I don't consider myself to be a real pro when it comes to rare coin promotion but even I know a no-brainer when I see it. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you can bet that rare coin promotion gurus who are far more clever than I have been preparing for this event for some time. So if you are Joe Coin Promoter and you are gearing up for the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011, what kind of gold coins can you get enough of to do a promotion? Let's go denomination by denomination and figure this out.
I. Gold Dollars
Only two mints made gold dollars in 1861: Philadelphia and Dahlonega. The 1861-P is common and cheap; the 1861-D is rare and expensive. The 1861-D is unpromotable; it is too rare to accumulate in quantity and is already too expensive. A clever dealer could probably stealthily buy 40-50 1861-P gold dollars in lower Mint State grades over the course of a year and have enough coins to promote. He could probably find as many 1862-P gold dollars and maybe have as many as 100 coins in total. I would have to wonder, though, if the intended audience for this promotion would get excited about gold dollars as they are small, common and not really "sexy." As a collector I'd probably avoid stockpiling any Civil War gold dollars to ride the coattails of a promotion.
II. Quarter Eagles
Two mints made quarter eagles in 1861: Philadelphia and San Francisco. The 1861-S is unheralded but scarce and I doubt if you could put together a group of more than three or four over the course of a year. The 1861-P is common in grades up to MS63 and it might be possible to accumulate enough to promote. I like the promotional possibilities of this issue and it might not be a bad idea for a collector to buy a few MS62 to MS63 pieces and see if prices increase in the next few years. None of the other Civil War Philadelphia issues can be found in enough quanity to promote. The San Francisco issues are all rare but it might be possible to put together a rag-tag group of circulated examples.
III. Three Dollar Gold Pieces You couldn't promote threes in Uncircirculated as all of the Civil War issues are rare enough and expensive enough to preclude this. But you might actually be able to acculate a few dozen nice circulated pieces. This promotion actually makes sense to me as the three dollar denomination is odd and interesting and it would appeal to non-collectors. It is also out of favor right now so the possibility of buying a fair quantity exists. The 1861-64 dates are all moderately scarce but available in the EF-AU range for less than $4,000 per coin. As a promotion bandwagon jumper, these three dollar gold pieces kind of make sense to me.
IV. Half Eagles
The two southern branch mint half eagles (1861-C and 1861-D) would be fantastic issues to promote but they can not be found in quantity. The San Francisco half eagles of this era are also very rare and while not as glamorous as the 1861-C or 1861-D, issues like the 1862-S and 1864-S half eagle are highly unlikely to be used in a promotion. This leaves the Philadelphia coins. The 1861 is the only one that is common although I wonder if a promoter could find, say, fifty to one hundred examples. I imagine that if you were willing to sell cheap pieces, like in EF40 or EF45, it might just be possible. Not "easy," but maybe "possible."
Civil War era ten dollar gold pieces were made only at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. All of the west coast issues are rare in any grade and the possibility of finding more than a few in any grade is unlikely. The Philadelphia issues are even rarer with the exception of the 1861 which can be found in some quantity in circulated grades. But I just don't think you could come up with enough coins to make for a good promotion. Which is actually kind of shame as a group of 1861 eagles in EF and AU grades would make a great Civil War-themed promotion.
VI. Double Eagles
There isn't a better denomination to promote these days than the double eagle. The coin are big and with gold at $1,400 or so per ounce, they interest nearly every investor. Unfortunately, there is just a single Civil War double eagle that might be available in a quantity great enough to promote: the 1861 Philadelphia. This is probably the most common non-shipwreck Type One double eagle and it exists in significant quantity in circulated grades. But....there may be a fly in the proverbial ointment. Type One double eagles are currently as popular as any series of American coin and an issue like the 1861-P, which used to be fairly easy to buy in quantity, is now in demand by legitimate collectors. It still might be possible but its not going to be an easy task.
After thinking about Civil War era gold coins to promote for the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that unless someone has been working on this project for at least a year already, it probably can't be done in time. Given the scarcity of these coins and the costs involved, maybe it would make more sense to work on buying 500 circulated 1861 Indian Cents or 750 circulated 1864 and 1865 Two Cent pieces.