Few areas in the rare gold coin market have seen as much price appreciation in the past two years as Three Dollar gold pieces. I am asked on an almost daily basis “are Three Dollar gold pieces overpriced?” My answer is for the most part, no they are not. Let’s look at the series in a bit of detail and I’ll make a case for them being fairly priced and also point out the issues that I think are now fully priced.
First, let’s look at the bread and butter issues in the series: the common dates in the AU55 to AU58 range. For $1,750-2,500 you can still purchase a coin that is relatively scarce. While I am not especially excited about the common dates of this type in this grade range, I think that slightly better dates such as the 1857, 1859, 1860 and 1868 are good values. These were selling for $1,500 or so a few years ago and given the rise in gold prices in the past few years and the increased popularity of this series, I have absolutely no problem telling people to purchase these slightly better dates at what is just a tiny premium over common date price.
Are there still dates that are undervalued in this series? You bet there are. I think the San Francisco issues, with the exception of the 1856-S, are all very undervalued and attractive, properly graded pieces in EF40 and better are very sensibly priced. Want to know some other underpriced dates? The 1858 is a fantastic value at current levels and all of the Civil War dates in AU are exceedingly cheap relative to common date prices. And I continue to love the very low mintage dates from the 1880’s, most notably the 1881, 1883, 1884 and 1886.
Want to know another area in this series that is extremely underpriced? Proofs. Ironically, Coin World Trends for most dates in MS64 is now higher than for comparable Proofs. I hardly ever see PR63 and PR64 Three Dollar gold pieces and Proofs struck prior to 1885 are nearly impossible to find. If you can locate decent looking pieces in PR63 and PR64 grades at anything near published Trends and CDN Bid prices, I’d say you can laugh all the way to the bank.
What Three Dollar gold pieces are overvalued? There are a number of dates that I am struggling with buying for my inventory at current levels. I have sold some common dates in MS63 recently for close to $10,000 and this seems like a lot of money to me for these. If you have some extra 1854, 1874 or 1878 Three Dollar gold pieces in MS63 and you bought them a few years ago, take your profits.
The 1854-D and 1854-O issues, while both very popular and both numismatically significant as one-year types, have risen substantially in the past two years. Three years ago, I had a group of four 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces in NGC AU58 and had troubling selling them at $35,000 per coin. Today, each one of these coins would sell for $60,000-70,000. The 1854-O in AU55 and AU58 also seems overvalued, especially considering how many of them are around and how overgraded most of these are.
Would I encourage a new collector to begin a set of Three Dollar gold pieces today? I would, but not with as much enthusiasm as I might have a year or two ago. I still believe that there are good values in this series but the new collector will have to be far more selective than in the recent past when nearly any Three Dollar gold piece he purchased would have been considered undervalued and desirable by me.