1882-CC NGC MS62: Bet you didn’t know that this date is unique in Uncirculated and that the present example, pedigreed to the Lang collection where I bought it in 2002 for $20,700 in an NGC MS61 holder, is one of the most important Carson City eagles in existence. I was able to buy this coin for $41,400 and was thrilled with my purchase as I would have paid considerably more. This great coin now resides in the finest collection of Liberty Head eagles ever assembled.
1883-CC PCGS AU58: I think I charged the owner of the Old West collection something like $6,500 for this coin. It brought $14,950 in the sale. I think he was pretty happy about this…
1884-CC PCGS MS62: Only five or six Uncirculated examples of this date are known and the present example is the second best of these. I thought its grade of MS62 was conservative and I was able to purchase it for $46,000. It, too, will be residing in the finest collection of Liberty Head eagles that has ever been assembled and it certainly will fit in well in this remarkable group of coins.
1890-CC PCGS MS62: While “only” graded an MS62, this coin has sensational color and great eye appeal. Trends is $7000 for an MS62 but this lovely coin brought $10,350 which is almost certainly a record price for the grade. I bought this coin for $3,520 in an August 1995 Bowers and Merena sale and liked it enough that I had kept it for myself for a few years until I sold it to a collector.
1891-CC PCGS MS63: This coin was nothing all that special but it had a nice pedigree (ex Pittman collection) and attractive original color. It brought over $7,000 which is a strong price for a date that typically trades in this grade for $5,000 or so.
1892-CC PCGS MS63: I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a prettier Carson City eagle of any date or a nicer example graded MS63. Not only did this coin have nearly immaculate surfaces but it had amazing orange-gold color that gave it a “glow” that could only be appreciated if seen in person. I paid $41,400 for it and was obviously buying the coin and not the holder as Trends is all of $10,000.
1893-CC PCGS MS61: Unlike the other Carson City eagles from the 1890’s, this date is very rare in Uncirculated. The example in the Old West collection was among the finest known and I purchased it for $16,100.
The final price realized for the Old West collection was close to $950,000 and this was a significant profit for the owner. It turned out to be a win-win deal for everyone: a happy consignor and many happy collectors who now have outstanding new Carson City gold coins in their collections.