Coins That I Never See With Good Eye Appeal, Part Three: Three Dollar Gold

In the third installment of this multi-part article, I'm going to delve into a series that has its share of issues that are not often seen with good eye appeal: three dollar gold. As a series, there are not many individual issues that are rare from an absolute sense. But I can think of a number of issues that are hard to find with a good overall appearance. I. 1854-O and 1854-D: These two issues are inexorably linked due to their status as the only three dollar gold pieces made at southern branch mints. The first is a common coin in nearly all circulated grades with a relatively high mintage figure of 24,000. The latter is regarded as among the rarest issues in the series with only 1,120 produced.

The 1854-O has a reputation among collectors as a condition rarity. There are hundreds and hundreds of pieces known in the VF-EF range and even a decent quantity in the lower AU grades. It becomes rare in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and it remains a very rare issue in Uncirculated with probably no more than five or six known.

But of the hundreds and hundreds of examples known, very few have good eye appeal. This is for a number of reasons. The first has to do with the fact that most 1854-O threes are struck from a late state of the dies that show lapping and re-polishing. This has removed some detail and made the reverse appear to be weakly struck, even on higher grade coins. In addition, the vast majority of 1854-O threes have been cleaned or dipped. It is possible to find a reasonably nice, original EF40 to EF45 example but choice, natural AU coins are quite scarce.

The 1854-D is another issue that is not well made. While this might add to the charm of the issue, it also makes it frustrating for collectors who seek well-detailed, "fresh" appearing coins. This is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of surviving 1854-D threes have been cleaned or dipped and many have been repaired or subtly altered as well. My best estimate is that out of the 125 or so examples that exist, less than 10% are "original" in the strict sense of the word. These coins should command a significant premium versus the typical quality for the issue. In my opinion, a choice, original 1854-D three dollar gold piece with good color and choice surfaces should command at least a 20% premium.

2. 1855-S and 1860-S:

With the exception of the 1856-S, none of the San Francisco three dollar gold pieces are frequently encountered with good eye appeal. This is due to a number of factors. The first is that none of these issues had especially high original mintage figures and the survival rate is low. Secondly, these issues were used in commerce in Gold Rush era San Francisco and as a result were not handled with care. A lack of collector interest meant, of course, that there was no one around to save coins and even the usual "save a few for souvenirs" scenario doesn't apply to them.

The 1855-S is comparable to the 1854-D from the standpoint of overall rarity. It is extremely scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and extremely rare in Uncirculated. I think that no more than three or four Uncirculated examples are known. The finest appears to be the PCGS MS62 in the Great Lakes collection; the second is the ex Pittman 2: 1889 coin, graded MS61, in the South Texas collection. Despite the rarity of this date with good eye appeal, it is surprisingly affordable. I have sold two nice EF examples this year for around $3,000.

The 1860-S is an interesting issue for a number of reasons. It is the last obtainable three dollar gold pieces from this mint and it is rarer than the original mintage figure of 7,000 suggests; it is believed that as many as 2,592 were found to be underweight and later melted. I believe that only 100-125 are known today and examples with original color and surfaces are really hard to find.

The 1860-S is actually a tiny bit more available than the 1855-S in Uncirculated with as many as five or six known. The best of these include Eliasberg: 285, Bass II: 672 (graded MS62 by PCGS) and the Great Lakes coin which is in a PCGS MS61 holder. Most of the AU coins that I have seen are bright, heavily abraded and not appealing. The few Choice AU's that have sold in recent years have not realized significant premiums over typical examples and the savvy collector should consider this the next time he sees a pleasing 1860-S three dollar gold piece.

1865 and 1877:

One of the things about collecting this denomination is that the Philadelphia issues tend to be well made and they are generally available in relatively high grades. But there are clearly a few issues that are not only rare from the standpoint of total known but which are seldom seen with good eye appeal. In my experience, the two that stand out are the 1865 and the 1877.

The 1865 has a tiny mintage of 1,140 and it is likely that not more than 75-100 are known. This date tends to come two ways: really nice or really not nice. The finest known is a superb NGC MS67* from the Jewell Collection that sold for $57,500 in May 2005. Two PCGS MS66's exist as well. The five or six Gem 1865 three dollar gold pieces have great color, luster and eye appeal and are among the nicest Civil War era gold coins of any denomination. But these are locked away in tightly-held collections and the typical example is apt to grade EF45 to AU55 with very abraded semi-prooflike surfaces and clear signs of recent cleanings and/or processing.

The 1877 also has a small mintage; just 1,468 in this case. It is a bit more available than the 1865 in terms of overall rarity but it is harder to find in high grades. The finest known is a PCGS MS64 in the Great Lakes collection that is ex Heritage 6/11: 4602 at $80,500; it was earlier ex Bass II: 696 where it went reasonably in 1999 for $32,000. This is the only really choice 1877 three dollar gold piece known. There are an additional five or six coins in the MS60 to MS62 range This date is generally seen with prooflike surfaces that are very abraded and frequently show hairlines from mishandling.

There are other dates that I certainly could have added to this list. The 1858, 1867 and 1869 are three issues that are seldom found with good eye appeal. And the 1873 Closed 3 is an extremely hard date to find in any grade, let alone with natural color and surfaces.

For more information on three dollar gold pieces that are seldom seen with good eye appeal, please feel free to contact me at

The Ten Rarest Three Dollar Gold Pieces

In my continuing series that has focused on the ten rarest coins in each denomination of United States gold coin struck from the late 1830’s to the early 1900’s, I’ve nearly reached the end of the road. The last major denomination to discuss is the enigmatic Three Dollar gold piece. This denomination was produced from 1854 to 1889. For more details and history behind the series I suggest that you read the book the Q. David Bowers and I wrote in 2005. It is available through Stack’s and fine numismatic booksellers everywhere.

The ten rarest Three Dollar gold pieces are as follows: 1. 1870-S

2. 1875 (Proof only)

3. 1876 (Proof only)

4. 1873

5. 1877

6. 1865

7. 1884

8. 1881

9. 1854-D

10. 1858

1870-S: The 1870-S is the only unique regular issue U.S. gold coin. The sole example resides in the Harry Bass core collection that is currently housed in the ANA Museum in Colorado Springs. Bass purchased it for $687,500 at the Eliasberg sale in 1982. It had been acquired by private treaty from Stack’s in January 1946 for $11,500. The coin is not visually impressive when you see it in person. It has the details of Extremely Fine/About Uncirculated but it was once used as a watch fob by the former Chief Coiner of the San Francisco mint. It has the numbers “893” scratched on the reverse above the wreath tips at 12:00. Nonetheless, it remains one of the two most desirable regular issue United States gold coins, along with the 1822 half eagle. What would this coin bring if sold in the near future? That’s a hard question to answer. There are not many collectors that specialize in this series and the coin itself, as I mentioned above, is not destined to win any beauty contests. That said, it’s unique and it’s a legitimate regular issue with no mystery or controversy trailing it. I’d set the over/under line at $5 million and probably take the over...if I were a betting man.

1875: This date has been a celebrated rarity for well over a century and it is the first United States coin to eclipse the $100,000 mark at public auction, all the way back in 1972. The mintage is traditionally said to be 20 pieces, all in a Proof format. We can deduce with certainty that more than this were made to satisfy contemporary demand. Today, there are between two and three dozen known. Ironically, the 1875 is among the least rare Three Dollar proofs from this era, in relation to the total numbers known. But the fact that business strikes do not exist make it a very rare issue from the standpoint of overall availability. Gems continue to sell in the $175,000-250,000+ range and the level of demand for the 1875 continues to be as strong as ever.

1876: The 1876 is the second Proof-only date in the three dollar series. Like the 1875, its reported original mintage (45 coins in this case) does not include examples that were made later in the year for collectors. I believe that as many as 50-60 are known and it is possible that the original mintage may have been as high as 75-100. The 1876 is actually one of the most common dates of this entire type as far as Proofs go but, as with the 1875, there are no business strikes known which make it very rare from the standpoint of total numbers extant. Proofs are usually seen in the PR63 to PR64 range and Gems are rare with probably no more than a dozen or so known. There are auction records for this date in the high five figures as recently as a year or two ago.

1873: The 1873 Three Dollar exists with two significant varieties. The first is the Closed 3 which was struck as both a business strike and a Proof. The exact mintage of business strikes is not known but it is estimated to be in the area of 750-1000 pieces. There are around 75-100 known in all grades with most seen in the EF40 to AU50 range. In Uncirculated, the 1873 Closed 3 is very rare with six to eight known. The highest graded are a small number of MS64’s but I can’t recall having seen one that I felt was better than MS63. Proofs of this variety exist and these are extremely rare with just half a dozen or so known. There are also Proof 1873 Three Dollars with an Open 3. The estimated mintage is 40-50 (despite a Mint report of just 25 being produced) with fewer than 20 believed to exist. Business strike 1873 Closed 3 Three Dollar gold pieces are usually seen with semi-prooflike or nearly fully prooflike surfaces and most show extensive vertical die striations in the fields.

1877: Until fairly recently, this was a secret date in the Three Dollar series whose true rarity was known mainly by specialists. It has become better known and with good reason. There were a total of 1,468 business strikes produced of which an estimated 75-100 exist today. Most are in the EF45 to AU55 range and this date is very rare in Uncirculated with fewer than ten accounted for. I have personally seen five or six that I regard as properly graded Uncirculated coins and nearly all are in the MS61 to MS62 range. The best 1877 Three Dollar that I am aware of is Bass II: 696, graded MS64 by PCGS, that sold for a very reasonable $30,800 back in October 1999. This date is almost always seen with fully prooflike surfaces but it is reasonably easy to distinguish business strikes from Proofs based on their “look.” The surfaces are usually “ticky” with numerous small abrasions in the fields. Even though prices have risen quite a bit for this date in recent years, attractive, original pieces are rare and remain a good value.

1865: This is one of the more popular dates in the Three Dollar series due to its status as a Civil War issue and its very low mintage of 1,140 business strikes. Unlike the 1861-1864 issues, it was not saved or hoarded and my best estimate is that only 85-115 exist today. It is comparable in rarity to the 1877 in higher grades with maybe a dozen (at most) known in properly graded Uncirculated. Unlike the 1877, there are a few Gems. The finest is an NGC MS67* that was sold in the Jewell Collection by ANR in March 2005 for $57,500. PCGS has graded two in MS66 with one in the Great Lakes collection. The 1865 is generally found with prooflike fields and the few that remain with original color are characterized by attractive rose, green and orange-gold hues. As with the 1877, prices have risen appreciably in the last decade but choice, original examples remain good values at current levels.

1884: Many non-specialists think that the 1881 is the rarest business strike Three Dollar from the 1880’s but this is incorrect. The honor actually belongs to the 1884 which is a rarer coin than the 1881 in spite of a higher mintage. There were a total of 1,000 business strikes made in 1884 and around 90-120 are known today. Interestingly, the 1884 is an issue that is all but unknown in circulated grades. To wit, the current PCGS population is 82 of which just 12 (or under 15%) are in circulated grades. It is probable those most were never released by the Mint and were later melted. Because of poor handling, there are not many Gems. The typical 1884 grades MS62 to MS64. There are fewer than ten in Gem. The highest graded pieces include three in MS67 recorded by NGC and two in MS66 seen by PCGS. Heritage recently sold an NGC MS67 for $43,125 but the finest I am aware of is the PCGS MS66 in the Great Lakes collection. This date is typically found with good eye appeal. Most are prooflike but there are a number of frosty pieces as well. The color is typically a light to medium yellow-gold.

1881: The 1881 Three Dollar is a scarce by virtue of its tiny original mintage of just 500. Other dates from this era have very low mintage figures as well but the 1881 was not saved as carefully by contemporary collectors or hoarders and an estimated 100-150 exist today. The typical 1881 saw a small amount of circulation and grades in the AU50 to AU55 range. In Uncirculated, the 1881 is extremely scarce with around two dozen known. The finest known by a significant margin is a PCGS MS66 in the Great Lakes collection. I have never seen another Gem. There are an estimated four or five known in MS64 and around ten in MS63. As one might expect, all business strikes of this date are found with nearly fully prooflike fields. Business strikes are not hard to distinguish from Proofs. The former have no space between the top ends of the wreath on the reverse while the latter have space. I personally like this date very much and feel that its low mintage figure will continue to ensure its popularity.

1854-D: At first I wasn’t even going to put this date on the list but then I said “hey, wait a minute, a Top Ten list for Three Dollars and no 1854-D? Are you kidding me?” So, here it is, even though it technically might not be rare enough to make the list. The 1854-D is certainly one of the most popular Three Dollar gold pieces and it is, of course, the only coin of this denomination from Dahlonega. Just 1,120 were struck of which around 125-150 are known. This issue circulated more than one might expect and most are in the EF40 to AU50 range. Properly graded AU’s are very scarce and this issue is extremely rare in Uncirculated with only three or four extant. The finest is a PCGS MS62 in the Great Lakes collection. In addition to being numismatically unique, the 1854-D has a very readily identifiable “look.” Most are flatly struck on the obverse denticles from 7:00 to 3:00 and are weak on the reverse border from 3:00 to 8:00. The 1854-D may not be the best value on this Top Ten list but it is probably the most liquid issue in the series and it is a coin that most collectors of U.S. gold would love to own at some point in time.

1858: The 1858 narrowly edges out the 1867 for the final spot in this Top Ten list. It is the scarcest pre-Civil War Three Dollar gold piece. There were just 2,133 business strikes made of which an estimated 125-150 exist. This date is typically seen in the EF40 to AU53 range and properly graded higher end AU’s are quite scarce. In Uncirculated, the 1858 is a very rare and much underrated issue. The finest known is a stunning PCGS MS65 in the Great Lakes collection. I have personally seen two others that I grade MS64 and another three or four that grade MS63. In all, I believe that there are no more than ten or so that grade Mint State by my standards. Higher grade 1858’s have nice luster and color and good overall eye appeal. The usual circulated piece offered in today’s market has been dipped and shows numerous surfaces abrasions. It is possible to purchase an appealing 1858 for less than $5,000 and this seems like really good value to me.

So there you have it. Another month, another Top Ten list. Hopefully these lists have provided you, the gold coin specialist, with some good reference information and maybe even some motivation to begin a new collection.

Is Collecting by Date a Thing of the Past?

Is the age of collecting by date or variety over? Have coins become so expensive and collecting so complex that it is inevitable that new collectors will focus solely on type coins? As a dealer who sells rare gold coins to both highly specialized date collectors and to sophisticated type collectors I think numismatics is definitely going through a change but that collecting by date remains (and will continue to be) very popular with a certain type of individual. To collect a series or a mint by date requires a type of mindset. I think of date collectors as being more patient than type collectors and probably a bit more research-oriented. To a generalized, type-oriented collector, there is no difference between an 1848-D and an 1858-D half eagle. To the date collector, there is a significant amount of difference between these two coins; be it strike, appearance, coloration, etc.

I don’t think there is a “right” or a “wrong” way to collect. I admire the highly specialized date collector who takes years to assemble a set of Charlotte half eagles or Liberty Head eagles. During the process, he is probably learning more about the specific series that he is collecting than most dealers. He “gets” the difference between the 1848-D half eagle and the 1858-D half eagle and does not have to have it explained to him.

But I can absolutely see the reason to collect by type as well. Not everyone has the patience to assemble a long set of coins and most series have one or two (or more) stoppers that make completing a set impossible. And there is clearly something cool about the fact that a type collector buys something different every time he makes a purchase. Anyone can tell the difference between an 1838 Classic Head half eagle and a 1910 Indian Head half eagle; most people see an 1848-D and 1858-D half eagle and they see essentially the same coin(s).

To the coin market gurus who emphatically state that collecting by date or variety is a dying endeavor, I would answer that this is not the case. To refute this, one need only look at the fact that in this golden era of numismatic publishing, there continues to be a run of titles that deal with specific series but virtually none that deal with type collecting. In the area of gold coins, in the last few years we’ve seen titles about gold dollars, 20th century issues, three dollar pieces, Charlotte and New Orleans issues, etc.

Not only is collecting by series alive and well, specialization seems to be doing just fine, thanks. In the recent Bowers and Merena Baltimore auction, the seventh known example of the 1795 Liberty Cap with Reeded Edge Cent brought an astonishing $402,500. What’s even more incredible about this figure is the fact that the coin is only graded Good-4 by PCGS and it clearly isn’t going to win any beauty contests. However, it is an extremely rare variety in an extremely popular series (early Large Cents by Sheldon variety). As we all know, it just takes two to tango and if two well-heeled collectors decide to butt heads on a coin that they know they might not get another chance to own, the final price realized is often jaw-dropping. Weak economy or not, many highly specialized collector series remain as strong as ever.

What does the future hold for date collecting? I see a few possible scenarios.

There are some series that are so long and so challenging that they will never attract more than a handful of date collectors. As an example, Liberty Head eagles are so tough that it is hard to imagine more than three to five people at one time competing against each other to form a set. But, on the flip side, when you have as many rare dates as the Liberty Head eagle series does, a sudden onslaught of demand would be untenable.

Other series that were once popular to collect by date are likely to become less popular due to the vicissitudes of taste. A century ago, virtually no one knew what a branch mint gold coin was, let alone collected them; today these are more popular than issues from Philadelphia. What is popular today could become forgotten a generation or two from now.

If well-written reference books on a formerly-overlooked series are released, date collecting can gain appeal. I’d like to think that the publication of my New Orleans gold coin book in 2006 spurred a number of people to collect by date. Newly released books on Colonials/Early American coins and Peace Dollars could have a huge impact in these two markets as well.

Something that we are likely to see in the future is a hybridization of collecting tastes. I wouldn’t be surprised if date and type collecting become more finely synthesized. As an example, someone might decide he doesn’t want to collect a full date set of Charlotte half eagles. But he likes the series enough that he wants to do more than collect the three types. He might become an “advanced dabbler” who doesn’t feel compelled to complete the series but who decides to own five or six or even seven different dates because he feels that Charlotte half eagles are really interesting.

One thing we are destined to see in many series if prices go down is the shrinking of the Market Premium Factor. In series that are not terribly popular, coins that formerly sold for a 10-30% premium over a common date are likely to lose this premium and retract down to a common type coin level. We are already seeing this in some of the 20th century series and I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see this in the early gold and Liberty Head gold markets.

Another point to address: how will key dates fair in series that become less popular with date collectors? The answer depends on whether or not there are multiple levels of demand for this coin. As an example, the 1873 three dollar gold piece is a key date but if the three dollar series becomes less popular, its level of demand will shrink. The 1854-D three dollar is likely to lose less value in a declining market because there are a broader range of collectors who want this coin: not only specialists in the series, but Dahlonega collectors and one-year type collectors as well.

1854-D Three Dollar Gold Piece

I recently purchased a very unusual 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece. If you are even a casual aficionado of Southern gold coins, you are probably aware that a) the 1854-D is a rare and popular issue and b) it has a very established set of diagnostics. However, as this coin (and a few others) proves, not all 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces are cut from the same cloth. If you look at page 145 of the second edition of my book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint” you will read the following diagnostic criteria about the 1854-D Three Dollar:

“(On the obverse) the denticles from 7:00 to 3:00 are so weak as to appear non-existent. The entire upper part of the rim has a very flat appearance. (On the reverse) the denticles are almost always very weak and they can usually be seen only from the 3:00 to 8:00 area with the rest of the border appearing very flat.”

Now take a look at the picture below and focus your attention on the obverse and reverse borders. You will note that there are complete and full denticles on both sides. I have personally seen or owned as many as 75 examples of this issue and the coin illustrated here is just the third 1854-D that I know of with full denticles. The other two are in the Bill House and Harry Bass Core/ANA Museum collections.

Before we go any further with this quick diagnostic study of the 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece, here is a picture of a “normal” example (courtesy of Heritage Numismatic Auctions). Note the weakness on the denticles and then also file the following diagnostics away in your memory for future reference:

1. Weakness on the U in UNITED 2. Large clashmark at the throat of Liberty and a smaller clashmark at the back of the neck (this may be hard to see in the photo) 3. Reverse clashmarks from the S in DOLLARS into the wreath above 4. Detached leaf to the left of the 1 in the date 5. Separation of the right bow knot (the one on the viewer’s left) from the wreath due to die polishing

What I find especially interesting about the 1854-D “full strike” is that it has essentially the same diagnostics as the “weak strike” coin. I had always assumed that the full strike coins represented an earlier die state; struck, perhaps, before the dies clashed and were lapped. But this is clearly not the case. We can see this because the full strike coin has virtually identical diagnostics to the weak strike coin. The only difference is that the clashmark in the right obverse field is not as pronounced on the coin with full denticles.

So what makes this coin different from other 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces? There are two interesting features that might hold a clue to its special status. The first is that it has a mint-made lamination on the obverse; something I cannot remember on many other examples of this date. The second is that the surfaces of the full struck coin are somewhat reflective (this is hard to see from the picture); again, an unusual circumstance for the issue. Could this coin have been specially struck as a presentation piece?

My best instinct tells me that the full struck coins represent the very first 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces. After a small number were made with full denticles, something happened during the minting process that caused the rest of the coins to be improperly struck. Given the fact that all 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces were struck in one day, it is hard to say exactly what caused this failure.

The Ten Rarest Dahlonega Gold Coins Revisted

In the five years since I wrote the second edition of my book on Dahlonega gold coinage, a number of important coins have been sold and some significant changes are going to be have to be made when I release my third edition (which, if I had to guess, will be out in another year or so). I think it would be interesting to look at the ten rarest Dahlonega gold coins and see what important things have changed about them since 2003. For each of these issues, I am going to focus on the following aspects:

-Changes (if any) in high grade rarity

-Changes (if any) in Condition Census

-New Finest Known coins or important new discoveries

-New price records at auction or via private treaty

Before we begin, I think a quick overview of the Dahlonega market is in order. If I had to summarize it in a paragraph I would say that the market is currently strong. The supply of Dahlonega coins—even schlocky ones—really seems to have dried up in the last two or three years. It was always hard to find choice, original Dahlonega coins; even in low grades. Now it seems hard to find even mediocre quality pieces. And the very rare Dahlonega issues—the coins which we will focus on in this article—have become exceptionally hard to locate. The last really important specialized collection to come on the market was the Duke’s Creek gold dollars and quarter eagles that Heritage auctioned in April 2006.

1855-D Gold Dollar: This remains the rarest Dahlonega gold dollar in high grades and it is the second rarest overall with fewer than 100 known. The rarity of this issue with a full date seems to have been exaggerated by me in the first two editions of my book. I would revise the number of 1855-D gold dollars with a full date upwards from “less than a dozen” to around double this amount.

While no new discoveries of note have been recorded, no less than three record prices were recorded between 2006 and 2007. In February 2007, the Goldberg: 2097 example, graded MS64 by NGC, sold for an incredible $149,500; it had sold earlier as Heritage 1/06: 3396 where it brought $109,250. The finest known 1855-D was purchased by a prominent Alabama collector in the Heritage April 2006 sale where it realized $132,250. This coin had previously been graded MS64 by NGC; now it is in a PCGS 64 holder. The only other Uncirculated 1855-D gold dollars, graded MS62 and MS61 by PCGS, sold for $56,350 and $46,000 respectively in the Heritage 2/04 auction. Remarkably, the four finest 1855-D gold dollars all sold at auction between 2004 and 2007(!)

1856-D Gold Dollar: In the second edition of my Dahlonega book, I estimated that 80-90 examples of the 1856-D gold dollar exist. I still believe that this is accurate. I also estimated that only four to five Uncirculated examples are known. By the magic of gradeflation, I think this number has climbed to around half dozen.

A world record price was set by the Heritage 1/04: 1009 coin (ex: Green Pond) that sold for $47,150 and another impressive price realized was the Heritage 4/06: 1488 coin (ex: Duke’s Creek) that brought $40,250. One of these two coins was upgraded to MS63 by NGC and it now is the highest graded 1856-D gold dollar. Two other high grade 1856-D gold dollars that have traded since the second edition of my book was published are a new PCGS MS62 that I sold via private treaty in 2007 to the Wexford Collection and the ANR 9/03: 425 coin that sold for $41,400, the second highest price ever realized by this date.

1861-D Gold Dollar: The 1861-D gold dollar has, arguably, become the most popular coin of any denomination produced at the Dahlonega mint. I can’t attribute this soaring degree of popularity to anything other than a high “coolness” factor and a multi-tiered level of demand that is not seen by other Dahlonega issues.

My estimate of 55-65 known may be a bit on the low side and I would probably raise this to 65-75 including a dozen or so in Uncirculated. A record price was set in January 2008 when the Heritage 1/08: 3050 example brought $149,500 (this is an exact tie with an MS64 1855-D for the highest price ever realized by any gold dollar from Dahlonega). This same coin had brought $138,000 in April 2006. The finest known 1861-D remains the Pierce/Ullmer coin, graded MS64 by PCGS, in a prominent Alabama collection. In my opinion, the second finest is the Green Pond coin, graded MS63 by PCGS, which sold for $86,250 in January 2004.

1840-D Quarter Eagle: Of the ten coins discussed in this article, I think the 1840-D is the least well-known. It is the third rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle and I now regard it as the second rarest in high grades after the 1856-D. I believe this date is unique in properly graded Uncirculated and the finest known example, known to collectors as the Bareford/Duke’s Creek coin, sold for a record $74,750 when it was auctioned by Heritage in April 2006. (This coin, by the way, still appears in the PCGS population figures as an MS61. The only Uncirculated 1840-D quarter graded Uncirculated by NGC (an MS61) is owned by a Kansas collector and it is ex: Superior 8/07: 659 ($31,050), Heritage 1/04: 1016 ($27,600). I still think that even in properly graded AU50, the 1840-D is genuinely rare and there are fewer than a dozen true AU’s known.

1855-D Quarter Eagle: The true rarity of the 1855-D quarter eagle has been distorted by the fact that virtually all of the higher grade examples that have appeared for sale are overgraded. This includes at least two coins in MS60 holders that have been recolored and another with damage on the surfaces. The all-time price record for the 1855-D was set in April 2006 when Heritage sold an NGC MS61 for $54,625.

I have previously stated that the 1855-D is the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle in high grades and overall. I now believe it to be the second rarest, after the 1856-D. I still have never seen an encapsulated 1855-D quarter eagle that I believed to fully Uncirculated. There is an example in the Smithsonian’s collection that noted expert Jeff Garrett grades MS62.

1856-D Quarter Eagle: My respect for this issue has increased over time and I now regard it as not only the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle but the rarest single issue of any denomination from this mint. Only 874 were struck and there are probably no more than 45-55 known.

Due to its crude strike, this is an extremely hard issue to grade and I’m not really sure exactly how many Uncirculated pieces exist. PCGS has only graded a single example in Uncirculated (Heritage 1/04: 1034, ex: Green Pond that sold for $69,000) while NGC shows one in MS60 and four in MS61 with none better. The only Uncirculated NGC coin that I have personally handled is Heritage 4/06: 1513 (MS61) that I paid a record price of $71,875. There is a PCGS AU58 that is owned by a prominent Alabama collector that I think is outstanding for the issue and I have handled two other PCGS AU58’s that I feel are accurately graded.

1854-D Three Dollar: This is the only one of the ten issues in this article that I believe is overrated by most non-specialists. However, as I have mentioned innumerable times, its status as a one-year issue make it exceedingly popular with a wide range of collectors. A nice 1854-D Three Dollar has become the “High Relief of Branch Mint Gold” (i.e., an expensive but extremely popular issue with exceptional liquidity).

An all-time record for this date was set in April 2006 when I purchased an NGC MS62 from the Duke’s Creek collection sale. This easily eclipsed the previous auction high of $92,000 that was set by the Green Pond: 1037 coin back in January 2004. The two finest 1854-D Threes remain the fantastic Bass coin (see to view an image of this special piece) and the PCGS MS62 in the Great Lakes collection.

As of July 2008, PCGS had graded four examples in Uncirculated: MS62-(2) MS61 and MS60 while NGC had graded nine: MS62-(5) MS61 and (3) MS60. I believe the actual number of Uncirculated 1854-D Threes is around four or five.

1838-D Half Eagle: The 1838-D is by far the most available issue in this group of ten coins and the major reason I decided to include it (and exclude much rarer coins such as the 1860-D gold dollar and 1841-D, 1842-D and 1854-D quarter eagles) is that it is extremely popular. I would have to rank it as one of the three or four most popular issues from this mint.

As I mentioned before, the 1838-D half eagle is a relatively common issue and I believe that there are somewhere north of 300 known including as many as eight to ten in Uncirculated. But what I find interesting about this issue is that the supply has really shriveled in the last few years, particularly in higher grades. The only really nice Uncirculated 1838-D that I have seen in the last few years is Heritage 2007 ANA: 1919 (PCGS MS62 @$37,375). An NGC MS63 (ex: Ashland City collection) bounced around from sale to sale in 2003-2006 and I have never particularly cared for it. I believe that if a really choice, fresh PCGS MS62 or better 1838-D half eagle were to appear on the market, it would command a record price as there seem to be many collectors waiting around for such a coin.

1842-D Large Date Half Eagle: Despite its status as the rarest Dahlonega half eagle in higher grades, this is another issue that is somewhat off the radar to nearly everyone except specialists. In terms of its overall rarity, I believe this variety is a bit more available than I claimed in the second edition of my book. In high grades, it remains a major rarity with just a single Uncirculated graded by PCGS (the Green Pond coin which is in an MS61 holder) and two in MS61 at NGC.

The all-time auction record for the 1842-D half eagle was set in January 2004 by Green Pond: 1043 which realized $41,400. The Duke’s Creek/Eliasberg coin, which was formerly in a PCGS AU58 holder, is now (deservedly) in an NGC MS61 holder. An exceptional new PCGS AU58 was sold by me around a year ago to the Wexford Collection. I am especially interested to see the newly discovered NGC MS61 that was found as part of the S.S. New York treasure in Louisiana. This coin will be sold at auction by Stack’s just prior to the 2008 ANA.

1861-D Half Eagle: Like its gold dollar counterpart, the 1861-D half eagle has become an issue whose demand transcends specialists. As a result, prices for both 1861-D issues have soared in recent years. Despite the fact that even low grade 1861-D half eagles are now commanding prices upwards of $10,000, few have come to market since the second edition of my book was released.

However, there has been quite a bit of activity in the upper end of the 1861-D half eagle market. The finest known example, graded MS63 by PCGS, sold for a record $207,000 in Heritage’s 2008 FUN auction. This was, as far as I know, the most money that any single Dahlonega coin has ever brought. The second finest known example, pedigreed to the Duke’s Creek and Eliasberg collection, was upgraded from MS63 at PCGS to MS64 at NGC. And another MS63 was “made” at PCGS when the Duke’s Creek coin (ex: Heritage 1/04: 1065 @ $74,750 as PCGS MS62) upgraded a point.

The current certified population figures for this date are clearly inflated. PCGS shows three coins in MS63 but there are only two. They also show four in MS62 but I believe that the correct number is also two. The NGC population figure of three in MS62 seems inflated as well.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I plan to begin work soon on the revised third edition of my Dahlonega book and will incorporate all of the changes mentioned in this article. If you have pertinent new information about Dahlonega coins that you feel should be in the book, please email me at and I will make certain it is included.

State of the Market: Three Dollar Gold Pieces

In the fourth installment of my series of State of the Market articles, I take a look at the popular Three Dollar Gold piece series. How has this cult favorite fared in the past few years and what does the future look like for this denomination? After years of neglect, interest in the Three Dollar series spiked dramatically in 2004 and 2005. This can be directly attributed to two reasons: the publication of the first book on Three Dollar gold pieces (written by myself and the legendary Q. David Bowers) and expert marketing and promotion of the series by a few firms which introduced many new collectors to this interesting series.

For a variety of reasons, the promoters who focused on Threes moved on to other series in the middle of 2006 and the last year or so has seen a fairly dramatic drop in prices in the series. I would estimate that high grade common dates Three Dollar gold pieces have dropped between 30 and 50% while rare dates have seen price drops more in the range of 10-30%.

Perhaps the most dramatic price decreases in the entire series have been for common dates in MS64. These can now be bought for $6,000-7,000 but they were priced at $12,000-14,000 around two years ago. MS63 common dates are now $5,000 to $6,000; they used to be $9,000 to $11,000. MS62 common dates now sell for $3,500 to $4,500 and were priced at $6,000 to $7,000 at the height of their popularity.

In my opinion, common date Three Dollar gold pieces are a great value right now if they can be bought at around $6,000. These coins are generally very nice and if you can find a high end example with good color and luster as well as minimal marks at the low end of the current value range, I think this is an excellent coin to put away for a while. I find it a little strange that an MS64 common date is selling for just a $2,000 premium over a common date in MS62. My gut feeling is that an MS62 is not a great deal at this level.

The rarer date mintmark issues in this series are, for the most part, doing rather well. There is strong collector demand for issues such as the 1855-S and the 1857-S and the 1860-S seems to have become extremely hard to locate in grades above AU55.

One issue that is especially interesting to follow is the 1854-D. I have always thought of this as being a coin that, while technically a Three Dollar gold piece, is totally different from the other issues in this series. The reason for this is obvious: its primary source of demand is from Dahlonega collectors, most of who will never aspire to own another Three Dollar gold piece besides this date. Nice AU examples seem to have formed up considerably in the last six months and I would say they are worth between 5 - 15% more than when they hit a comparatively low level last summer.

Another interesting issue is the 1854-O. This date has become the most two-tiered Three Dollar gold piece in terms of value. It is clear to me that NGC tends to be considerably more liberal when it comes to the 1854-O in AU, especially in the upper ranges of this grade. A nice PCGS AU55 or AU58 1854-O is really quite a rare coin and it now commands a strong premium over the typical NGC graded AU55 or AU58. I have also noticed that 1854-O Threes with original color and surfaces and good strikes are commanding strong premiums over bright-n-shiny, processed examples.

So what lies ahead for this denomination?

I think Threes are far too interesting and far too collectible to stay inactive for long. My prediction is that you will see some of the marketing companies that dropped out of the series a few years ago get back in. It’s hard not to like a Three Dollar gold piece that was priced at $10,000 as recently as a few years ago when it is now priced at $7,000.

My guess is that you will see the greatest new interest in the series occur with the most interesting coins. These include the following:

    1854-D, all grades

    All San Francisco issues (except for the 1856-S) in AU50 and above

    Civil War issues, all grades

    Rare low mintage dates such as the 1858, 1865 and 1877 in all grades

Issues with mintages of less than 1,000, AU50 and above

When you take a hard look at this series, it’s easy to see what happened in 2005 and 2006. Prices went up too quickly, too many coins came on the market and the speculators who were driving the market bailed. My best guess is that, starting soon, the Three Dollar gold series will go back to being mostly collector-driven and it will regain its spot as a popular, oddball gold denomination that has long been in demand.

State of the Market Report: Dahlonega Gold

In my second State of the Market report, I look at the always popular area of Dahlonega gold and see what’s up with these coins. Dahlonega gold coins clearly remain the most avidly collected of the three southern branch mints. But this market has become very two-tiered in the past few years. Because of this market bifurcation, prices have fluctuated recently and two coins of the same date in the same grade can have wildly divergent values.


Dahlonega gold dollars are by far the most popular branch mint gold dollars. In fact, I have noticed a number of new collectors in this area of the market in the past two or three years including at least a few who are assembling high quality, complete sets of Dahlonega gold dollars.

The Type One issues have shown a considerable amount of strength in the past few years and I would suggest that these are probably the most popular gold dollars from this mint right now. I am always able to easily sell any Type One Dahlonega gold dollar I have which is priced in the $1,500-3,000 range. The more expensive coins are a bit harder to sell unless they are rarer issues (such as the 1850-D or the 1854-D) if they are choice for the grade with nice color and surfaces. Very high quality pieces are extremely elusive and the few Finest Known or Condition Census pieces which have come onto the market in the past few years have brought strong prices.

The one-year type 1855-D is still extremely popular. A few years ago, there were a decent number of these on the market. But in the last year or so, I don’t think I’ve seen more than three or four and most of these have been higher grade. I think I could sell a nice, relatively affordable EF 1855-D gold dollar multiple times but these appear to be put away in private collections and not currently available.

The market for Type Three Dahlonega gold dollars is a little bit harder to figure out. Clearly, the better dates in this series have been hurt by a number of vastly overgraded coins put into holders by the grading services. In addition, the population figures for dates like the 1858-D and 1859-D have been greatly inflated by multiple submissions. One date which has suddenly become impossible to find is the 1861-D. I don’t recall having seen a slabbed piece which did not have a problem in close to two years. I would have to think if a nice PCGS AU55 came on the market, it would bring well over Trends due to very strong current demand.


If I were going to assemble a set of Dahlonega coins for my own collecting pleasure, I would probably choose this denomination. Quarter eagles are the hardest Dahlonega coins to consistently find with good eye appeal and there are a few specific dates which have almost disappeared from the market.

The 1839-D has gone from being moderately popular a few years ago to being very popular today. It has been quite a while since I’ve seen a nice Uncirculated piece or a nice, problem-free EF. Most of the pieces currently on the market are processed, overgraded AU’s.

In the Liberty Head series, most of the coins I see offered these days tend to be the more common issues such as the 1843-D, 1844-D, 1846-D, 1847-D and 1848-D. Nice EF examples of these dates have doubled in price in the last three or four years but I still think that a choice EF Dahlonega quarter eagle at $2,500 or so is pretty good value in the big picture. The rare dates from the 1840’s, such as the 1840-D, 1841-D and 1842-D, remain extremely hard to find in properly graded AU50 and better and most of the ones offered at auction these days are low end and unoriginal.

The scarce 1850’s Dahlonega quarter eagles are currently an enigmatic sub-series, in my opinion. I have seen a lot of low-end Uncirculated examples of dates such as the 1852-D, 1853-D, 1857-D and 1859-D in the last two or three years. These mostly tend to be the same group of overgraded coins which bounce from auction to auction and from dealer to dealer, seeming to never find a good home. Two dates that remain truly rare are the 1855-D and the 1856-D. It has been at least two years since I’ve seen a really nice 1856-D for sale and this date has proven to be the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle, in my opinion, by a significant margin.


If any Dahlonega coin could be termed “volatile” it would be the popular 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece. This issue is always in demand due to its one year status. What many people have learned, though, is it is clearly not nearly as rare as its small mintage of 1,120 would suggest (a comment on this follows, see below).

A few years ago, the market seemed inundated with 1854-D Threes. I can remember owning no less than four AU58 examples at one time. Prices shot upwards but many collectors realized that $40,000+ for a decent quality example seemed like pretty marginal value when there were more interesting Dahlonega coins available at a fraction of the price. As with the market for Three Dollar gold pieces in general, values for the 1854-D declined in the past year or two. But they seemed to have firmed in the past six months and it appears clear to me that they aren’t going to get cheaper anytime soon.

A note on this issue’s rarity: clearly the 1854-D was saved at the time of issue and its survival rate is considerably greater than other Dahlonega coins of this era. But the number of pieces which appear for sale is misleading. I know of a few 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces that have appeared in at least four or five consecutive auctions as well as on various dealers’ websites. Properly graded, original examples have never been easy to find and the ones that bounce around these days tend to be the ones which are, to put it nicely, not so “pretty.”


For a number of years the half eagles have been the most popular denomination from this mint. Prices have risen for lower grade examples but I find the higher end of the half eagle market to be somewhat weak right now. The culprit for this, of course, is the abundance of overgraded coins. I know that the dealers who specialize in Dahlonega gold coins are happy to purchase all the high quality half eagles that they can find but their complaints are unanimous: the nice coins just aren’t readily available.

I would have to say that two of the most popular Dahlonega issues right now are the 1838-D and 1839-D half eagles. The former was once easy to find in nearly any circulated grade but it is now very hard to find an 1838-D even in EF grades. The 1839-D, after years of languishing in obscurity, has become the “coin du jour” in the half eagle series and auction prices for nice AU pieces have broken the $10,000 barrier in the past two years.

There are a few dates which I never seem to see in higher grades. These include the 1842-D Large Date, 1846-D Normal Mintmark, 1848-D, 1850-D and 1861-D. The other Dahlonega half eagles tend to be fairly readily available in most grades but, as I said above, finding attractive, original coins can be very challenging.

At some point in time, an enterprising dealer will publish a price guide for Dahlonega gold coins which has two sets of prices. The first will be for the run-of-the-mill pieces which are typically offered for sale. The second will be for the crusty, original pieces which are all but disappearing. The price differential right now is only 15% or so. I would not be surprised if in five years a crusty AU55 common date Dahlonega half eagle is worth 50-100% more than its processed counterpart.

One final comment before I end this report. The 1861-D is one date in the half eagle series that is just about impossible to find these days. I used to handle a nice 1861-D every two or three months. Now, it’s more like once every year or two. I believe the reason for this is that the 1861-D is a classic collector favorite and all the nice, middle grade pieces are owned by people who have no real interest in selling them.

The 1854-D Three Dollar Gold Piece

In my opinion, the 1854-D is to Three Dollar gold pieces as the 1907 High Relief is to St. Gaudens double eagles. It is an issue whose rarity has been overstated but whose level of demand is always destined to be very high. Because of its extreme popularity, the 1854-D is probably the single most in-demand coin from Dahlonega and I personally love to buy and sell these pieces. The 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece has a number of factors that make it a very high demand issue. It is the only date of this denomination from Dahlonega and it has an original mintage figure of just 1,120. It has the lowest mintage figure of any branch mint Three Dollar gold piece (except, of course, the excessively rare 1870-S) and only one Dahlonega coin, the 1856-D quarter eagle, has a lower overall mintage figure.

Given the usual survival rate for Dahlonega coinage of this era, one would expect there to be only two to three percent of the original mintage figure (or twenty-five to thirty-five pieces) to exist. Surprisingly, as many as 100-125 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces are known; a rather amazing percentage of the original mintage figure. Why do so many exist? I would suggest that either a number were saved as souvenirs or a significant hoard was known at one time. Given the fact that most 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces show a decent amount of circulation, I doubt whether a hoard was ever known.

Of the 100-125 that exist, I believe that two to four are Uncirculated, twenty-two to twenty-seven are About Uncirculated, twenty-nine to forty are Extremely Fine and the remainder are Very Fine or below (this figure includes a number that are damaged and/or repaired). My in-grade rarity estimates are far different than the figures which can be gleaned from the PCGS and NGC population figures. The reasons for this are that, in my opinion, many 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces slabbed by both services are overgraded. In addition, the value spread between one adjectival level and the next (i.e. Extremely Fine versus About Uncirculated) are great enough that many have been repeatedly submitted.

There are a number of mint-made features that make the appearance of this coin extremely recognizable. Inserted below is a picture of a very nice 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece (graded AU-58 by NGC) which I recently bought and then sold to a collector. Take a careful look at both the obverse and the reverse and then read the following paragraphs.

One of the features that makes the 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece so easily recognizable is its quality of strike. By looking at the obverse of a few examples, it is possible to determine an 1854-D without even turning it over to see its mintmark.

The U in UNITED is always weak while the TED is very heavy and shows doubling. The denticles on nearly every piece known are non-existent from 7:00 to 3:00 on the obverse and all of the reverse except from 3:00 to 8:00. The obverse and reverse rim areas at the top are very flat in appearance and serve as strong contrast to the better detail seen in the middle.

A few other diagnostic features are seen on all known examples. There is always a bold clashmark on the obverse at the throat of Liberty and another behind the headdress. On the reverse, there are clashmarks in the wreath as well as separation of the bow knot at the right and the leaf at the left as a result of overzealous polishing of the dies. Any 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece that lacks these diagnostics is highly suspect and is probably not genuine.

This issue is usually found in the Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated-50 range and tends to show noticeable abrasions on the surfaces. Most have been cleaned at one time and any 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece with original surfaces and color (as on the piece illustrated above) is very rare and worth a strong premium over the typical piece.

If you are offered an uncertified example, I would strongly recommend that it be sent to PCGS or NGC as many 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces have been repaired. Most often, pieces have been rim filed or re-engraved on the edges. I have seen at least ten (if not more) that have shown this damage and some are repaired quite expertly and may fool the beginning collector.

The 1854-D has never been an affordable coin but prices have climbed quite a bit in the last few years. A few years ago, a collector could expect to locate a very respectable example for $10,000-12,500 with some patience. Today, it is very hard to find one for less than $20,000 that is not a "dog." Although some dealers (and collectors) now feel that this issue is overvalued, I do not. The simple reason for this is the strong demand for nice pieces versus the reasonably limited supply. Numismatics Economics 101 says that if demand exceeds supply, then prices will rise. This has clearly been the case with the 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece.

Listed below is the current Condition Census for the 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece. Note the extremely strong price realized by the PCGS MS-61 example in the recent Heritage January 2004 sale of the Green Pond collection; a new auction record for his date.

    Harry W. Bass foundation. Mint State-62 or better. Fully struck. This coin is currently on exhibit at the American Numismatic Association Museum.

    Great Lakes collection, ex Larry Hanks, Superior 1/96: 2277 ($74,800; as PCGS MS-61), Winthrop Carner, Kevin Lipton, George Elliott, Mid American 1/87: 1814, RARCOA Auction 81: 386 ($72,500). Graded Mint State-62 by PCGS.

Other coins that have been graded as Uncirculated by one of the major services include the following:

    Robert L. Hughes, ex Heritage 1/04: 1037 ($92,000), Green Pond collection. Graded Mint State-61 by PCGS.

    Private collection, ex National Gold Exchange/Ken Goldman, Bowers and Merena 5/98: 1034 ($72,600). Graded Mint State-61 by NGC.

    Steve Contursi inventory, ex Stack's/Sotheby's 10/01: 318 ($48,875), Browning collection. Graded Mint State-61 by NGC.

    Private collection, ex Heritage 1999 FUN: 7664 ($57,500; as PCGS AU-58), Leon Farmer collection, Hancock and Harwell, Stack's Auction 84: 1328 ($24,200), Arthur Montgomery, Stack's Goshen (2/78): 1093. Graded Mint State-61 by NGC.

    Private collection, ex Kingswood 3/01: 438 ($46,575), Stack's 10/99: 658 ($52,900). Graded Mint State-60 by PCGS. Identifiable by a large mint-made defect in the right obverse field.

The "Warehouse" Theory of Coin Investment

As anyone who knows me will be quick to point out, I do not generally sell rare coins as an investment. Stocks and bonds are an investment; rare coins, in my opinion, are a collectible that have the potential to appreciate in price if a purchase is approached with the mindset of an intelligent collector. But lately, I have come to realize that there probably is a good way to make money buying coins with a short-term focus. This approach is what I call the "warehouse" theory.

The gist of this theory is simple. There are certain coins that are always in demand. For example, whether the coin market is good or bad, everyone wants a Stella or a Chain Cent. What if you owned a few nice examples of these ultra-popular coins and the market had to come to you instead of the usual you-go-to-the market scenario?

Here's a classic example of the warehouse theory in action. One of the most popular branch mint gold coins is the 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece. In the higher About Uncirculated grades this is an expensive but continually in-demand issue.

For a variety of reasons, an uncommonly high number of AU-55 and AU-58 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces were available in late 1999 and early 2000. In fact, enough were available (in this case approximately six or seven pieces), that prices "overcorrected" for this issue and fell 20%. An NGC AU-58 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece, which had once been worth $35,000-$40,000 wholesale, was now only worth $28,500-$31,500 in the wholesale market.

It was my opinion that at the new price levels these 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces were great values. The ideal strategy was to buy every piece that was available at the cheapest price, hold them and wait for their level of demand to return. And when it did return, there would be no coins available--with the exception of the pieces I had put away.

My solution was to call a client of mine and explain the situation. While he is primarily a long-term collector, he saw the interesting situation that these coins presented. So he gave me the go ahead to purchase all the coins I could find. Within thirty days I had bought four 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces in AU-58 at an average cost of $29,000.

Four or five months later, I started getting phone calls from other dealers searching for high grade 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces. Some were aware that I had bought a few; others called me due to my reputation as someone who either owns important Dahlonega coins or knows where they are at. I was able to sell all of the coins I had purchased in the $31,000-$33,000 range.

Here are some suggestions about how to approach this theory:

1. Select coins with a traditionally high level of demand

There are certain coins that have been popular for many decades and will continue to be popular. There are a number of reasons for the popularity of these coins: first-year-of-issue status, low mintage figure, historic significance or attractive design. Examples of gold coins that fit into this category include: 1855-C and 1855-D gold dollars, 1861-D gold dollars, 1796 No Stars quarter eagles, 1808 quarter eagles, 1854-D and 1854-O three dollar gold pieces, Stellas, 1795 half eagles, etc.

2. Avoid popular but overly available coins

A warehouser might consider "putting back" a few High Reliefs. While there is no denying the great popularity of this issue, they are too easy to locate. Since anyone who ever wants a High Relief can find one with no problems, having a stash of a half dozen pieces will not create a ripple of excitement in the market.

3. Work with a dealer who specializes in what you are warehousing

In order for a warehouse investment to work, it is important to choose a dealer who has good connections; both on the buying and selling end. Let's say that you have decided to warehouse 1893-S Morgan Dollars in Mint State-63. Unless your dealer is a specialist in this area and knows which collectors are looking for these coins, he serves no real purpose. On the other hand, if he has a strong collector base, the chances are excellent that he will receive regular phone calls from collectors and other dealers who are looking for nice 1893-S dollars.

4. Keep it quiet

With the exception of you and your dealer, you should refrain from telling anyone else about your plans.

5. Have a plan and stick to it

If you have decided to warehouse three examples of an expensive, rare coin, don't let your dealer talk you into more. And establish sell levels before you buy any coins. Let the dealer know that you want to make X% of money on each coin. But don't be greedy and miss out on a potential sale of an expensive coin because you want to make an extra $500.