If you've followed my blogs in the past few years you know that I'm a Coin Purtist. I tend to be particularly pure when it comes to "no grade" coins. Loosely defined, a "no grade" is a coin with a problem (or problems) that preclude it from getting into a regular PCGS or NGC holder. This can range from harsh cleaning to scratches to rim damage to a hole.
Until two weeks ago I had never (as in not one single time...ever) had a coin on my website that was not in a regular PCGS, NGC or ANACS holder. But I made an exception to this Winter Rule when I bought an 1864-S half eagle in a PCGS Genuine holder at the recent Los Angeles ANA show.
The coin I bought had clearly been around the block (a few times...) It had been mounted in a soldered bezel and when it was removed it lost detail at the borders. The surfaces had some roughness and the coin had probably been recolored at one time to make it look more original. That said, I still liked this coin alot.
Why? Because it had one thing going for it: extreme rarity. Many people don't know this, but the 1864-S half eagle is the second rarest Liberty Head half eagle after the 1875 and there are as few as 20-30 pieces known in all grades. This is clearly an issue that does not become available very often. To put it in perspective, it is rarer than an 1870-CC double eagle and not much less rare than the celebrated 1854-O and 1856-O double eagles.
But here's the kicker. I sold this 1864-S half eagle for just a touch over $5,000. To me, this seemed like remarkable value. And I wasn't the only person who felt this way. Three collectors ordered the coin within two days of it appearing on my website RareGoldCoins.com.
So am I going to become a regular player in the PCGS Genuine market? I seriously doubt it. But I am going to be more attentive to affordable examples of extremely rare coins like the 1864-S half eagle. Would I buy an 1864 Philadelphia half eagle that was damaged? Absolutely not. But the next time I see a major rarity in the Liberty Head gold series that is fairly priced yet extremely rare, I will give some serious thought to adding it to my inventory.