Should You Buy Very Rare Coins in Low(er) Grades?

As recently as a few years ago, if you asked me "should I buy very rare United States gold coins in low(er) grades" I would have resoundingly answered "no!"  But, as with so many things in life, perspectives change and my answer to this question has as well.

A piece of advice I had often given new collectors is that you shouldn't buy gold coins that grade lower than EF40. That is still a cut-off grade for me and, for many issues, I still recommend sticking with EF and finer coins. But I now will sometimes buy certain very rare issues in grades as low as Good to Very Good. What exactly made me change my mind?

I came to a conclusion a few years ago that just because someone doesn't have a $5,000 or $10,000 per coin budget doesn't mean that they don't appreciate truly rare coins. Nor should they be shut out from the potential of buying a few coins, now and then, that can be genuinely tagged as "rare" or even "very rare." I'm a coin snob who is trying to become more inclusive, I guess...

A few coins that I recently sold on my website illustrate this belief. In the past two months, I handled a pair of 1870-CC half eagles, graded Good 6; one encapsulated by PCGS and the other by NGC. These were coins that I probably wouldn't have bought a few years ago but the New Doug Winter bought them and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly they sold; not to mention how much attention they generated.

Here's my way of thinking about a coin like an 1870-CC half eagle in very low grades. This is an issue with strong Multiple Levels of Demand. It is rare in all grades, it is the rarest half eagle from this mint, it is a first year of issue and it is the only quasi-affordable gold coin dated 1870-CC. In other words, it is a coin that's "got it all." But it is very expensive in EF and AU grades and not every collector who is sophisticated enough to want one can plunk down the $25,000-50,000+ it takes to buy a nice one.

So what's wrong with a well-worn but very problem-free example of this date in a Good 6 holder? Actually nothing; a fact that was lost on me until recently.

When you think about it, a Good 6 1870-CC half eagle is a pretty darn cool coin; certainly one of those "if it could only talk imagine the stories it could tell" kind of coins and probably more so, in some ways, than the same date in EF45 or AU50.

By the same token, I don't automatically think every CC half eagle from the early 1870's in lower grades is a cool coin. In fact, the chances are good that if I were offered a decent quality 1872-CC half eagle in Good or Very Good I would pass. Why? It is clearly a rare coin but it doesn't have nearly the cool factor that the 1870-CC not does it have the strong multiple level of demand. My grade cut-off for the 1872-CC half eagle is more like EF40.

What are some of the parameters that I would employ when choosing to purchase a very rare coin in low(er) grades?

First, just as with a very rare coin in higher grades, I would avoid any piece which has been harshly cleaned or which has poor eye appeal. A coin in Good 6 doesn't necessarily have to be CAC-quality but make sure it has reasonably good overall eye appeal.

Second, I would look for coins which are not only very rare but whose high price point in higher grades eliminates a large pool of potential buyers. As an example, I recently sold a VG8 example of the very rare 1865-S/186 Inverted Date eagle. Not only was it a decent looking coin, it was priced at less than $3,000 which is tons cheaper than the next semi-available grade point (VF/EF) for this issue. From an economic standpoint, this coin made a lot of sense to me.

Third, I wouldn't go overboard with buying very low grade gold coins. In other words, you don't want a collection which features nothing but coins like 1870-CC half eagles in Good 6. A few coins like this are cool pieces to sprinkle in your set. A lot of coins like this are, well, a collection of very low grade coins...

Fourth and final, my sudden admiration for lower grade coins is, as I've tried to make clear, highly selective. Remember: 1870-CC half eagle in Good 6, si....  1872-CC half eagle in Very Good 8, non.....

For more information on how to put together a great collection of United States gold coins, with or without very rare coins in low(er) grades, please feel free to contact me by email at


Is There an Upward Trend in the CC Half Eagle Market?

While I hate to make bold pronouncements based on a small number of auction results, it looks like an interesting trend may be occuring in the Carson City half eagle market. Within two months, three important CC half eagles have sold at auction and brought tremendous prices. Let's take a look at the three coins in question, analyze the results, and try to make some sense of this market. The first of these coins is a PCGS graded Mint State-62 1873-CC half eagle. This is a coin that I am very familiar with, having sold it twice via private treaty within the last five years. In fact, I sold it a few years ago to the collector who consigned it directly to the Heritage 2011 FUN sale, where it became Lot 5118 in the Platinum Night session.

This was a coin I always thought I was a little ahead of the curve on. When I sold it to a good client around five years ago, I told him, "this is going to be a six figure coin someday." But it seemed that "someday" was going to be quite far in the future.

Here's why I've always loved this coin. The 1873-CC is the rarest Carson City half eagle in higher grades. It doesn't have the cachet of the 1870-CC but it is rarer and, in Uncirculated, the 1870-CC, if available, would sell for a minimum of $125,000++. There are two 1873-CC half eagles known in Uncirculated: this example and an NGC MS62. The PCGS MS62 is not only nicer, it has a wonderful pedigree (ex Bass) and it is a solid coin for the grade with good luster and attractive, natural coloration. Unlike the 1870-CC, the 1873-CC is nearly unobtaianble in AU55 or AU58 grades, so if a collector wants to obtain a high quality piece he has very few options. I expected it to bring around $80,000 to $90,000 in the auction.

The 1873-CC sold for $161,000. This was an all-time auction record for this date (by a factor of around three) and it was significantly more than I expected.

Another interesting Carson City half eagle in the Heritage FUN sale was an 1878-CC graded AU58 by PCGS.

This is a very rare date and an issue that is extremely hard to locate in About Uncirculated and Uncirculated grades. I have never seen or heard of a Mint State piece so, for all intents and purposes, an AU58 is as nice an example of this date as you are likely to find.

The 1878-CC sold by Heritage was offered at Lot 5120. To be honest, I wasn't crazy about the coin. While sharply struck, it had color that I felt was questionable and it appeared to have been recently processed. But it was one of just five so graded by PCGS with none better.

It sold for $63,250. This is the exact same price that Heritage 5/08: 4235, the previous record holder for the date, brought a few years ago. The difference between the two coins is that, in my opinion, the piece that sold in 2008 was considerably nicer. The 2011 FUN sale price was extremely strong given the quality of the coin.

The third interesting Carson City half eagle to sell at a Heritage auction was an 1879-CC in a PCGS MS62 holder. This coin was not entirely fresh as it had been placed in a Heritage sale back in October 2010 where it failed to meet its reserve. It was reconsigned by the owner into the February 2011 auction and this time it brought $69,000; by far a record price for this date and considerably more than it would have brought in its earlier appearance had it hit the reserve.

This coin was different than the 1873-CC and 1878-CC. Unlike these other two dates, the 1879-CC half eagle is common in most circulated grades and it can even be found, with just a bit of effort, in nice AU55 to AU58. In Mint State, the 1879-CC has around six to eight survivors but nearly all grade MS60 to MS61. The MS62 in the Heritage sale was the best that I'd ever seen and I'm reasonably certain it was the finest known.

So, three different coins and three strong auction results. What can we deduce from these sales? I think the first thing we can determine is that there are at least two new individuals putting together sets of Carson City half eagles. I'm not certain if they are doing other CC gold coins or Liberty head half eagles from other mints, but they are clearly gaga for CC's. The second thing is that these collectors want coins that are the highest graded. And if they are "pop 1/0" coins, that's even better. The third thing is that they want the coins to be in PCGS holders. I'm not sure if the 1873-CC half eagle mentioned above would have brought anywhere near $161,000 if it had been the exact same coin but in an NGC holder. The fourth and final thing is that these buyers seem to like to purchase their coins at auction. But something tells me that if the right item came up for sale, and it were on a dealer's website, it would find its way into one of these collections.

One thing I've learned from nearly three decades of specializing in branch mint coins: the high end of these markets is very thinly traded and when just one or two new "mega collectors" start a collection of, say, finest known Carson City half eagles then prices can jump upwards in a hurry. And this seems to be exactly what's happening right now with this area of the market. It will be interesting to see if more important coin become available in the next few months and, if they do, what sort of record prices they will bring.

The Great RYK/DWN Mashup: Robert Kanterman’s Twelve Undervalued Gold Coins Priced Below $5,000

At the end of my last blog I said that I’d like to hear from collectors about which coins they believe qualify as undervalued sub-$5,000 U.S. gold coins. Robert Kanterman responded with this thoughtful list and I thought I’d publish it along with my comments (which are in italics at the end of each of his paragraphs). Without further ado, take it away RYK... Doug Winter has challenged me to identify 12 gold coins that are under $5,000 that are relatively good values. As a hobbyist, I am not nearly as knowledgeable and up-to-date in pricing, availability, and recent transactions, as Doug is. Most of my information is from sources like Heritage's auction archives, Coin Values, and the PCGS price guide and population reports. Each of these resources has its inherent flaws and weaknesses, yet each represents a sizable block of information, as well. I will also add that as a collector, I am often willing to dip down in grade level to a point that is lower than Doug typically does. This allows me access to some rare coins that I might otherwise not be able to afford. I would also stress that my selections below all are for coins that are original and attractive for the grade. On this website, that goes without saying.

1. 1854-S Gold Dollar in MS-62

I am always attracted to better date coins that have a historic or numismatic significance. The 1854-S dollar is important as it is the first year of operation of the San Francisco Mint, and it is the only SF mint gold coin that can be purchased in MS for under $5,000, with an MS-62 running in the $3,000-4000 range. This is definitely an issue that flies under the radar screen.

DW Comment: Nice choice. I had actually considered this for my list. This is a historically significant issue with a high “neatness” factor. I think a properly MS62 at $3,500-4,000 is a wonderful value. Just as an aside, I think all of the SF gold dollars are exceedingly good values and I have written previous articles on them which detail each issue.

2. 1857-D, 1858-D, or 1859-D Gold Dollar in AU-50 to 55

The combined mintage of these three issues is about 12,000 coins--yes, I said combined--and they can be had in AU-50 for $4,000 or less and a little more for choice AU. These are all charming, scarce, and historic. Within four years of the earliest of the trio, the Dahlonega Mint was overrun by the Confederates, who struck the gold dollars for the last and most famous issue of the series--the 1861-D. Of the three, the 1858-D gold dollar typically comes with the best strike.

DW Comment: Having owned dozens and dozens of each of these three dates I tend to overlook them but I think RYK has raised a good point. All three are scarce in the true meaning of the word. If I were able to choose just one date out of the trio, I would pick the 1857-D as I think it is considerably scarcer than the 1858-D and 1859-D. A caveat: many of the AU50 examples I see in holders are poor quality, so be patient and wait for the right example to come along.

3. 1839-C and 1839-D Quarter Eagles in XF-40+

I do not see much value in the classic head series, in general, but compared to the rest, the branch mint issues from Charlotte and Dahlonega seem to still have some value. Neither is especially rare, but with MS graded coins pushing into the high five figures, a dirty, original mid-circulated grade coin for $5,000, give or take a few, in a very popular series, seems like a pretty fair deal.

DW Comment: Nice choice, RYK. Even though properly graded EF examples of these two dates have probably doubled in price in the last few years, they are still good overall value. I’m not certain I would call them “undervalued” but the important thing to remember is that coins like this are in great demand and many collectors can’t afford the higher grade pieces that seem so readily available. I would personally choose the 1839-D over the 1839-C if I had to buy just one.

4. 1881 Quarter Eagle in AU-55

I hope I do not get bounced for saying this here, but after 1865 or so and with the exception of the 1875, the Liberty coronet $2.50 series becomes a long, boring series with few coins of interest to all but the diehards of the series. 641. What's that number? That's the original mintage of the 1881 quarter eagle for circulation strikes. If I were going to own one late date coronet quarter eagle, this would be the one.

DW Comment: At first I was going to heartily disagree with this choice but the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that at $3,500-4,000 for an AU50, this date is pretty good value after all. I do disagree with RYK that the post-1865 quarter eagles are a “long, boring series...” but you don’t expect me to agree with everything he says, do you?

5. 1864 Three Dollar in AU-55 or 58

The Civil War dates in many series are becoming the focus of collectors, and this is no exception for the $3 gold series. The 1865 $3 gets all of the credit for being low mintage (1,140), low pop, and one of the handful or so better dates of the entire series. The 1864 $3, however, has a mintage of 2,630, with a survivorship of a little under twice that of the 1865 and a price tag less than half of the 1865. Additionally, there is no apparent premium when compared to the higher mintage and more common 1861 through 1863 $3's. By all metrics, it is the best value among Civil war date $3's.

DW Comment: This is a really good choice. I probably see three 1861, 1862 or 1863 three dollar gold pieces for every 1864 despite the fact that the latter gets very little price premium in circulated grades. You have to like the history of any gold coin dated 1864 and most Philadelphia coins from this year were extensively melted.

6. Bust Right (or Bust Left) Early Half Eagles in XF-40

This is a personal favorite and may not be right for all collectors, but there is recent auction data to back this selection up. When AU coins are regularly selling for nearly $10,000, a nice original, piece with a bit more circulation in the $5,000-6,000 range seems like a better buy.

DW Comment: I love this choice except for one problem. Finding a crusty, original EF bust right or bust left half eagle is going to be a real chore as most of the real EF45 coins are now in AU50 or AU53 holders. When I do see EF examples they tend to be net graded AU’s—in other words, they have the details of an AU50 but have been cleaned at one time. That said, I agree with RYK that a crusty, attractive EF45 at $6,000 makes more sense for most collectors than a marginal, bright AU55 at $10,000.

7. Dahlonega Half Eagle Varieties in XF or AU

There are a number of scarce, easily recognizable varieties of Dahlonega half eagles (1840-D Small D, 1843-D Small D, 1848-D D/D, etc.) which can be purchased for little and often no premium to the more common variety. The grading services and astute collectors are only starting to recognize them, but they are well-documented and described in Doug's book, “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint.” Instead of buying the common example for the date in which 150 pieces are known, it makes sense to seek the one in which only 15 or so are known.

DW Comment: On this choice, I believe that RYK was “overthinking.” While I love the concept of buying a very rare die variety for little or no premium over a common one, the problem with these is that only a handful of collectors care. The 1840-D Small D half eagle is, as an example, a truly rare coin but I doubt if more than half a dozen collectors would pay a premium for it. My feeling is that the collector should learn these varieties and try to cherrypick them if possible but that there are just a small handful of Dahlonega half eagle varieties (most notably the 1848-D/D) that (currently) merit a premium.

8. Pedigreed Coins Better Date Gold Coins Under $5,000

I am a big fan of pedigreed coins, and I know that Doug is, as well. When I talk about pedigreed coins, I am generally speaking of the Big Three (Eliasberg, Garrett, and Norweb), but for rare date gold, there are others of significance, including Bass, Milas, Dallas Bank, to name a few. I am not talking about hoards like Wells Fargo, shipwreck coins (because they tend to be overpriced), or dubious pedigrees like Rainy Day. Often, the best way to buy pedigreed coins is to rediscover them yourself. Failing this, dealers like Doug Winter will often sell these with little or no price premium. I have found that while I enjoy owning them, selling them is usually painless as there seems to be quite a few collectors out there who also desire these. I make sure that I do not compromise my standards for quality for the grade and still seek good value.

DW Comment: I love this choice but would change the Big Three to the Big Four as I consider the Bass pedigree to be every bit as important as Eliasberg, Garrett or Norweb. RYK makes a great point when he suggests that the best way to find coins from these sales is to do some leg work. If you collect quarter eagles, make sure you own all of the major quarter eagle sales. If a coin has a distinguishing mark it may be reasonably easy to pedigree it.

9. 1870-CC Half Eagle Up To VF-20

Here is a coin that Doug Winter would not typically purchase for inventory, but I think is good value for the money. 1870 was the first year of the Carson City Mint and the 1870 gold issues are all the rarest in their respective series. The 1870-CC $5 is the most common of the three gold denominations and the only one that can be purchased in any form that resembles a coin for under $10,000. VF-25's have recently sold publicly for $6,000 or so, so it might require a drop in grade to F-15 or VF-20 to acquire this popular, historic, and legitimately scarce coin.

DW Comment: Actually RYK is wrong about me not typically buying a nice VF 1870-CC half eagle (or eagle or double eagle, for that matter...) for my inventory. I have actually owned three or four 1870-CC half eagles in lower grades and have always found them to be popular and readily liquid. On a rare, historically significant issue like the 1870-CC, I know I am willing to compromise my standards a bit. This would be a great addition to any collection.

10. 1838 Eagle in VF

Here's another coin that might be a bit lower in grade than what Doug might purchase for inventory, but when you consider that these coins actually did circulate (like the 1870-CC $5), it make sense to buy one that did circulate. This is a legitimately scarce, first year of issue, with a somewhat different design from the rest of the long series, and the first eagle struck for circulation in 35 years. A crusty, older holder example sold earlier this year in VF-25 for $4,000, which seems like a pretty good deal to me.

DW Comment: I wasn’t planning on including this issue in Part Two of my article but I like this choice. I am generally a big fan of first-year-of-issue coins, especially if they are genuinely scarce like the 1838 eagle. I would warn the potential buyer of this issue that Trends and CDN Bid tend to be unrealistically low in all grades and there are not many that can be bought in the sub-$5,000 range.

11. Any With Motto 1860's Eagles (except 1868-P) in XF-40 Through AU-50

The Liberty $10 series is chock full of scarce dates that fall below the radar screen of most collectors, even those who are active in rare date gold. From 1866 through 1869, there are multiple legitimately scarce dates that can be had in XF to low AU for under $5,000, but they do not come available very often. Omit the 1868 Philadelphia issue, as it is the most common of the group.

DW Comment: I couldn’t agree more with this choice although I might not necessarily single out the 1868 as the one “do not buy” coin from this era. These dates all have low mintages and low survival rates. They tend to be extremely expensive in AU and higher grades bit are surprisingly affordable in VF and EF.

12. 1850 Double Eagle in AU

I generally have difficulty finding good value in the $20 gold series (Liberty and Saints). I chose the 1850 $20 among the 1850's Philadelphia issues because it is the first year of issue, and it often comes nice. If you like the value in this one, you would probably like the some of the other 1850's Philadelphia $20's because they are even less expensive. Big pieces of 150+ year old gold are impressive now and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

DW Comment: I’m going to disagree with RYK on this one. At one time, I was a huge advocate of this date and I even included it in an article I wrote about “A Dozen Cool U.S. Coins” a number of years ago. But that was before prices shot up and population figures in AU soared. While this date has the cachet of being the first collectible double eagle, I think dates like the 1855, 1856, 1857 and 1858 in nice AU55 to AU58 are much better values than the 1850.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Robert Kanterman for his exceptional list of undervalued coins and I hope I haven’t embarrassed him to the point that he’ll never participate in the new interactive blog again. So, who is next??

The Carson City Gold Coinage of 1870

The gold coinage from 1870 is among the rarest and most famous issues from the Carson City mint. It has a number of factors that make it very appealing to collectors: low original mintage figures, very small surviving populations, low average grade and numismatic significance as the very first gold issues from this historic mint. Gold and silver were discovered in Northern Nevada in the late 1850's and the area was experiencing a full-blown gold rush by the early 1860's. In 1863, a mint was authorized in the Territory of Nevada. After experiencing some construction delays, a new branch mint opened in the booming town of Carson City in 1870. It actively produced coins until it was closed in 1893.

In 1870, the Carson City mint struck silver dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars. Three gold denominations were produced as well: half eagles, eagles and double eagles. All three are interesting and worthy of a closer inspection.

I. 1870-CC Half Eagle

A total of 7,675 1870-CC half eagles were produced. It has been estimated that 50-60 pieces are known today and this number can be broken down as follows:

Uncirculated: 4 About Uncirculated: 7-9 Extremely Fine: 13-15 Very Fine: 26-32

The half eagle is the most available of the three gold denominations produced at the Carson City mint in 1870. It is likely that a few were saved as souvenirs by local residents. Still, this is a rare coin in all grades. The typical piece is likely to show extreme wear, deep marks on the surfaces and poor luster as a result of mishandling. Any 1870-CC half eagle that grades Extremely Fine-45 or better is quite rare and properly graded About Uncirculated pieces are very rare.

Very high-grade 1870-CC half eagles (in this case AU-55 and above) are extremely rare and very desirable. These are the only 1870-CC dated gold issues that are known in this level of preservation (the eagle and the double eagle are essentially unknown above AU-50) which means that a number of condition-oriented collectors are actively seeking to locate a choice 1870-CC half eagle.

Here are some buying tips for collectors who are thinking of purchasing an 1870-CC half eagle:

Many examples show weakness of strike on the eagle's neck feathers. This is not considered a negative when determining the grade of an 1870-CC half eagle. It is likely that, in the future, examples with sharp neck feathers will sell for a premium.

Despite the fact that this is a first year of issue coin, it is actually one of the better produced early date Carson City half eagles. The collector can expect an 1870-CC half eagle that has decent luster and a lack of the planchet problems found on other half eagles from the early-to-mid 1870's.

Very high-grade pieces (AU-50 and better) come on the market and they seem to appear at an average of around one coin per year. If you see an 1870-CC half eagle that you really like, it makes sense to purchase it, as another example may prove frustrating to locate.

Of the dozen or so pieces known that grade AU-50 or better, nearly every piece is off the market in private collections. These are coins that tend to "stay put" once they are acquired by collectors.

II. 1870-CC Eagle

A total of 5,908 1870-CC half eagles were produced. It has been estimated that 35-45 pieces are known today and this number can be broken down as follows:

Uncirculated: O About Uncirculated: 4 Extremely Fine: 9-11 Very Fine: 22-30

The 1870-CC is the rarest Carson City eagle. Very few were saved and it appears that most of this issue went right into circulation and stayed there for many years. Today, the typical survivor is in the Very Fine-20 to Very Fine-35 range and shows extensive marks. An 1870-CC eagle that grades Extremely Fine-40 is well above-average and an Extremely Fine-45 coin is very rare. In About Uncirculated, this is an extremely rare coin with just four or so currently accounted for. There are no 1870-CC eagles known (or rumored to exist) in any grade approaching Uncirculated.

Many experts feel that this is an extremely undervalued coin. It is nearly as rare as the 1870-CC double eagle in higher grades but it sells for a fraction of the price. As an example, a PCGS AU-50 1870-CC double eagle was recently offered for sale by a dealer for $225,000. At the same time, an 1870-CC eagle in PCGS AU-50 was offered in the $40,000 range. When one considers the fact that the eagle is one of approximately four known in AU (with none better) while the double eagle is one of three or four known in AU (with none better), it would seem that the eagle is an extremely good value at one-fifth the price of its more famous "big brother."

Here are some buying tips for collectors who are thinking of purchasing an 1870-CC eagle:

As of late 2002, PCGS or NGC certified Extremely Fine-40 and 45 examples of the 1870-CC eagle could be purchased be for $20,000-30,000 per coin. When compared to other important branch mint rarities of comparable value, this is very reasonable and it is easy to conclude that the 1870-CC eagle is extremely undervalued.

Nearly every known 1870-CC eagle shows extensive abrasions on the surfaces. A piece with only moderate marks is extremely desirable and will sell for a large premium in the future.

The finest known example of this date is a PCGS AU-55 that is currently off the market in a private collection. No other examples are currently known that grade better, in my opinion, than AU-50.

An investor with $250,000 or so to spend could quietly buy a large number of the higher grade 1870-CC eagles that exist and literally "corner" the market.

III. 1870-CC Double Eagle

A total of 3,789 1870-CC double eagles were produced. It has been estimated that 30-40 pieces are known today and this number can be broken down as follows:

Uncirculated: 0 About Uncirculated: 3-4 Extremely Fine: 9-11 Very Fine: 18-25

The 1870-CC is the rarest Carson City gold coin and is easily the most popular (and highly priced) gold issue from this mint. In the past decade, it has assumed an almost legendary status among collectors. There are a number of reasons for this. The most obvious is its size: this is the biggest coin ever produced at the Carson City mint and people like big coins. Another reason is the popularity of this denomination. Double eagles have become the mostly avidly collected gold coin and there are a number of well-heeled collectors who are actively seeking an 1870-CC to complete their set. Another less obvious reason is the fact that the 1870-CC double eagle is a coin with multiple levels of demand. It is considered desirable not only by Carson City specialists and double eagle collectors but by investors who seek to purchase big, "sexy" coins with a great story.

There are fewer than three dozen known and most are in very low grade. Less than a dozen 1870-CC double eagles exist in Extremely Fine grades with most of these being low-end EF-40's. This date is extremely rare in EF-45 and excessively rare in About Uncirculated with just three or four known. There are none graded higher than AU-50 and none of this tiny number is regarded as being choice for the grade. Most 1870-CC double eagles are seen with very heavily abraded surfaces, a lack of luster and softly struck peripheries.

This is an issue that has risen dramatically in price over the years. A decade ago, an average quality 1870-CC double eagle traded in the $40,000-50,000 range. Today, any problem-free piece is worth at least $90,000-100,000 and a relatively nice coin will sell quickly in the $125,000-150,000+ range. Given its extreme popularity (and a limited supply), prices are likely to continue their rapid climb.

Here are some buying tips for collectors who are thinking of purchasing an 1870-CC double eagle:

There is no such thing as a "pretty" 1870-CC double eagle so the traditional standards of eye appeal need to be relaxed when discussing this issue.

A few lower grade "problem" pieces exist. These have not been encapsulated by PCGS or NGC. Such coins should be avoided by the collector.

If an Uncirculated 1870-CC double eagle were to ever surface (which is unlikely but certainly not impossible) it would probably be the first $1 million+ Carson City coin.

All genuine 1870-CC double eagles show noticeable weakness of strike on the left obverse stars and Liberty's hair. These are regarded as hallmarks of authenticity for the issue.


The three 1870 gold coins that were struck at the Carson City mint are a rare and extremely interesting trio. A very compelling case can be made for calling these coins undervalued as there are very few United States gold coins that have as compelling a story as these three issues. In addition to having a great story, they are legitimately rare and already have a solid collector base.

I strongly recommend the purchase of these coins in Extremely Fine-40 and higher grades. In the case of the 1870-CC eagle, I would even recommend purchasing nice Very Fine-30 to Very Fine-35 coins, given their current favorable price level of $10,000-12,500.