The 1914 eagle has a mintage of just 50 which is the lowest in the series. It seems that a higher percentage of Proofs of this date were saved than in other years, and as many as 30 to 40 are known. Nearly all have been mishandled in some shape or fashion, and my best estimate is that no more than six to eight Matte Proofs of this year are known with original color and surfaces.Read More
Without fail, the annual ANA convention brings out many great coins. Some of these are old friends; others are new to the market. Many of the best coins I buy at major shows never make it onto my website, but they deserve attention.Read More
In many series, collectors are slaves to the holder. By this, I mean, they make purchases which aren’t always prudent based on what a PCGS or NGC holder says. This is most prevalent in Registry-oriented 20th century series such as Lincoln Cents and Washington Quarters (amongst others) - series in which a single grading point can inflate the value of a coin by 5, 10 or even 20 times.
This tends not to be the case with classic 19th century gold coins, but every now and then a situation arises in which a coin which is theoretically the highest graded may not be the best purchase for an advanced collector.
A situation involving this scenario emerged at the recent Baltimore Stacks Bowers auction and I’d like to share my thoughts.
Please note that this is not meant to be a negative rant about the following coin, and the buyer of this coin is, no doubt, happy with his or her purchase.
The 1876-S eagle has long been a favorite issue of mine. It has a small mintage of just 5,000 coins, and I think five or six dozen exist, with most in the VF to EF grade range. I have never seen an 1876-S which grades higher than AU53 to AU55, and my best estimate is that there are around six or seven properly graded AU examples known. Until recently it was an unloved and generally undervalued coin.
In the recent Stacks Bowers Baltimore show, a newly graded PCGS AU55 example of this date was offered. In theory, this is the “finest known” example as it is a population one, none finer, coin. It sold for $22,325. I examined the coin and, in my opinion, it was sub-par for the grade. (Had it been a very choice coin for the grade, I think it would have brought closer to $30,000).
While $10 Libs are not a typical Registry Set series, there are a few advanced, deep-pocketed collectors who are specializing in these coins. And the opportunity to acquire a PCGS finest known coin—with the “points” this would add to such a set—is an unusual opportunity to say the least.
But what if a cheaper example of this same date was actually a “better” coin? What if an 1876-S eagle graded AU50 by PCGS were more original, more appealing (in my opinion), and a fraction of the price?
Back in their 2011 ANA auction, Stacks Bowers sold a PCGS AU50 example of an 1876-S eagle. I didn’t buy it even though, in retrospect, I probably should have.
Take a look at this coin:
I think it compares favorably to the PCGS AU55 shown above. It is a bit less “meaty” but it is more original, less “baggy,” and has comparable—if not better—overall eye appeal.
Most intriguingly, it sold for just $6,325 - or around a quarter of what the AU55 brought.
Here is an instance where Registry-mania caused a so-so coin to sell for a lot of money but didn’t have an impact on a nice, slightly lower grade coin because it wasn’t “the finest known.”
Examples like this are becoming more and more prevalent in the area of 19th century United States gold coins.
The moral of the story? Don’t always trust the plastic you buy to equate with the best value in your series. There is no substitute for knowledge and, in many cases, this knowledge will save you money and provide you with a better overall collection.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have gold coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world’s leading expert working directly with you when assembling a set?
Contact Doug Winter at 214.675.9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As is the case with most of the New Orleans eagles produced between 1843 and 1848, the 1844-O is common enough in lower grades but it becomes scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and it is very rare to extremely rare in full Mint State. This is clearly the case with the 1844-O. I am aware of seven or eight in Uncirculated (not including the unique Gem Proof example that sold a few years ago in excess of $1 million) and this includes three that have seawater surfaces as a result of having been uncovered in shipwrecks. The present example is the second best I have seen with original surfaces, trailing only the wonderful Byron Reed: 157 coin, graded MS62 by NGC, that brought $31,900 all the way back in 1996. This coin has wonderful soft, frosty luster with lovely natural light orange-gold color on both sides. A few very faint natural reddish spots can be seen; one above the 18 in the date and the other between the two 4's. The strike is sharp and the obverse is clean and choice with just a few minor marks; the reverse has a few more marks with most of these clustered in the field behind the head of the eagle. After years of neglect, high quality No Motto Liberty Head eagles have finally come into their own and are now appreciated for the rarities they are. That said, I think coins like this are still a great value and this lovely 1844-O is among the more exciting New Orleans eagles that I have offered for sale all year.
Ex Heritage 10/10: 4873, where it sold for $18,400.
With a mintage of just 18,000, the 1855-O is a scarce date in all grades. It is tied with the 1856-O as the fifth rarest No Motto eagle from New Orleans and it is really hard to find in choice, original EF. This example was sold by me to a collector around a year ago and he traded it back to me to acquire a nice PCGS AU50 1855-O eagle. It has lovely medium green-gold color that is accentuated by splashes of reddish-gold at the obverse periphery. In addition to showing nice color, this piece has very clean surfaces with just a few inconsequential marks scattered about the fields. There is a small rectangular planchet flaw on the reverse below the beak that is mint-made. An affordable but truly scarce coin that is a great value for the eagle collector.
Large Date variety. There are two varieties of eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1842: the Small Date and the Large Date. The former is the scarcer of the two but the Large Date is more challenging to locate than its mintage figure of 62,884 would suggest. This date is usually seen in the EF40 to AU50 grade range and it becomes very scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58. In Uncirculated, it is a really rare coin and it is an issue that I have not handled in Mint State since the early 1990's. This fresh example shows no real wear but does display some abrasions from having been transported in a bag. The color is a lovely fiery orange-gold hue with some contrasting reddish shades about the devices. There have been no AU58 1842 Large Date eagles sold at auction since 2008 and the last MS60 (a PCGS coin) sold for $10,925 in the Heritage 3/09 sale despite its funky orange coloration. There are many great opportunities for the value-conscious collector in the Liberty Head eagle market and these early dates from Philadelphia offer some of the best value out there.
Coinage of the eagle denomination at the New Orleans mint didn't begin until 1841 and given the fact that the first year of issue is rare and expensive, for most collectors the 1842-O is the first available issue. The 1842-O has a mintage of 27,400 and it is only marginally scarce in lower grades but it becomes very scarce in properly graded AU53 and higher. Nearly all the examples that I see graded AU53 to AU55 are heavily abraded and show no originality. This example is a nice exception to the rule(s) as it is very clean and shows nice deep green-gold color with underlying flashes of reddish-gold at the date and borders. The strike is very sharp with just a bit of weakness on the curl above the ear and the fields are smooth. This piece has really good eye appeal for the date. Scarce and attractive.
Almost certainly from Europe as evidenced by the deep orange-gold color contrasted by darker toning on the highlights. Choice and very lustrous with some light scuffs in the left obverse field; the reverse is cleaner and very lightly marked. The 1872-S eagle is an overlooked issue with an original mintage of only 17,300. I believe that there are around 150-200 known with most seen in the VF-EF grade range. Properly graded AU53 to AU55 examples are very scarce and the 1872-S is a true rarity in Uncirculated withe just two or three known with claims to an Uncirculated grade. The last PCGS AU53 to be sold at auction was Stack's 8/10: 1153 which brought $3,450; before this was the B+M 7/06 coin (lot 1644) that sold for a strong $5,175. A really nice example of this underrated issue.
Recently found in Europe and graded by PCGS at their Paris facility. It is not often that I purchase this date due to the fact that it is so common by the standards of Carson City eagles. But this is such a choice, high end and fresh 1891-CC eagle that I felt I had to add it to my current inventory. It is from the same little group of CC eagles that featured the 1883-CC and 1893-CC listed above and below and it merits special consideration for its dazzling frosty luster, rich natural golden-orange color and overall eye appeal. This piece is as well made as any Philadelphia or San Francisco eagle of this era with all details up and bold. The surfaces show just a few light, well-dispersed ticks and were it not for a small cluster of abrasions in the left obverse, it would receive strong consideration at the 64 level. The 1891-CC eagle is common in MS60 to MS62 but it is scarce in MS63 and rare above this. Given the fact that it is a "generic" issue in the CC eagle series, most advanced collectors are happy to have an example in MS63 in their set, especially as properly graded MS64's seem expensive at $15,000+ for a properly graded example.