Of course everyone would like to not think twice about buying all sorts of cool, expensive gold coins. But most of us have a coin collecting budget that we have to hold to. Is it possible for the collector of average means to seriously collect US gold? I would contend that even with a reasonably small budget, a collector can have lots of fun in this area of the market and over the course of time put together a pretty neat collection. I’d say that you really need a minimum budget of $1,000-2,000 to buy reasonably interesting pre-1933 gold coins. You can buy coins in the $250-500 range but you are going to have to make compromises in quality or collect very esoteric areas like Period Two California Fractional gold. If you can live with the idea of quality over quantity and buy a bit less frequently, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much damage a thousand-dollar bill can do in the US gold coin market.
So, what can you do with a budget of $1,000-2,000 per coin?
Let’s say you a relative newbie to the coin market and you don’t have a high degree of comfort regarding your knowledge. An area like St. Gaudens double eagles might be a good place to start. You get the comfort of buying an ounce of gold with every purchase and you will own a coin that is incredibly liquid. A quick perusal of the most recent CDN Monthly Summary shows no less than twenty-five Saints that have a current wholesale bid of less than $2,000 per coin. Assuming that prices for these issues stay in this range (and my gut feeling tells me that MS63 Saints will be dropping in price in the near future) this means that a pretty significant collection could be built on a reasonable budget.
Another series that a collector without a huge budget can have a lot of fun with is Type Three gold dollars. I’ve recently sold coins like 1857 and 1858 gold dollars in PCGS MS64 (with CAC stickers!) for not much more than $1,000 and for just a bit less, you can buy many of the popular low-mintage dates from the 1880’s in the same grade. If you purchase coins graded MS63, many are $750 per coin or in some cases less. Yes, gold dollars are small. But you have to like the value of a 125-150 year old American gold coin in Choice Uncirculated (or better) for $750-1,250.
For overall value, it is hard to beat the Liberty Head quarter eagle series. Even though many of the branch mint issues from the 1840’s, 1850’s and 1860’s are rare and fairly expensive, the Philadelphia coins from all decades are mostly affordable. The post-1875 issues are especially reasonable from a price standpoint and it is possible to purchase some legitimately scarce coins for $1,000 or less. I am a very big fan of the 1840’s dates from Philadelphia and many can be bought in AU50 for less than $1,000; despite their obvious scarcity.
I’ve mentioned a number of times in the past year that I think No Motto half eagles and eagles from the Philadelphia mint are a very good value. To give you an idea, I sold a really choice NGC AU58 CAC approved 1852 half eagle this morning for $625. This is a 150+ year old gold coin with a basal value of $300. At $625, how can you go wrong? There are many other Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840’s and 1850’s that can be found in AU55 and AU58 grades for $1,000 and less. The eagles from this era are more expensive but choice, original AU55 coins are sometimes available for less than $1,000. A collector on a limited budget could put together a very nice date run of No Motto half eagles and eagles without breaking the bank.
Another area that still offers good value is the Liberty Head Type One series. There are, of course, many extremely expensive dates in this series and even the common issues tend to be expensive in higher grades. But nice EF45 to AU55 coins are available from time to time and many can be purchased for $1,500-2,000. As an example, I sold a pleasing 1855-S in PCGS AU50 the other day for $1,700. It’s not a really rare coin but it’s the second year of issue from this mint and it’s a date that jumps up in price appreciably once you hit the MS60 level.
If you don’t have a huge numismatic budget, don’t necessarily rule out pre-1933 gold coins. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of very interesting coins available for less than $1,000 and if you can get your budget up to $2,000 per coin, you have some seriously interesting options to choose from.