20 Popular 19th Century US Gold Coins Priced Below $10,000

There are dozens of United States gold coins that are accorded a high degree of value for various reasons: first-year-of-issue, low mintage figures, beautiful design, strong collector appeal, etc. These are not always the "rarest" coins in a series and when the value-conscious collector looks at the numbers they don't always make sense. But coins like the ones listed below are great additions to any collection. Let's look at a list of 20 gold coins from the 19th century priced below $10,000 that would be welcome in any collection. 1. 1849-D Gold Dollar: The first gold dollar from this mint and an affordable, well-made issue. An easy coin to obtain in the $2,500-5,000 range.

2. 1855-O Gold Dollar: The only Type Two gold dollar from New Orleans and the final issue of this denomination from this mint. $3,000-5,000 will buy you a nice piece.

3. 1875 Gold Dollar: Just 400 business strikes were made, yet this issue is affordable.

4. 1838-C Quarter Eagle: The first quarter eagle from Charlotte and a popular two year type. Becoming harder to locate for less than $7,500 but be patient and you'll find one.

5. 1839-D Quarter Eagle: The mate to the 1838-C and an issue that is both first-year-of-type and a one -year emission. Another coin that is becoming hard to find at under $10,000 but not impossible.

6. 1845-O Quarter Eagle: Only 4,000 were struck and this is by far the scarcest quarter eagle from this mint. Still available for less than $10,000 but getting more expensive every year.

7. 1875 Quarter Eagle: If you own the dollar, why not the quarter eagle? Another super-low mintage issue; just 400 struck. Decent pieces can be had for $7,500-10,000.

8. 1854-O Three Dollars: A first-year issue and a one-year type in one affordable package. $5,000-7,500 will buy you a very pleasing example.

9. 1881 Three Dollars: Just 500 business strikes were made and this is a scarce coin in all grades. This date always sells quickly for me. $7,500 will buy you a nice one.

10. 1813 Half Eagle: One of the more common coins on this list but its the most affordable example of the legendary Fat Head type. Nice pieces can still be hard for less than $10,000.

11. 1838-C/1838-D Half Eagles: Both are first year issues and one-year types. Both are very popular and becoming increasingly hard to find at under $10,000. These have great appeal beyond branch mint specialists.

12. 1839-C/1839-D Half Eagles: Two more one-year types. Neither are really rare (except in high grades) but they are well-made, oh-so-popular and can still be purchased in the $5,000-10,000 range. A four coin set that had the 1838-C, 1838-D, 1839-C and 1839-D half eagles would be a great addition to a collection.

13. 1861-C Half Eagle: Final year of issue, possible Civil War issuance and cheap...what's not to love about the 1861-C half eagle? I just sold a nice EF40 for a shade over $5,000 and received multiple orders for it on my site.

14. 1870-CC Half Eagle: You can't buy a really nice example of this date for less than $10,000 anymore but if you stretch a bit you'll own a true piece of history. By a large margin, this is the most affordable first-year CC gold coin.

15. 1838 Eagle: This is another formerly affordable coin whose levels have shot up in the last five years. It's scarce in all grades (only 7,200 were made) and it is the first Liberty Head eagle.

16. 1854-S Eagle: The first San Francisco eagle and a true Gold Rush artifact. Very affordable with very nice pieces still available for around $5,000.

17. 1857-S SSCA Double Eagle: I thought twice about adding this to the list but how can you not love a coin with this much history and cosmetic appeal? MS63's at $9,000 or so seem like fair value right now.

18. 1874-CC Eagle: To me, the thought of owning a Carson City eagle from the early 1870's is pretty exciting and the 1874-CC is the most common. Nice coins can be had for $6,000-8,000.

19. 1861 Double Eagle: An affordable Civil War double eagle that is well made and available. A great starter coin for the collector and always an easy coin to sell. You can buy nice examples for $3,000-5,000 and up.

20. Carson City Double Eagle: I didn't mention a specific date as I am viewing this as a type purchase. What could be more popular than a big, pretty coin like this? You can still purchase an excellent example for $4,000-7,000.

So what coins did I leave off the list that you have in your collection and which do you agree with? Email me at dwn@ont.com and let me know!

Was This 1875 $10.00 Worth $345,000?

With more than $75 million dollars in rare coins having sold at the pre-ANA and ANA auctions, it is inevitable that some amazing individual pieces might have been lost in the shuffle. One coin that hasn't received much publicity is the 1875 eagle in the Stack's-Bowers sale (lot 7732 and graded AU-53+ by PCGS) that brought $345,000. 1875 $10.00 PCGS 53+, lot 7732, image courtesy of Stack's-Bowers

As far as I know, this is by far a record price for the 1875 eagle at auction, and I believe it is also an all-time record price for any business strike Liberty Head eagle.

Was this coin a good value?

When I first saw that this coin was reserved at $300,000 (meaning that you had to bid at least this amount, plus the 15% buyers premium) I was pretty aghast. This exact coin, then graded AU53 by NGC, had last sold for $41,400 in the Heritage 2001 ANA and the last auction trade of relevance was $74,750 for an NGC AU55 in the DLRC Richmond I sale of July 2004. My initial reaction was, "this coin will never sell and the consignor is being unrealistic."

But A LOT has changed in the coin market since 2001 and 2004. For one, the formerly-unpopular Liberty Head eagle series has become a collector favorite. I have written in the past that it only takes a small number of wealthy, passionate collectors to turn a formerly-overlooked series into one that is "hot." And this is exactly what has happened with Ten Libs. In a few minutes I made a quick 180 degree turn from "it will never sell" to "hmmm...it might actually sell."

Before we discuss the market for the 1875 eagle, I think its a good idea to talk a little about the issue itself.

With a mintage of just 100 business strikes, the 1875 is the undisputed key to the series. I believe that fewer than ten business strikes are known. Most of the 1875 eagles, like the one is the Stack's-Bowers sale, aren't especially attractive. This date tends to come with heavily abraded surfaces and since all the known examples are prooflike, these marks tend to be magnified. And this is further compounded by the fact that most 1875 eagles have been cleaned or dipped and do not have nice, warm color.

Here's another way of thinking about this issue. Let's say there are actually nine business strikes known. Of these nine, at least six or seven are off the market in tightly-held collections. This suddenly leaves us with maybe two or three examples that might be for sale. Of these two or three, at least one is going to be a coin that even by the standards of this date is going to be ugly enough that a wealthy collector will not want to use it to fill a hole in his set. That leaves serious collectors of Liberty Head eagles with very few chances to purchase the "right" coin.

Which is why this 1875 was being sold at a perfect time.

There were a few others factors working in this coin's favor. For one, it was in a PCGS holder and any of the Registry Set collectors thinking about this coin would have preferred it to its previous NGC holder. Secondly, it was a "+" coin, meaning that the graders thought it was above-average quality for the grade. I'd have to agree with them. For an 1875 eagle in AU53 it was actually a decent coin (though certainly not a "pretty" one in the true sense of the word) and I don't think the grade was pushed because of the Great Rarity factor.

The major factor was timing. Selling it at the ANA was a good decision and there was the X factor of wealthy collectors looking for places to put their money in these uncertain times.

But I think the numismatic significance of this sale is not fully appreciated by many dealers and collectors.

Only recently, circulated rare date 19th century gold coins were popular issues but they were never really the "big buck" coins that 18th and 20th century issues--typically in high grades--were. Until recently, the rap on coins like the 1875 eagle were that although they were really rare, collectors weren't sophisticated enough to pay huge premiums for rarity over condition. There were exceptions to this maxim (the 1854-O, 1856-O and 1870-CC double eagles, for starters) but these exceptions were almost always big, popular coins like double eagles.

I think the argument for rarity over condition grew louder a few years ago when coins like the 1854-S quarter eagle began to sell for $250,000+ in EF grades.

You can make the case that the 1875 eagle is a "better" coin than the 1854-S quarter eagle for a number of reasons. Firstly, its rarer. There are as many as 15 examples of the latter known and many are in wretched condition. Secondly, the 1854-S is a smaller coin, size-wise, and, as we all know, size does matter when it comes to value. Thirdly, the Liberty Head eagle series is probably more popular with collectors at this point in time than the quarter eagles of this design.

Coincidentally, in the same Stack's-Bowers sale there was a no-grade example of the 1854-S. It wasn't a "sort-of" no-grade; it was a total, absolute no-grade, and it still brought $201,250.

Using this sale as a measuring stick, I think the 1875 eagle was good value.

If that's not a compelling enough argument for the 1875 eagle, then how about this? In the Stack's-Bowers sale there was a Proof 1975-S "No S" Dime that sold for $345,000. It is (currently) a major modern rarity with just two known and its the first one ever to come up for sale.

But its a frickin' Roosevelt Dime...and a coin that half the dealers at the ANA (myself included) probably wouldn't have been "smart" enough to have paid $25,000 for if it had walked up to our table(s).

Using that sale as a measuring stick, the 1875 eagle might have been more than a good deal; it might have been a great one.

I remember talking to David hall a few years ago about the 1875 eagle. He was still collecting this series and he hadn't yet purchased this date. I remember him asking me what I thought he'd have to pay for one (I think I said around $100,000 at the time) and I remember him, presciently, asking me, "Why isn't this a half a million dollar coin?"

His question seemed sort of goofy then. It seems really smart now.

The Record-Setting Sale of an 1875 Half Eagle: What Does it Portend?

In the Bowers and Merena November 2010 Baltimore auction, a business strike 1875 half eagle sold without a lot of fanfare for a lot of money. I think this was one of the most significant individual sales in the rare gold coin market in 2010 and I'd like to spend a bit of time analyzing both the coin that was sold and the significance it portends for both the Liberty Head half eagle series and the rare gold market as a whole. The 1875 is the rarest collectible Liberty Head half eagle. (The 1854-S is rarer but with no pieces likely available to collectors in the near future, I regard this issue as "non-collectible.") Only 200 business strikes were produced and the number of pieces known has generally been estimated to be in the area of ten. I think this estimate is reasonably accurate although I think the actual number known could be as low as seven or eight.

The 1875 is unknown in Uncirculated and most of the examples that exist are in the EF40 to AU50 range. PCGS has graded five coins including an EF40 and two each in AU50 and AU53 while NGC has graded four: one in EF45 and three in AU55. I believe that these figures are inflated by resubmissions and the total number of distinct 1875 half eagles in slabs is four or five. There have been 10 auction appearances since 1991. Six have occurred since 2000 but this includes a number of reappearances of the same coin(s).

The coin in the Bowers and Merena auction was graded AU55 by NGC and it appeared to have been the same coin that was offered as DLRC's Richmond I: 1444 back in July 2004 where it brought a record-setting $86,250. There had been no other 1875 business strikes that had been available since the Goldberg 2/07: 2335 coin that brought $74,750.

1875 $5.00 NGC AU55, image courtesy of Bowers and Merena

The Bowers coin was part of an interesting set of 1875 gold coinage called the "Kupersmith Once in a Lifetime" collection. Terrible name but an interesting and impressive set with examples of the rare Philadelphia gold dollar, quarter eagle and three dollar gold piece from this year but, curiously without the very rare 1875 business strike (or Proof) eagle.

The coin in the Bowers sale brought $149,500 which is far and away a record price for a business strike of this date. Considering that this is an esoteric coin and, to be honest, it wasn't a really nice-looking piece, I think this price is very significant.

In the same sale, the coin right before the business strike was an 1875 half eagle graded PR66 Cameo by NGC. With a mintage of just 20, this has long been recognized as a great rarity and it is an issue that has usually brought more than its under-appreciated (but rarer) business strike counterpart. The Proof in the Bowers sale, sold as Lot 5042, brought $143,750. I was really surprised but really pleased to see this happen.

I've been thinking for a year or two that Liberty Head half eagles have a chance to be the "next big thing" in the world of rare date gold. Here's why. The Liberty Head double eagle series is extremely popular right now and there are not many "ground floor" opportunities for the new collector. Same goes for the eagle series although I still think there are some very undervalued issues. But the Liberty Head half eagle series remains under-collected and there are dozens and dozens of individual issues that are extremely undervalued.

So why is a $149,500 Liberty Head half eagle so an important? Because its the rarest collectible issue in the series and you typically see high-end collector activity in a series start with coins like this. In other words, you can buy the C and D mint issues any day but how often can you buy the Big Gun like the 1875?

If the coin had sold for, say, $80,000 or $90,000 I don't think it would have been a big deal. But with a sale at nearly $150,000 the bar has been raised and I think we'll see higher prices for other very rare non-Southern Liberty Head half eagles like the 1863, 1864, 1864-S and 1865.

Of course there is the very real possibility that this coin was not bought by a collector who plans to do a date set of Liberty Head half eagles and this totally blows a hole into my theory. It could have just as easily of been bought by someone doing a set of 1875 business strike gold coinage or someone who likes really rare coins like the 1875 half eagle and thinks that 150k is a great value for an issue with just eight or nine business strikes known. All true but, as I said above, the bar has now been raised for the rarities in this series and the days of being able to buy an 1875 half eagle in AU for less than $100,000 are gone.