San Francisco Gold Coinage

Having just returned from a nice long weekend in lovely San Francisco, I found myself often* asking the question “why doesn’t such a great town with such an indisputable numismatic history have a more active collecting base?” I can think of at least four reasons why San Francisco gold coins lag their fellow branch mints’ popularity.

    No one has written a book on these coins. Without seeming too egotistical, I think that my books on Charlotte, Dahlonega, Carson City and New Orleans books have been real shots in the arm for each of these mints. If and when someone writes an accessible, concise book about San Francisco gold coins, this will remedy a century of neglect. I won’t be writing this book. Will anyone step up to the plate?

    Unlike the Southern gold coinage, production of San Francisco issues dragged on for nearly a century and entailed denominations ranging from gold dollars to double eagles. There are simply too many coins for most collectors to keep track of and they come in too wide a range of size. If I were the Czar of San Francisco Gold Collecting, I would try to market these issues in three age brackets: the early years (pre-1880 issues), the middle years (1880-1906) and the late years (1908-1930).

    Continuing on the same track as Reason #2, there are too many different types of San Francisco coins to get all-encompassing collections started. The individual who collects St. Gaudens double eagles is unlikely to collect gold dollars. This seems to be a case of “never the twain shall meet” and because of this, San Francisco gold coins continue to have small pockets of cult interest that never merge together to form bigger interest groups.

    Despite not being very popular many San Francisco gold issues are already very highly priced. This makes it harder to market them as undervalued sleepers. In a related vein, many of the early issues are very rare in all grades. Very rare coins are hard to promote because they are hard to find in any quantity.

* = OK, so I’m exaggerating here. I actually didn’t think about business or coins at all the whole weekend but on the plane ride back the subject did come up once or twice…