In honor of the season finale of my favorite TV show “Deadwood”, what better topic for a Monday morning than an examination of current market conditions on Al Swearingen’s favorite coins: Carson City gold. If you read my recent analysis of the Old West collection of Carson City half eagles and eagles which I wrote a few weeks ago, you’ll know that the market for high grade examples of these two denominations seems to be just fine. But what about the more pedestrian material that is generally offered and what about the ever-popular double eagle series?
Half Eagles: I’d have to say that the half eagle denomination is still the weakest of the three gold issues produced at this mint. But the market is clearly stronger now for high grade pieces than it was a month ago. Nice Extremely Fine coins from the 1870’s have become extremely hard to locate; probably because most of the “real” EF45 coins (at least by most standards) are now in AU50 to AU53 holders. It is especially frustrating to try and find half eagles from the 1870’s with original color and surfaces. Most of these have been dipped in an attempt to make them appear more lustrous. There are a few dates from the 1870’s that have become just about impossible to find in EF40 to AU50 and these are worth at least 80-90% of Trends (if not more). Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell you what these dates are.
The dates from the 1880’s are much more available but most of the pieces I see are overgraded, unoriginal and just plain uninteresting. Any Carson City half eagle from this decade in AU50 and above with a good strike and pleasing original color is scarce and a great value at current levels.
The issues from the 1890’s are fairly plentiful right now but most are in the AU55 to MS62 range. It is still possible to find nice coins from this decade and I’d recommend filling these holes now while the coins still exist.
Eagles: The Carson City eagle market is stronger now than at any time since the mid-1990’s. This is due to the fact that at least three or four very serious buyers have entered the market and most of these collectors are just starting their collections. This means that Finest Known or very high end Condition Census pieces will continue to set record prices when they are offered for sale at public auction. But there are still some good values to be had. The dates from the 1870’s are extremely hard to find with original color and surfaces and any piece grading EF40 or better with really good eye appeal is a great seller right now.
The 1880’s issues are beginning to come into their own, especially in higher grades. In Uncirculated grades, these dates are quite scarce but are still very affordable in comparison to the 1870’s issues. My personal feeling is that any Carson City eagle from the 1880’s in MS60 or better that is priced at under $15,000 is very good value. And nice AU coins priced at $7,500 and under seem to be great value.
The 1890’s issues are becoming more and more popular due to the fact that all four of these can be obtained in Uncirculated for reasonable sums. But prices for finest known or very high end Condition Census examples of these dates have really shot up in the past few months as the new collectors of these coins jockey into the position of putting together sets which contain “unimprovable” examples.
Double Eagles: I was very surprised to see the renewed market strength for virtually all Carson City double eagles at the ANA show. I came to the show with a nice group of common dates in AU55 to MS61 grades and all of the coins I had sold quickly and at very strong prices. I tried to buy other coins at the show and was often quoted as much as 85-95% of Trends from other dealers for coins that were nice but were not “upgrade shots.” I’m not certain if someone is quietly doing a small retail promotion of Carson City double eagles right now but the market certainly seems strong to me.
The early 1870’s dates are, as usual, very strong. The AU50 example of the key 1870-CC in the Heritage Platinum night sale brought well north of $300,000 and I have seen a number of 1871-CC, 1872-CC and 1873-CC double eagles in AU55 and above trade for very strong numbers of late. The scarce, low mintage 1878-CC and 1879-CC are also in very strong demand right now.
The common dates from the 1880’s are still affordable and I think any pretty, original Carson City double eagle from this historic era at under $5,000 is tremendous value. The higher grade coins from this era (in this case MS62 and above) are in great demand right now and these often sell for full Trends or even more to knowledgeable collectors.
The same holds true with the dates from the 1890’s. The low mintage key issue from this decade, the 1891-CC, is in stronger demand that at any time I can remember, even though prices have not yet really shot upwards.
The overall market for Carson City gold coinage, regardless of grade, seems very good right now. The lower priced, lower grade coins have a solid following among collectors while the high grade, one-of-a-kind examples are in extremely strong demand. The only area that seems to be really lagging is ugly, overgraded better date pieces in the $10,000-20,000 range. These are hard to sell because most collectors are being advised to stay away from these and to wait for the right piece for their collection.