St. Gaudens 100th Anniversary

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of Augustus St. Gaudens incomparable Indian Head eagle and double eagle designs. Assuming that this is an anniversary that will be met with much fanfare (and accompanying numismatic promotion) how can the savvy collector or investor take advantage of this? In my opinion, it would seem that the most obvious target for a promotion would be the High Relief double eagle. The reasons are obvious: its the first year of issue for the largest gold denomination, it’s a gorgeous design and a popular low mintage coin that, while scarce, can be accumulated in a large enough quantity to promote. This is a great theory except for one flaw: High Reliefs have been actively promoted for the last two or three years and are at historic all-time price highs.

But does this mean that High Reliefs are not a good investment at this point in time? If I were buying a High Relief strictly as an investment, I think I’d look at it as a very short term hold—like maybe a year or so. One of the nice things about these coins is that they tend to have very tight buy/sell spreads and even if your coin does not appreciate much in value, you’ll probably have minimal downside. From a long term standpoint, I’d probably pass on a High Relief and wait until prices come down.

How about the “regular relief” 1907 Saint—do these have a good future from an investment standpoint? I would say that yes, they do. But I wouldn’t mess with them in grades lower than MS65 due to the fact that they are very common. In MS66 I think this variety is a good value and an MS67 is a great addition to your collection if you can find one.

The Indian Head eagles are a very intriguing group of coins. There are three varieties known: the Rolled Edge, The Wire Edge and the No Motto.

The Rolled Edge is, in theory, a regular issue even though only 48 are believed to have been struck. This is one of the most attractive United States gold issues and it is going to cost you over $200,000 for an MS64 example.

A coin that is also attractive but a little less rare is the Wire Edge 1907 eagle. It has an original mintage of just 500. Curiously, this rare coin hasn’t seen much in the way of promotion in the past few years and, unlike its counterpart the 1907 High Relief double eagle, it has remained pretty flat (pun intended…) from a price standpoint. I am a big fan of the Wire Edge $10 in grades from MS63 to MS66 and I think this issue will see a big price increase in the next few years.

What about the more plebian 1907 No Motto eagle—will this issue be promoted and will it see price increases? I would say yes on both accounts. I’m sure you’ll see lower end Uncirculated coins peddled on a mass-market scale. I would stick to examples that grade MS64 and above. I really like this coin in MS66 and MS67 as it is a short-lived two year type and it is an extremely attractive coin in higher grades.

So, getting back to our original question, how can the investor best capitalize on what may be a 100th anniversary craze for the 1907 St. Gaudens eagles and double eagles? The way I see it, there are four ways of reacting:

    Go a bit crazy and buy a nice High Relief and a Wire Edge. Even if they don’t show strong short-term appreciation, you’ll still own two very liquid blue chip coins that will be cornerstones of your collection.

    React with moderation and buy nice MS64 to MS66 examples of the 1907 “regular issue” eagles and double eagles. Again, you’ll own two neat coins which you’ll enjoy.

    Do nothing and grumble about yet another pesky coin promotion.

    Decide to beat the crowd to the next promotion: the 100th anniversary of the Bela Lyon Pratt design Indian Head quarter eagle and half eagle. A nice matched set of MS64 or MS65 coins might make a great way to welcome in 2008.