1892-CC $20.00 PCGS VF35

Old Green Holder. By today's standards this example grades at least EF40 but there is a small, thin obverse scratch in the left field. The obverse and reverse have a completely crusty appearance and it seems likely that this coin spent a number of years in a European bank vault. Great value at under $2,000!

Carson City Double Eagles: An Introduction and Overview

Carson City twenty dollar gold pieces, or double eagles, are the most available gold coins from this mint. Only one date in the series, the 1870-CC, can be called truly rare, although a number of other dates are very rare in high grades. Amassing a complete collection with an example of each date is an enjoyable pursuit. And if you decide not to include the 1870-CC because of its prohibitive cost, don’t despair; many collections do not include this date. A collector of average means can put together a nice set of Carson City double eagles with the average coins in the Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated range. The collector will soon learn that only the 1870-CC presents a great challenge in terms of availability. There are an estimated 40-50 examples known in all grades. This means that no more than four dozen or so complete collections of Carson City double eagles could possibly exist. In comparison, the maximum number of Carson City half eagles that could exist is around five dozen while around three dozen (or a few more) eagle sets from this mint might be formed. In each series, the 1870-CC is clearly the “stopper” or key date.

The completion of an average quality Carson City double eagle set is somewhat easier than a comparable half eagle or eagle set, provided that the collector is willing to accept coins that do not grade Mint State-60 or better. There are just 19 dates required to form a complete set. Carson City double eagles are without a doubt among the most popular United States gold coins. Their large size, combined with their romantic history, makes them irresistible to many collectors. This fervent collector base is most evident when one examines the great popularity of the 1870-CC. This issue has increased dramatically in price and popularity since the last edition of my Carson City gold coins book was published in 2001. As this is being written (2010) there are a few examples actually available to collectors but a few years back it was nearly impossible to locate an 1870-CC double eagle at any price.

As with the other Carson City gold series, it is very challenging to pursue the double eagles in higher grades; in this case About Uncirculated-55 and higher. It becomes even more of a challenge when the collector demands clean, original coins with a minimum of bagmarks and abrasions. As a rule, CC double eagles are less rare in high grades than their half eagle and eagle counterparts (at least the issues from the 1870’s and 1880’s). This means that locating really choice coins is not as difficult as with the half eagles and eagles from the first decade of this mint’s operation.

More than most other Liberty Head double eagles, the Carson City issues have tended to remain popular and increase in value over the course of time; regardless of their bullion value. One of the major reasons for this has to do with the great story behind these coins. CC double eagles are reasonably easy to promote due to their relative availability (especially in lower grades) and their wonderful history. These coins have long proven easy to sell to non-collectors and pure investors. Interestingly, the Japanese were major buyers of Carson City double eagles in the past and this is due to their interest in the legends and history of the Old West. I am aware of several American dealers who sold a number of Carson City double eagles to the Japanese and other Asians.

At the present time it remains impossible to assemble a complete set of Uncirculated Carson City double eagles. At least one of the nineteen dates is unknown in Uncirculated. However, more dates in the double eagle series exist in full Mint State than in the half eagle and eagle series, both of which contain a number of issues that are either unknown or excessively rare in Mint State.

The 1870-CC is unknown above the AU53 to AU55 range while the 1871-CC and 1872-CC has just three to five and five to six, respectively. The 1878-CC and 1879-CC are extremely rare in Uncirculated as well with fewer than ten pieces believed to exist. The 1873-CC and 1891-CC are very rare in Uncirculated and almost unobtainable above the MS60 to MS61 range. The 11874-CC, 1877-CC and 1885-CC are considered to be quite rare in full Uncirculated as well. Conversely, a few Carson City double eagles are very plentiful in Uncirculated. These dates include the 1875-CC, 1890-CC and 1893-CC of which hundreds are known in the MS60 to MS62 range. It should be stressed that well over 90% of all Uncirculated Carson City double eagles are in the MS60 to MS62 range and any date in extremely rare and desirable in properly graded MS63 or above. I have still never seen or heard of a Gem and have only seen one piece (an 1875-CC) that I regarded as being close to MS64.

High grade Carson City double eagles are in very high demand by date collectors and type collectors. I doubt if there are as many as twenty Carson City double eagles that are true MS63 coins by today’s standards. CC double eagles are essentially unknown in high grades because of the rough way in which they were handled and if a Gem is to ever show up it is likely to be an Assay coin or a piece that was given special treatment by a VIP or prominent local family.

There was probably not a single coin collector alive in Nevada at the time these coins were produced. The few MS63 to MS64 coins that do exist were preserved by good fortune or sheer happenstance. Many were stored in the vaults of European, Central American and South American banks after they had been shipped there as payment for international debts. While stored in these banks they were protected from the American gold recall of 1933 and the wholesale meltings that took place during this period. Many of these coins have worked their way back to America since the 1960’s as their numismatic value increased. Despite the fact that literally thousands have been repatriated, more Carson City double eagles are still being found in Europe, Central America and South America.

An examination of the series reveals some interesting rarity trends. Survival statistics depend, to some extent, on the original mintage figures. But they vary widely according to the year of issue.

The rarity trends for CC double eagles do not break down as neatly as they do for the half eagles and eagles from this mint. Unlike these two other denominations, the double eagles do not always get characterized as “rare early dates” and “common late dates.” One of the rarest double eagles is the low mintage 1891-CC while the most common is the 1875-CC. After studying the half eagles and eagles from this mint, I feel that the rarity of the Carson City double eagles are based less on mintages and actual use than on mintage values and subsequent shipment overseas. The collector who studies the rarity tables that I included in my 2001 book on CC gold will note the following very general trend: the lower a coin’s mintage and the older its date, the rarer it tends to be in terms of pieces known today.

The 1870-CC double eagle had the lowest mintage figure of any Carson City double eagle: a scant 3,789 coins. In the entire 57 coin Carson City gold series, only the mintages of the 1877-CC, 1878-CC and 1879-CC eagles were lower. As with the other 1870-CC gold issues, the comparably high survival rate of the double eagle (on a percentage basis) is most probably due to a few pieces being saved as first-year-of-issue keepsakes. The fact that no AU-55 or better specimens exist implies that these coins went directly into circulation and saw active use.

The next rarest dates are the 1871-CC and the 1891-CC. The 1871-CC is rare due to a low original mintage figure (just 17,387 coins) and the fact that this issue saw active commercial use. The 1891-CC is rare more because of the fact that only 5,000 were produced. It is also interesting to note that the similarly dated half eagle and eagle are extremely common by the standards of Carson City gold and can be found with no difficult even in the lower Uncirculated grades.

The next rarest issues are the 1885-CC, 1879-CC and 1878-CC. All three have low mintages and tend not to be found in groups of CC double eagles located in overseas sources.

The 1875-CC, 1876-CC, 1884-CC, 1892-CC and 1893-CC appear to have been saved and then shipped overseas. A decent number of these coins are still being brought back to the United States, including examples in the lower Uncirculated grades. The 1892-CC and 1893-CC, in particular, are less rare in Uncirculated than their comparatively low mintages would suggest.

As with other gold denominations, a general rule is that the older a coin is, the lower the average grade of surviving specimens. This intuitive statement is not nearly as easy to predict in the double eagle denomination. As an example, the 1872-CC is the third rarest Carson City double eagle when it comes to high grade rarity but it is only the eighth rarest in terms of overall rarity. This suggests that this coin was released into circulation and used in commerce; not stored in banks and shipped overseas like the 1892-CC and 1893-CC.

Carson City double eagles served two primary functions. They were meant to circulate but they were also meant as a storehouse of value. The large $20 denomination was the most convenient form in which to coin, transport and trade the large quantities of gold that had recently been mined in Nevada. During the western gold rushes, paper money was viewed with suspicion. This made gold coins an important factor in daily commerce, which quickly became the accepted mode of payment in the Old West. Thus, it is not surprising to learn that Carson City double eagles can be found in comparatively low grades today. These low grade coins (Very Fine and Extremely Fine) are often heavily abraded from years of use in commerce. Conversely, most of the known Uncirculated coins are also heavily marked, the result of loose coins striking against each other while being transported in bags. It is not uncommon to see CC double eagles with no real wear but with such extensive abrasions that they are downgraded in the commercial marketplace to About Uncirculated.

The greatest challenge for the collector of these coins is not finding specific dates but, rather, locating clean problem-free coins. As mentioned above, the typical Carson City double eagle, whether it grades Very Fine-30 or Mint State-61, tends to have negative eye appeal due to excessive marks, scuffing or mint-made spotting. Coins which have truly good eye appeal are quite rare and deserve to sell for a strong premium over average quality specimens. The collector is always urged to “stretch” for exceptional pieces with high quality eye appeal.

Most of the pieces struck from 1870 through 1875 are not sharply impressed. This is most evident in the central portion of the coin where the greatest amount of pressure is needed to raise the metal of the planchet and bring out the details. On the obverse, the weakest area is usually on the hair. On the reverse, this weakness is most often seen on the neck feathers of the eagle, the radial lines in the shield and on E PLURIBUS in the motto. This weakness of strike is often confused with wear. Still, Carson City double eagles of this era tend to be sharper (and easier to grade) than their half eagle and eagle counterparts.

The survival estimates in my new book are based on information current as of 2010. Since the last edition of the book in 2001, a number of new coins have surfaced. This has included some reasonably significant hoards. Populations for Uncirculated have increased due to relaxed grading standards. Some coins that I considered to be About Uncirculated in 2001 and now Mint State.

Due to the sheer number of Carson City half eagles that exist, I have always found it difficult to estimate surviving populations; especially with the more common issues. I anticipate that my current overall population figures will prove to be conservative, just as they were in 2001 (and in 1994 when I wrote the very first Carson City gold book).

To reach these conclusions, I study auction data, population reports, dealer ads and websites as well as my own personal records of sale. In an average year, the number of 1870-CC double eagles might be as low as one or two coins. For other dates, such as the 1871-CC and 1891-CC, the number might be around one per month; possibly less. Obviously, the rarer the date and the higher the grade desired, the harder it will be for the collector to locate an acceptable example. Finest known or Condition Census examples may stay in specific collections for many decades.

As I mentioned earlier, the collector with a budget can form a complete (or near-complete) set of CC double eagles excluding the 1870-CC in the VF and EF grades. A number of the dates in the series can still be found in lower grades for less than $2,500 per coin and they would appear to have very little downside risk at these levels.

The collector with a larger budget is likely to focus on coins grading AU50 and above. With the exception of the 1870-CC, no Carson City double eagle is prohibitively expensive or unobtainable in this range. Such a set could probably be assembled in two years or less.

A connoisseur with a large budget will focus on coin that grade About Uncirculated and Uncirculated. For the 1870-CC, a coin grading EF45 to AU50 will prove satisfactory. The collector of such coins should focus on pieces with minimal marks and original color. Since many of the early issues are so rare in full Mint State, finding even properly graded AU55 to AU58 pieces is very difficult. Given normal market conditions, a collection of this magnitude might be assembled in three to five years.

An even more impressive collection would be one in which all the coins except the 1870-CC were MS60 or finer. Such a collection might take decades to assemble.

Collecting Carson City double eagles is a very enjoyable pursuit and the number of serious collectors currently working on sets will attest to this.

An Analysis of Carson City Eagles Through Recent Major Auction Results: Part Two

Last month we looked at how the sale of the Old West and the Morgan collections of Carson City gold coinage impacted the market for half eagles from this mint. This month, we’ll look at the results as they apply to Carson City eagles. Just a few refreshers before we get right into the number crunching. The Old West collection was sold at auction by ANR in August 2006. It contained a nearly complete set of CC half eagles and a complete set of eagles. I sold all the eagles to this collector in the 2004-2005 time period and I had previously handled many of them from 1995-2000 when they comprised the Orange County collection. The Morgan collection was sold by Stack’s in January 2007. It was a complete set of CC half eagles and eagles and all had been purchased from me between 1990 and 1995. All of the coins were in older PCGS and NGC holders and many were good upgrade candidates based on today’s more liberal standards.

In this article, the Old West Collection will be abbreviated as OW while the Morgan Collection will be abbreviated as MC.

1870-CC OW: PCGS AU55, sold for $115,000 MC: PCGS EF45, sold for $46,000

The PCGS AU55 example in the Old West collection was the finest known 1870-CC eagle and it shattered all price records for this date. The price realized for the Morgan collection coin was reflective of the fact that most viewers graded the coin AU50. It subsequently upgraded to NGC AU50 and is now for sale on a dealer’s website for $52,500. After these two sales I think we will see continued price appreciation for this rare and important date.

1871-CC OW: PCGS AU55, sold for $25,300 MC: NGC AU55, sold for $25,300

I wasn’t personally crazy about either of these coins. I think we can assume with a good deal of certainty that an average quality AU55 example of this date is worth around $25,000.

1872-CC OW: PCGS AU55, sold for $34,500 MC: NGC AU55, sold for $34,500

I liked both of these coins quite a bit and thought that they both had a chance to upgrade to AU58 (although I don’t think either has…yet). Again, after these two sales I think it’s safe to say that a nice AU55 example of this date is worth around $35,000.

1873-CC OW: PCGS AU50, sold for $32,200 MC: PCGS AU50, sold for $43,700

The 1873-CC in the Old West collection was decent but nothing special. The example in the Morgan collection was clearly nicer and I graded it AU53. It sold to a dealer who currently has it listed on his website (in an NGC AU53 holder) for a reasonable markup ($48,500). It is nice to see that this date is finally getting some recognition for its rarity in AU grades.

1874-CC OW: PCGS AU58, sold for $37,950 MC: NGC AU55, sold for $19,550

The Old West coin is the third finest known 1874-CC eagle and its price realized was very strong. It later appeared in the Goldberg February 2007 sale (still in a PCGS AU58 holder) where it failed to hit its reserve and was bought back by its consignor, a California dealer. The Morgan collection coin also realized a strong price for the grade.

1875-CC OW: PCGS AU53, sold for $32,200 MC: PCGS AU53, sold for $29,325

I personally liked the Morgan collection coin better than the Old West piece. Considering that it brought nearly $3,000 less, I think it was a relatively good value. These two auction appearances confirm my belief that a nice quality AU53 example of this date is worth around $30,000-32,500.

1876-CC OW: PCGS AU58, sold for $39,100 MC: PCGS EF45, sold for $12,650

The Old West coin was superb and I purchased it for a collector. The price realized for the Morgan collection example was strong for an EF45. The coin, incidentally, is now in an NGC AU50 holder. Both of these sales show that there is demand for this date but the coins offered were so far apart in quality that one can not make any good conclusions based on comparing them.

1877-CC OW: PCGS AU53, sold for $27,600 MC: NGC AU55, sold for $27,600

I thought that both of these had the potential to upgrade: the Old West coin to AU55 and the Morgan coin to AU58. I would have to say that the Morgan coin was a much better value given the fact that it was nicer yet it sold for the exact same price.

1878-CC OW: PCGS AU55, sold for $39,100 MC: PCGS AU50, sold for $20,700

This was an instance where I thought the Old West coin sold for a little too much while the Morgan coin went a little cheaply. The Old West piece was clearly nicer than its counterpart but I do not think it was worth nearly $20,000 more.

1879-CC OW: PCGS AU55, sold for $32,200 MC: PCGS AU50, sold for $27,600

Here is an example where if you hadn’t seen both of these coins in person, the prices realized might not make sense. The Old West coin was properly graded but it lacked good overall eye appeal. The Morgan coin was clearly undergraded (it is now in an NGC AU58 holder) and it brought a strong price as a result.

1880-CC OW: NGC MS61, sold for $18,400 MC: NGC AU55, sold for $4,140

Due to the difference in quality between these two coins, the prices realized do not really lend themselves to comparison. The 1880-CC in the Old West collection was extremely nice for the grade and it sold for a very strong price. I’m not certain if the coin ever upgraded to MS62 but even if it didn’t whoever purchased it now owns one of the finest known examples of this date.

1881-CC OW: NGC MS64, sold for $74,750 MC: PCGS MS61, sold for $10,350

These are two of the finest known examples of this date (the Morgan collection coin, which I purchased, is now in an NGC MS62 holder) and their strong prices realized reflect this. I was pretty surprised at just how high the bidding went on the Old West coin. I purchased this exact piece in B+M’s July 2002 sale (in an NGC MS63 holder) for $25,300. It had previously brought $6,600 in the 1982 Eliasberg sale.

1882-CC OW: NGC MS62, sold for $41,400 MC: PCGS AU55, sold for $8,625

Here is another instance when the difference in quality between these two coins makes a comparison irrelevant. The Old West coin, which I purchased, is probably unique in Uncirculated and I thought it was good value, given what other Carson City eagles from this era were selling for in the auction.

1883-CC OW: PCGS AU58, sold for $14,950 MC: NGC AU58, sold for $5,750

I think these results are extremely interesting. Same date, same grade yet the coin in the PCGS holder brought more than two-and-a-half times as much. Why? I think part of the reason is the fact that the PCGS coin was clearly nicer. But I also think part of the reason is that because of the PCGS Set Registry, collectors are looking for certain CC eagles in the highest possible grade at PCGS. I wonder if in the future we will continue to see such price disparity based on the brand of the holder?

1884-CC OW: PCGS MS62, sold for $46,000 MC: NGC AU58, sold for $6,038

Reasonably big difference in quality, extremely big difference in price. The Old West coin is probably the second or third finest known 1884-CC eagle and it sold for a price commensurate with its rarity. This was a record price for the date and I’m certain that in the future, other Uncirculated 1884-CC eagles will be compared with this Old West coin.

1890-CC OW: PCGS MS62, sold for $10,350 MC: NGC MS62, sold for $6,900

These were both very nice for the grade but at least two bidders clearly thought the Old West coin was an upgrade. Here’s a bit of sobering thought for those of you who like to calculate risk: if the coin grades MS63, its worth $12,000-13,000. If it stays in an MS62 holder its worth $5,500. What you have here, then, is $5,000 worth of downside risk with around $2,000 of upside. This is why coin dealers are not CFO’s of large companies.

1891-CC OW: PCGS MS63, sold for $7,188 MC: NGC MS64, sold for $17,250

The Old West coin was solid for the grade and it had the added benefit of a Pittman pedigree. With average quality MS63 examples of this date readily available in the $4500-5500 range, perhaps the buyer of this coin thought it might upgrade. Clearly, the buyer of the Morgan collection coin did see his new 1891-CC as a strong candidate to eventually reside in an MS65 holder. I thought it had a pretty decent shot as well but was not willing to gamble $17,250 to find out.

1892-CC OW: PCGS MS63, sold for $41,400 MC: NGC MS61, sold for $4,370

The 1892-CC eagle in the Old West collection was remarkable and its price clearly reflected that a number of bidders thought it would grade MS64 if resubmitted. The Morgan coin was decent for the grade but nothing special. Here is clear evidence, in case you needed more, that collectors of Carson City eagles will pay strong prices for high quality coins which are exceptional for the date and grade.

1893-CC OW: PCGS MS61, sold for $16,100 MC: NGC MS60, sold for $8,625

I bought both of these coins. Take a guess which one I consider to be the better deal. I find it interesting that of the eight or nine known Uncirculated examples of this date that two of them sold within a few months of each other. This is further evidence of how important these two sales were for collectors of Carson City gold.

I’m not certain that we will see comparable collections of Carson City half eagles and eagles sold again for a long period of time. If you are a collector of Carson City gold, 2006 and early 2007 have been important (and expensive!) times for your set.

An Analysis of Carson City Half Eagles Through Recent Major Auction Results: Part One

Two major auctions of Carson City gold coinage have enabled specialists in this series to make some interesting observations regarding the strength of this series. The first of these auctions was the sale of the Old West Collection and it was conducted by ANR in August 2006. The second was recently held by Stack’s in January 2007 and it featured the Morgan Collection. For the sake of convenience, in this article the Old West Collection will be referred to as “OW” while the Morgan Collection will be abbreviated as “MC.” 1870-CC OW: PCGS 58, sold for $80,500 MC: NGC 55, sold for $37,375

In my opinion, the Old West coin was exceptional and its price realized at auction reflected this. The Morgan coin was not as nice but I think it was an extremely good value at less than what the Old West coin brought. Clearly, this date is in strong demand due to its rarity and status as the first-year-issue half eagle from this mint.

1871-CC OW: PCGS 58, sold for $27,600 MC: NGC 45, sold for $10,350

Given the big spread in grade, it is hard to make a valid comparison between these two coins. The Old West example was among the finest known and it brought strong money while the Morgan coin was, in my opinion, a lock AU50 in today’s grading environment. This date remains quite rare in AU.

1872-CC OW: NGC AU58, sold for $29,900 MC: PCGS AU50, sold for $23,000

These coins made for an interesting comparison. In my opinion, the NGC AU58 was more like an AU55 while the PCGS AU50 was an AU55; hence, the similar prices realized. The 1872-CC half eagle appears to be more available in AU than I remember it being in the past and I wonder if a small hoard hasn’t been uncovered in the past few years (?).

1873-CC OW: None present MC: NGC AU50, sold for $28,750

This was one of just two CC half eagles missing from the Old West collection which should tell you how scarce it is. The Morgan coin was definitely an upgrade candidate and its price realized reflected this. I am convinced more than ever that this is the rarest Carson City half eagle and that coins grading AU50 or better with any amount of eye appeal are truly rare.

1874-CC OW: PCGS 58, sold for $27,600 MC: PCGS AU55, sold for $18,400

These were two of the nicer 1874-CC half eagles that I have ever seen. The Old West coin set a record for a circulated example of this date while the Morgan Collection coin was, in my opinion, a piece with a good shot to upgrade to AU58. I think both of these were very solid prices and indicate that collectors will pay strong prices for choice, original coins; even for dates that, by the rigorous standards of 1870’s Carson City half eagles, are somewhat common.

1875-CC OW: PCGS 55, sold for $17,250 MC: NGC 63, sold for $103,500

These two coins are really like comparing apples to oranges, given the extreme difference in quality. What is interesting about the Morgan Collection coin is that I sold this piece to the consignor for around $60,000 over a decade ago. Given how superb-and rare—it was, I think it was an exceptional buy and I expected before the sale that it might sell for as much as $125,000-150,000.

1876-CC OW: None present MC: PCGS 53, sold for $17,825

This is another date that, like the 1872-CC, seems to be more available now in the AU53 to AU58 range than I can remember it being in the past. I think the Morgan Collection example brought a strong price since it was judged to have a good shot to grade AU55 if resubmitted.

1877-CC OW: PCGS 55, sold for $17,250 MC: NGC 55, sold for $18,400

I thought these were both nice coins and very comparable in terms of quality. After these two sales, I think we can safely conclude that a nice quality AU55 1877-CC half eagle is worth somewhere in the range of $17,000-19,000.

1878-CC OW: PCGS 50, sold for $16,100 MC: NGC 45, sold for $12,650

Here is an instance where having some knowledge about these two coins answers some interesting questions; namely, why did an EF45 coin bring nearly as much as one graded AU50? The answer is simple: the AU50 was not very nice and had funky color while the EF45 was original, choice and perceived to have upgrade potential.

1879-CC OW: PCGS 58, sold for $12,650 MC: PCGS 58, sold for $13,800

Two coins, same date, same grade, nearly similar prices realized. End of story, right? In this case, no. In my opinion, the Old West 1879-CC was just gorgeous and I could see it grading MS61 on a good day. I did not care for the Morgan Collection example (disclosure: I sold both of these coins and I clearly missed the fact that the Morgan Collection example had been recolored a number of years ago as attested by the fact that it had turned a deep Cheeto Orange shade…).

1880-CC OW: PCGS 62, sold for $29,900 MC: NGC 60, sold for $12,650

I liked both of these coins a lot and their prices realized indicates that a number of other bidders did as well. Both coins sold in excess of current Trends and/or CDN Bid and the reason is simple: they were really nice, original coins with great eye appeal. Simple lesson: buy nice coins, build an interesting specialized collection, realize strong money when you sell them.

1881-CC OW: NGC 62, did not sell but later resold by Stack’s in their November 2006 auction for $46,000 MC: NGC 63, sold for $57,500

Given the fact that only three or four Uncirculated 1881-CC half eagles exist, it is a wonderful coincidence that two of the better ones sold at auction within a few months of each other. Given their results, I would say that the new owner of the MS63 example from the Morgan Collection got himself an amazingly good deal as he was able to buy a coin which I though was a lot nicer than the Old West specimen for just a 20% premium.

1882-CC OW: PCGS 62, sold for $32,200 MC: PCGS 61, sold for $21,850

I’ve been surprised at the strength of the market for Uncirculated examples of the 1882-CC, given that at least four have sold in the past six months that either grade MS62 or will be in an MS62 holder at some point. As a point of reference, the MS62 in the Old West collection was extremely choice for the grade while the MS61 in the Morgan Collection was clearly believed to be an upgrade candidate.

1883-CC OW: PCGS 58, sold for $9,775 MC: PCGS 58, sold for $12,650

Ah, the magic of the old PCGS holder. The Morgan Collection coin, while not appreciably better than the one in the Old West Collection, brought nearly 30% more. I would have to say that a good reason for this was the fact that it was a fresh coin in a very old PCGS green label holder.

1884-CC OW: PCGS 58, sold for $12,650 MC: PCGS 61, sold for $29,990

These were two of the nicer 1884-CC half eagles that have sold recently and the market seems to have finally recognized the fact that this date is quite rare and undervalued in higher grades. In fact, the example in the Morgan Collection is quite possibly the Finest Known and I thought it was among the most important pieces in this memorable collection of Carson City half eagles.

1890-CC OW: PCGS 64, sold for $9,775 MC: NGC 63, sold for $8,050

The NGC MS64 in the Morgan Collection should probably grade MS64. But here’s why buying coins at auction can be risky. If the coin stays as an MS63 it’s worth $5,500. If it upgrades, it’s worth around $10,000. So the buyer has around $3,000 in downside and $2,000 at most in upside. For most dealers, this upside/downside ratio is acceptable but for many collectors it isn’t.

1891-CC OW: PCGS 65, sold for $43,700 MC: PCGS 64, sold for $13,800

As far as I know, both of these are record prices for slabbed examples of this popular common date. The MS65 in the Old West Collection is probably the finest known 1891-CC and I was impressed by what it sold for. The MS64 in the Morgan Collection was awfully nice for the grade and given that it brought more than twice what the typical MS64 brings, I would guess that at least two people thought it had a good shot to grade MS65.

1892-CC OW: PCGS 63, sold for $5,750 MC: PCGS 62, sold for $4,140

This was an instance where I thought the coin in the lower grade holder (i.e., the Morgan Collection MS62) was nicer than the coin in the higher grade holder. This is why you can’t blindly look at auction records when determining a coin’s value. Clearly, not every 1892-CC half eagle in MS62 is worth $4,140.

1893-CC OW: PCGS 62, sold for $4,600 MC: NGC 63, sold for $8,625

The Morgan Collection coin was in an older holder and was exceptionally nice for the grade (I thought it had a very good chance to grade MS63). Here is another coin that can mislead the new collector. Not every MS63 1893-CC half eagle is worth $8,625. In fact, I recently sold a nice properly graded PCGS MS63 for $6,500.