1861 $3.00 NGC EF40 CAC

I find it interesting that a scarce coin like this sells for a very small premium over a very common date (such as the 1874 or 1878) yet it is literally dozens of times more rare. This evenly worn, nicely toned example is notable for its pleasing flashes of orange-gold color and, surprisingly, there is still luster seen in the protected areas. Only 5,959 were made and this is a popular issue in any grade due to its Civil War assocation.

This is the only 1861 three dollar gold piece in this grade to be approved by CAC; fourteen have been approved in higher grades.

1862 $3.00 PCGS PR63 CAC

Byron Reed Collection pedigree. One of 35 Proofs struck; there are probably as few as nine to ten known. This is one of the few absolutely original Proof gold coins on the market. It was last sold in 1996 and before this it had resided in the Byron Reed/Omaha City Library collection since the 1890's. The obverse and reverse show deep natural cloudy orange-gold color over reflective surfaces. It appears that the contrast is good enough to designate this coin as a Proof but the aforementioned toning has slightly obscured the frosted nature of the portrait; if dipped (yikes!) this contrast would be fully evident. There are a a few old hairlines on the surfaces (not from cleaning but from cabinet friction) and a few mint-made lines in the planchet before the U in UNITED. The rarity of this date as a Proof is evidenced by the fact that there have been just two pieces sold at auction since 1999: a PCGS PR64 in 6/04 that sold for $50,600 and another PCGS PR64 that brought $37,950 in May 2006. This piece is an amazing combination of rarity, pedigree and beauty and it should be very attractive to Proof gold collectors or Civil War specialists.

Ex Spink America 10/1996: 78 (where it sold for $15,400), earlier in the Byron Reed/Omaha City Library collection. The original auction flip accompanies the coin.

1856-S $3.00 PCGS AU58

Medium S mintmark. This is the variety with recutting at the top right of the mintmark and a crack forming at the left foot of the second L in DOLLARS. The 1856-S is the most available of the San Francisco Three Dollar gold pieces but it is scarce in properly graded AU58 and very rare in Uncirculated. This frosty slider has a considerable amount of luster on the surfaces and just a slight amount of friction on the cheek and hair. A few ticks can be seen on the surfaces but this piece is much cleaner than usual for the date and it represents one of the nicer 1856-S Threes that I have seen or handled in the last few years. The last PCGS AU58 example of this date to trade at auction was Heritage 1/12: 6264 that brought $6,900.

1858 $3.00 PCGS AU58

The 1858 is among the rarest Three Dollar gold pieces from the Philadelphia mint but it doesn't get the publicity of other issues such as the 1865 and 1877. Just 2,133 were produced and this is an issue that is almost never seen above AU55. In fact, there have been no AU58's sold at auction since 9/08 and the last PCGS AU58 to cross the auction block was in 6/06. This lightly worn piece is very lustrous but it does show some scattered ticks on the surfaces as is so common with this date. If you can even find an Uncirculated 1858 three dollar, it would cost around double the price of this nice slider.

1872 $3.00 PCGS MS61

Only 2,000 business strike 1872 Three Dollar gold pieces were struck and, unlike some of the low mintage dates from the next decade, this date saw circulation and was not hoarded by speculators. There are fewer known in Uncirculated than the population figures at NGC and PCGS would suggest and this is compounded by the fact that some of the examples graded MS60 to MS62 are questionable as to their "newness." This piece, which is sem-prooflike and very appealing, is free of any rub or wear and it would grade at least a point higher were it not for a small old scrape below the left side of the first S in STATES. The surfaces show a nice light rose and orange-gold patina and the reverse is very choice with especially clean fields. I have always believed that this is one of the most undervalued dates in the entire Three Dollar series and it is not easy to find much nicer than the present example.

1861 $3.00 PCGS MS62

For many denominations, mintage figures in 1861 at the Philadelphia mint were quite high. But this is not the case with the 1861 Three Dollar as only 5,959 examples were produced. A few hundred examples exist in all grades with most in the EF45 to AU55 range. Nice Uncirculated examples are scarce and this date is rare in MS63 and above. This example is a pleasing light yellow gold with rich, satiny luster. The surfaces show the typical horizontal striations seen on all business strikes of this year but there are no marks of note and the strike is sharp. Last year there were only two MS62 examples of this date sold at auction. One, graded by NGC, brought $9,775 while the other, in a PCGS holder, sold for $9,488. Trends jumps to $16,500 in MS63 which makes this MS62 a good value for the Civil War collector seeking a special 1861 Three Dollar piece for his set.

1857-S $3.00 PCGS AU58 CAC

The San Francisco Three Dollar gold pieces were made in limited quantity and these were not saved by collectors. Of the 14,000 examples struck in 1857 at this mint, a few hundred survive but most are well worn and this is an extremely rare issue in Uncirculated with no more than three or four known. In the lower AU grades, the 1857-S is slightly scarce but it is rare in properly graded AU55 to AU58. In fact, PCGS has a current population of just seven in AU58 with a single example better. This piece is very lustrous with nice light yellow-gold color. A small amount of wear is limited to the high spots of the obverse and the surfaces lack the abundant marks that characterize the issue. The last PCGS AU58 example to sell at auction was ANR 3/05: 618 (which brought $14,950) and before this, a PCGS AU58 sold in the October 1999 Bass II sale. This means that only two (count 'em, two...) examples in PCGS have sold at auction in the last thirteen years. CAC has approved just two 1857-S Three Dollar gold pieces in AU58 and none in grades higher than this. If Three Dollar gold pieces were just a bit more popular than they are currently are, I could see this being a $20,000 coin. As it is, a great value and an important pierce for the specialist.

1883 $3.00 NGC MS63

With an original mintage of just 900 business strikes, the 1883 has one of the lowest production figures of any American gold coin. It is comparable to the 1885 three dollar (which has a mintage figure of just 801) and not as rare as the 1881 (with a mintage of 500). This example is semi-prooflike with attractive medium reddish-gold toning which is most fully developed at the obverse border and across much of the reverse center. There is a small sharp mark on the cheek of Liberty and a few light nicks in the upper right obverse field; the reverse appears to be of Gem quality. Auction appearances for MS63 1883 three dollar gold pieces seem to occur at the rate of about two or three a year and typically examples fetch in the $11,000-12,000 range.

1863 $3.00 NGC MS64 CAC

Only 5,000 business strike 1863 three dollar gold pieces were made and due to the economic turbulence of the Civil War, not many were saved. As a result, the 1863 is a scarce coin in higher grades and an issue that is very rare in the MS64 to MS65 range. This piece is very unusual for the issue as it lacks the prominent clashmarks seen on most 1863 Threes. It is semi-prooflike; another unusual situation for an issue that is typically seen with lustrous, slight grainy surfaces. This piece has the appearance of a Gem and I purchased it from one of the sharpest "breakout" wholesalers I know who told me that he graded it a full MS65. While I often disagree with him, I think he was pretty accurate on this and I can't figure out exactly what is keeping it from the 65 level. Since 2005, only three MS64's have sold at auction. The last record is Heritage 1/10: 2125, a PCGS piece, which brought $14,950. That coin had funky color and, in my opinion, it was low end for the grade. The Three Dollar series has numerous excellent values and this high grade 1863 is a piece that should appeal to the sophisticated collector who recognizes true value.