Pricing MS61 Gold Coins

Coin World Trends lists prices for every Uncirculated grade between MS60 and MS65 with the exception of MS61. So, how does one go about figuring a price for a coin graded MS61 by PCGS or NGC? This depends on a numbers of factors: what is the price differential between MS60 and MS62? How rare is the coin in MS61 and in the grades above this? How strong a level of demand is there for the specific date in this grade? And, of course, you must consider that old favorite: what does the coin look like? In other words, is the fact that it’s in an MS61 holder make any difference regarding its appearance versus if it were graded MS60?

The obvious solution to pricing an MS61 would be to take the MS60 and MS62 Trends values for a coin, add them together and then divide this number in half. Let’s pick a coin and try this and see what happens.

I am going to randomly select an 1857-C half eagle in MS61 for this experiment. The Trends value of this coin is $10,000 in MS60 and $20,000 in MS62. Add these two numbers together and you get $30,000, divide this in half and you get $15,000. Assuming that this coin is worth around 70% of Trends, our formula states that this coin should have a retail value of around $10,500.

Now let’s go on the Heritage Auction Archives and see what the last few MS61 examples of this date have sold for at auction. Between January 1998 and the present date, this firm has sold three PCGS MS61 examples for $7,130, $7,188 and $8,912 respectively as well as an NGC example for $8,970. So much for our MS61 value formula and its premise that an MS61 1857-C half eagle should be worth $10,500.

So what is this coin worth? Well, in MS60 Trends is $10,000. Assuming an MS60 is worth 70% of Trends (and I think this figure is high, given the assumption that most MS60 Charlotte half eagles are not very nice coins from the standpoint of appearance), we can state that this coin is worth around $7,000 in MS60. Even though Trends jumps significantly in MS62, there are enough coins graded in MS60 and MS61 to satisfy the admittedly limited demand for this date. My feeling is that an MS61 example of this particular coin should only command a premium of 10-15%, giving it a fair retail value of around $7,700-8,050. And the market seems to agree with this, using the four action appearances cited above as reference points.

Now that we know this formula is a dud, what is a good way to determine the value of an MS61 rare date gold coin? As I mentioned above, there are a lot of factors at hand.

What if a coin has very little difference in rarity between an MS60 and an MS61? An example of this would be an 1887-S double eagle. Now this is a fairly scarce and fairly popular date in a very widely collected series. But it shows a current PCGS population of 39 coins in MS60 and 126 in MS61. The current Trends value for this date is $1,500 in MS60 and I would be a seller in the $1,100-1,300 range. I don’t think an MS61 would command much of a premium at all; possibly a few hundred dollars at most.

What’s an example where a one point increase from MS60 to MS61 could make a significant price increase? Let’s look at a rare coin in a popular series.

The 1856-O eagle is a truly rare coin in Uncirculated grades. PCGS has a population of just one coin in MS60 with none better while NGC shows a population of three in MS60 and none above this. There is no Trends value listed for this issue in MS60 while CDN Quarterly Bid is $13,500. I would be a very willing buyer of the PCGS MS60 example of this date for $15,000; possibly even more if I thought it were nice for the grade. But what would this issue be worth in MS61? Assuming that the coin was solid for the grade, I think it would be a $30,000+ item. Why the huge price increase between MS60 and MS61? It would be a finest known example of a truly rare coin in a series in which there are enthusiastic, deep-pocketed buyers.

I have suggested to the Editor of Coin World Trends that they eliminate the Fine-12 column for gold coins (a grade that many issues do not even exist in) and, instead, add values for the more popular and more often seen MS61 grade. But until this is actually done, the collector will have to use some creativity in determining what an MS61 is actually worth.