One of the consequences of the soaring gold market is the evaporation of the Market Premium Factor (or "MPF") for certain semi-scarce dates in the St. Gaudens double eagle series. This scenario presents the savvy collector with what appears to be an interesting short-term opportunity. The term Market Premium Factor was invented, as far as I can tell, by my friend the newsletter writer/publisher Maurice Rosen. It refers to the premium that a better date coin sells for versus a common date. If a common date in a series is worth $1,000 and a slightly better date sells for $1,200 it has an MPF or 20%.
In the wake of the Great Saint Malaise, some dates that were formerly accorded market premium factors of 10-30% are suddenly selling for generic prices or just a bit more. There are a number of reasons why the generic double eagle market is currently as weak as it has been in recent memory. With gold blasting through the $1,000 mark, the gold content of a $20 Lib. or a Saint is enough that it becomes a sizable outlay of cash for the typical collector or investor; especially if being purchased in bulk quantities. Many new collectors and investors who are purchasing gold are buying modern U.S. mint products and eschewing older American gold. And many of the large-scale marketers who sold vast quantities of $20’s in the past are turning their focus to areas of the market where the profit margins are greater. These are the coins that, it seems to me, are good value right now.
Let me give you some examples of semi-better date Saints that are selling for the same price as generics but which are a lot scarcer (and, by the way, just in case you think I happen to have a double row box of these sitting in the back of my safe, I don’t...)
The 1910 is a date that I’ve always thought was pretty tough to find in properly graded MS64 and it is genuinely scarce in MS65. According to the most recent PCGS population figures, there are 1,057 graded in MS64 and 158 in MS65. Compare this to the common 1924 that has a current population of 60,451 in MS64 with 38,752 in MS65. In theory, the 1910 is 57 times scarcer in MS64 than the 1924. I’m not saying that the 1910 should sell for an enormous premium over the 1924. But in stronger markets, I can remember getting a decent premium for this date in grades as low as MS62.
Some of the other semi-better dates that have had good MPF’s in the past but which are currently selling for generic price levels (or close to generic levels) include the 1907 No Motto, 1908-D No Motto (in MS63 and below), 1909-S, 1910-D, 1912 and 1913 (in the lower Uncirculated grades) and 1920 (again, in MS63 and below).
Before you run out and buy a bunch of these, I have a caveat for you. One of the reasons that the MPF has evaporated many Saints is because of loose grading. I’m guessing that if you can find CAC approved 1910 double eagles in MS64, they ARE going to sell for a premium; as well they should. If you look at the price structure for many of the more common Saints graded between MS61 and MS64 you’ll note very small price spreads. One of the major reasons for this is that there is often very little difference in quality between these grades (!).
That said, I still like the idea of buying a group of 1910 Saints in PCGS MS64 for common date prices if you have the opportunity. At these levels, you have very little downside other than the price of gold dropping and with the current state of the United States economy I don’t foresee this happening anytime soon.