My CC interest is still strong but a few factors have made my interest wane a bit in recent years. The market has become very pricey—especially for double eagles—and coins which I would happily write a check for $15,000 back in 1992 I have trouble with at $30,000 or $40,000 today. Most of the coins I see in the marketplace today are very low-end (not all but most) and when I see pieces in AU53 holders which are not only overgraded but which are processed, I have trouble playing at current numbers. Finally, to be honest, the market has become a little too competitive for me.Read More
Without a lot of fanfare, we have seen the dispersal of one of the most amazing collecting of Western branch mint gold coins in the history of numismatics. So far in 2014, the various sales of the Bently/Nob Hill Collection(s) of US Gold Coinage has seen no less than six examples each of the rare 1870-CC eagle and double eagle with the promise of more to come.
The sale of this quantity of 1870-CC eagles and double eagles has made me reconsider the rarity and price structure of both issues. It has not only allowed me to get an excellent idea of exact valuations for both issues in a variety of grades, it has led me to ask an important question: is the 1870-CC eagle undervalued in comparison to its double eagle counterpart?
Before I attempt to answer this question, let’s take a quick look at both issues.
A total of 5,908 1870-CC eagles were struck. This is the rarest Carson City eagle (although the 1879-CC makes a strong claim to the rarest coin in the series) and there are an estimated 50-60 pieces known with most in the VG-VF range.
There were 3,789 1870-CC double eagles struck. It is the rarest CC gold coin of any denomination and I feel that there are 35-45 known in all grades; mostly in the VF-EF range.
Let’s look at the current PCGS population figures for each issue:
$10.00 G-VF : 23; EF: 18; AU: 10; UNC: 0; Total: 51
$20.00 G-VF : 6; EF: 22; AU: 5; UNC: 0; Total: 33
These numbers tell us a few things. First, as expected, the 1870-CC double eagle is around twice as rare as its counterpart the 1870-CC. Interestingly, the eagle is seen more often in lower grades (the average example grades VF) while the average grade for the double eagle is EF. Both issues are extremely rare in properly grade AU and are unknown in anything close to Mint State.
We might make the quick conclusion that based on rarity alone, the 1870-CC double eagle should be worth around 2x what an 1870-CC eagle is worth in VF, EF and AU grades.
Based on the sales of so many 1870-CC eagles and double eagles in 2014, I’d suggest the following valuations for each denomination:
- VF: $25,000-40,000 (depends on grade/grading service)
- EF40: NGC $40,000-45,000; PCGS $45,000-50,000
- EF45: NGC $45,000-50,000; PCGS $50,000-55,000
- AU50: NGC $60,000-65,000; PCGS $70,000-75,000
- AU55: NGC $125,000-135,000; PCGS $150,000-175,000
- VF: $175,000-225,000 (depends on grade/grading service)
- EF40: NGC $235,000-250,000; PCGS $250,000-265,000
- EF45: NGC $260,000-280,000; PCGS $275,000-290,000
- AU50: NGC $285,000-295,000; PCGS $310,000-330,000
- AU55: NGC $325,000-350,000; PCGS $400,000-425,000
Assuming that the price structure for the 1870-CC double eagle is “correct” (and I think it is, based on the number of coins which have sold over the last few years), why is the 1870-CC eagle not priced at around half the level of its counterpart?
I think there are a few answers to this. The 1870-CC double eagle is a more famous coin with a lower mintage. It is larger in size and it is part of a set (Carson City double eagles) which ranks as among the most avidly collected in all of upper-echelon American numismatics.
Double eagle rarities have multiple levels of demand, and the 1870-CC is a coin that often sells to a collector or investor who might not be a tried and true specialist.
I think we are beginning to see a strong shift in the eagle market and this denomination is now gaining in popularity and price. CC eagles aren’t as popular (yet) as double eagles, but the metrics for these series is clearly changing.
My conclusion is that the 1870-CC eagle is undervalued. If a nice quality EF45 1870-CC double eagle is worth in the $275,000-295,000 range, an 1870-CC eagle at $50,000-55,000 seems substantially undervalued. Given that the 1870-CC eagle in EF is pretty similar in rarity to the 1870-CC double eagle (see the chart above), it is hard to believe that it is worth only 1/5th as much. I can easily see the 1870-CC eagle in EF and AU grades doubling in price in the next five years; I’m not sure I can say the same for the 1870-CC double eagle.
What are your thoughts about the price and rarity of the 1870-CC eagle and double eagle? I would love for you to comment below.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?
Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at email@example.com.
Everyone likes good value when they buy coins, and more collectors than ever opt to buy coins from the two western branch mints located in Carson City and San Francisco. So why not write an article on said topic? And let’s double your enjoyment, dear reader, by selecting affordable coins in the $2,500-7,500 range; coins which are actually available from time to time, so that this guide is actually usable. In fact, let’s go whole hog crazy and even suggest the best value grades (BVG) for each issue!
And away we go….
1. 1870-S Gold Dollar, MS62 to MS63
The 1870-S gold dollar is a numismatically significant coin as it is the final year in which this denomination was produced at the San Francisco mint. It is a low mintage issue with just 3,000 struck, and the coins which survive are pretty evenly spread out between the AU50 to MS63 range.
In MS62 to MS63, the 1870-S is quite a scarce coin but not an impossible one to find. An MS62 currently is valued in the $4,500-5,500 range, while a properly graded MS63 can be found in the $6,500-7,500 range.
I like this coin for a number of reasons. It is a low mintage issue which is one of just seven gold dollars made at the San Francisco mint. It also has “date appeal” due to the extreme rarity of its Big Brother, the unique 1870-S Three Dollar.
2. 1861-S Quarter Eagle, AU55 to AU58
Despite its status as a Civil War issue, the 1861-S is an overlooked scarcity in the Liberty Head quarter eagle series. Only 24,000 were struck and the survival rate of this issue is extremely low. There are likely fewer than 100 known today with most in the VF-EF range. Properly graded AU’s are very scarce, and this date becomes really rare in AU55 to AU58. I know of just two or three in Uncirculated, the finest of which is a PCGS MS62+ that I purchased for $25,300 in the Heritage 8/11 auction.
In AU55, an 1861-S quarter eagle will cost between $3,500 and $5,000+, depending on the quality. In AU58, the price range will run from around $6,000 to over $8,000 for a very choice piece.
This date is starting to show some signs of life, but I still feel it is much undervalued, especially in the higher AU grades.
3. 1879-S Quarter Eagle, MS61 to MS62
This date has been a favorite of mine for years and, I must admit, it was an issue that I once hoarded (but no longer do). It is numismatically significant as the last year of issue for quarter eagles from this mint, and it is scarcer than its mintage of 43,500 would suggest. While fairly easy to obtain in circulated grades, this issue is rare in Uncirculated with probably no more than 15 or so known. Despite its rarity, this issue remains affordable.
In MS61, the 1879-S quarter eagle can be purchased for $1,750 to $2,250. I’d actually recommend a potential buyer wait for a nice MS62—which is valued at $2,500 to $3,000—as said coin is likely to be nicer despite its small premium over a 61.
I doubt if this coin is likely to ever be regarded as “collectable” as others in this group of ten. But I am including it as I regard it as one of the best values available from the San Francisco mint.
4. 1855-S Three Dollar, AU50 to AU53
I have written about this date extensively and it remains among my very favorite dates in the Three Dollar series. It is numismatically significant as the first San Francisco issue of this denomination, and it is the rarest collectible Three Dollar piece from this mint. There are an estimated 300-400 known with most in lower grades. For the sake of not climbing above the $7,500/per coin limit we set for coins in this article, I am suggesting collectors focus on AU50 to AU53 examples, although I would suggest that an even higher grade coin would be a great addition to a set.
In AU50, an 1855-S three dollar is worth $4,500-5,500. In AU53, an example will sell for $5,000-6,500.
A quick buying hint or two: most 1855-S three dollars have been dipped or processed and naturally toned, choice pieces with good eye appeal are very scarce. Be patient and if you see the “right” coin don’t be afraid to pay a premium.
5. 1858-S Half Eagle, EF45 to AU50
Collectors are finally getting wise to the rarity—and excellent value—of the San Francisco half eagles. But most of their attention has been focused on the Civil War issues, meaning that certain dates struck before 1861 and after 1865 remain very under-priced. I could list a number of these but am going to focus on just one or two to keep this article a manageable length.
I like the 1858-S both in terms of its overall and high-grade rarity. It is unlikely that more than 50-60 are known from an original mintage of 18,600. This issue saw active use in local commerce and most survivors are in the VF-EF range.
If you can find a nice, original EF45 1858-S half eagle (it will be a challenge, I can promise you that!), it will cost in the area of $2,500 to $3,000. An AU50 will cost $4,000-5,000 and will present even more of a challenge.
A quick FYI: the 1859-S and 1860-S are two other San Francisco half eagles which are almost as tough as the 1858-S and both are affordable—and undervalued—as well.
6. 1881-CC Half Eagle, AU50 to AU53
With few exceptions, all of the 1870’s Carson City half eagles are scarce to rare, and most are out of the price range for coins in this article. The five CC half eagles produced during the 1880’s are more available but will prove challenging to the collector who likes choice, original coins.
The 1881-CC is the rarest post-1870’s half eagle from this mint. There are around 125-150 known in all grades, mostly in the EF40 to AU50 range. This issue is well produced and is known for pleasing color and luster. A nice quality AU50 should be buy-able in the $4,500-5,500 range, while an AU53 will set you back $5,500-6,500.
Buying hint: more and more CC half eagles from this era are being dipped-n-stripped, leaving sophisticated collectors with fewer available nice coins. Don’t be afraid to pay a premium for the “right” coin if you see it.
7. 1855-S Eagle, EF45 to AU50
The San Francisco mint began production of eagles in 1854 and many of the early issues are more available than one might think; at least in circulated grades. An exception to this is the 1855-S of which only 75 or so are known from the original mintage of just 9,000. In higher grades, this date is extremely rare and priced far out of the range which we have set. But rich guys shouldn’t have all the fun, right? You can still afford a nice 1855-S eagle even if the upper end of your coin budget is in the high four figures.
A nice EF45 example of this rare date will cost around $3,500 to $4,500 and enough exist to make this a real possibility for the collector. An AU50 will prove much harder to find and is likely to cost as much as $6,500-8,500 depending on the quality.
Another buying hint: virtually any San Francisco eagle struck prior to 1877 is highly undervalued and if you can locate nice pieces in the $2,500-7,500 range I’d buy them aggressively.
8. 1882-CC Eagle, AU53 to AU55
You need a big coin budget if you want to collect the Carson City eagles from the 1870’s as even the most available dates (1871-CC and 1874-CC) are big bucks in EF45 and above. But the issues from the 1880’s, while not as scarce, are still pretty good value and you can purchase a pretty scarce coin in a pretty impressive grade for not a whole lot of scratch.
My favorite later date CC eagle is the 1882-CC. Only 6,764 were made and this date is extremely hard to find in grades above AU55. An AU53 is currently priced in the $5,000-7,000 range while an AU55 will run $6,500-8,500.
Two other later date CC eagles also worth consideration are the 1883-CC and the 1893-CC; the former in AU53 to AU55 grades and the latter in AU55 to AU58.
9. 1895-S Eagle, MS61 to MS62
You take a risk when you buy post-1877 San Francisco gold coins as many were shipped to Europe or South America and are still being repatriated. I would be cautious of coins like the 1895-S but I think nice MS61’s are probably safe, given their current affordability.
Along with the 1894-S, the 1895-S is the key date in the later San Francisco Liberty Head eagles. It is pretty easy to locate in AU55 and AU58, but it is scarce in properly graded MS61, and very rare in MS62 and above. MS61 examples currently sell in the $2,500-3,500 range and given the fact that they have a PCGS population of just six in this grade with seven higher, they seem like great value. An MS62, if you can find one, will cost $5,500-7,500.
Remember, hoards of this date are a possibility so don’t spend your life savings cornering the market on Uncirculated 1895-S eagles.
10. Common Date Carson City Double Eagles, Gem AU58
No area of the U.S. gold market has been more active in recent years than Carson City double eagles. We’ve seen dramatic price increases, especially for common dates in EF and AU grades. I can’t call any CC double eagle “undervalued” at current levels but I think “gem sliders” are the best value in this market.
Before I go further, let me explain what a “gem slider” is. It is a coin graded AU58 that is really choice with nearly no visible luster breaks, clean surfaces and pleasing natural color. Only a small percentage of coins graded AU58 by the services are “gems” for the grade.
Let’s look at a specific issue: the 1884-CC. It is common enough in circulated grades but it is becoming hard to locate in properly graded AU58. A gem slider coin in a 58 holder is currently worth around $7,500. Compare this to an average quality MS61 1884-CC which would easily bring $15,000-16,000 in the current market. Which seems like better value to you?
If you are going to play in the CC double eagle market, I suggest you look at really nice AU58’s (or even top quality AU55’s) as these represent the best value in a series in which your $2,500 to $7,500 per coin budget might no longer go as far as it once did.
This list could have easily been twenty or even thirty coins. Which issues did I leave off which you like? Please feel free to add your comments below.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?
Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an in-depth article on any Carson City gold coins and, as they are the most popular issues from this mint, I thought this would be a good time to write about the double eagles from Carson City. Before we get into date-by-date mode, let’s look at some big picture issues which concern collectors of these coins.
- Popularity levels have clearly risen. CC double eagles have always been popular with collectors. But they have become an investor favorite as well. I am aware of at least three large marketing firms who are selling CC double eagles and not just mundane common dates in VF and EF. This has pushed interest up for all dates in virtually all grades.
- Prices have risen. Without a statistical study, I can say intuitively that prices for most CC double eagles have risen between 10 and 50% in the last five years. I used to be able to buy quantities of nice EF coins for less than $2,000; today, these same coins cost me closer to $3,000. This seems to be even more so with higher grades coins. As an example, an MS61 1875-CC was a $7,500 coin around five years ago and not always an easy sale at that level. Today, I get $12,000 or more for one and they disappear as soon as I list them on my website.
- Fewer coins seem available. My intuition tells me this is true based on what I am able to buy. At a typical big show five years ago I would return with anywhere from five to ten nice CC double eagles. I’d see them in dealer’s cases and I’d see them offered not only by the usual suspects but by smaller mom-n-pop dealers. This is clearly not the case in 2013 and I might come back from a show like Long Beach with no more than one or two CC double eagles in my newps.
- CAC has had an impact. At first, CAC approved examples of CC double eagles didn’t seem to have a big impact on the market. This has changed and even common dates in EF sell for a premium. The coins with potentially big CAC impact are the rare dates which don’t typically come nice. As an example, I have seen virtually no AU50 examples of the 1870-CC which I thought were choice original coins. Currently, CAC has never approved an 1870-CC in grades above EF40 (and just two at that level). If an average quality 1870-CC in AU50 is worth, say, $325,000 what is one worth with CAC sticker? $350,000? $375,000? Maybe even $400,000?
Let's now take a quick look at each date and see what's happening on a coin-by-coin basis.
Between 2005 and 2010, there were two or three examples of this date per year appearing at auction. This has slowed done considerably and in the last three years, only one non-no grade 1870-CC has sold at auction. This doesn’t mean this date has stopped selling; I know of a Nevada-based specialist dealer who owned multiple examples of the 1870-CC at one time and I believe he has sold them all via private treaty in the last year. This date cratered at around $200,000-225,000 for a typical quality EF coin a few years ago and prices have risen, slowly but surely. To own a decent 1870-CC today, you are going to have to write a check for at least $250,000 to $275,000. There are two above average examples in the Heritage 2014 FUN sale and it will be interesting to see what these bring.
For most collectors, this date remains the single most expensive coin in their set, given that they won’t purchase an 1870-CC. I recently sold an NGC AU55 for well over $50,000 which is a record for me. Demand for the 1871-CC continues to increase and a choice PCGS EF45 could bring over $30,000 if available.
The pattern of availability for this date has changed over the last few years. It used to be an issue that I handled regularly in EF45 and these sold well for me. Today, these same coins now grade AU50 or even AU53 and seem more available than before. Properly graded AU55 to AU58 1872-CC double eagles remain rare to very rare and other than the fantastic Battle Born coin, no Mint State pieces have been sold in some time.
The finest known 1873-CC, variously graded MS62 and MS63, sold five different times between 2004 and 2008. Since then, not much in the way of exciting high grade 1873-CC double eagles have sold but Stacks Bowers 1/13: 13337, graded MS61 by NGC, brought a record-breaking $55,813 earlier this year. Prices for this date in all grades have risen as well.
I was recently offered an NGC MS60 example of this date for $20,000 and, gulp!, I almost pulled the trigger. After years of being undervalued, the 1874-CC is a sleeper no more an even nice AU58’s are selling at close to the $10,000 mark. This brings us to a quick rhetorical question: is it is possible for there to be a sleeper in an extremely popular series such as Carson City Liberty Head double eagles? My take…yes there is but only a very few and only in the specific instance where the holder means nothing. In other words, population figures for AU58 1874-CC double eagles would suggest it isn’t rare. But real world experience shows that properly graded CAC-caliber examples are in fact very scarce if not actually rare.
I mentioned in the beginning of this article how MS61 1875-CC double eagles have soared in price in the last few years. This is true with examples of this date in AU grades as well. I think nice 1875-CC double eagles will remain popular and in demand due to this issue being the only quasi-affordable Type Two issue from this mint.
It’s been at least two years since I’ve handled an 1876-CC $20 in a grade higher than MS60 and this is surprising as nice MS61 and MS62 pieces used to be around. This, to me, is another good indication that CC double eagles are truly a collector-oriented series. The nice coins seem to be going off the market into long-term holdings unlike in the past when they would be held for a year or two and then flopped.
The comments I made for the 1872-CC (see above) are pretty much the same for the 1877-CC. AU50s and AU53s seem a touch more available than in the past but that is primarily the result of gradeflation. The Battle Born: 11046 coin, graded MS62 by PCGS, is the only Uncirculated 1877-CC to come on the market for at least two years and I have handled just one Uncirculated piece myself (a PCGS MS61) in this time frame. Just as an FYI, if you can find a nice EF example for anywhere near $4,000, I think this is still a great value.
This was a date that was always appreciated by collectors due to its small mintage but the lack of decent examples in the last few years is, to me, a tribute of the 1878-CC’s true scarcity. I like the value that this date offers in EF grades (still less than $10,000) assuming that you can a) actually find one and b) it isn’t dreadful.
Ditto. Here’s another date which has seen almost no nice pieces sold since Battle Born: 11048. I have privately placed an AU58 and an MS60 and for both coins I had to pay what I believe were record prices.
I’ve never been a huge fan of this date, so what I have to say might show an anti-1882CC bias. But I have noticed a pretty healthy supply of examples this year, including a few decent to choice Uncirculated pieces. I still think the 1882-CC is fairly valued in AU50 to AU55 grades (especially if the coin is CAC quality) but I’m going to officially go on record and state that Mint State 1882-CC double eagles are spendy. I still can’t get over the fact that the PCGS MS63 in Battle Born brought over $80,000.
If I were assembling a CC double eagle set for friends or family, I’d look at a PQ AU58 with CAC approval at around $7,000 or a touch more. That seems like better value, to me, than a so-so MS60 or MS61 at $12,000-14,000.
Along with the 1883-CC, this is one of my favorite CC dates for type purposes. It tends to come well made and if you can find an example with original color and surfaces, the visual appeal for this issue tends to be better than average. Uncirculated 1884-CC double eagles are no longer affordable for most collectors as a nice MS61 will cost you around $12,500 and if you can find an MS62 you are looking at $20,000 or more.
When I first started making a market in CC double eagles, this date seemed to be more of a “key” than it does now. Not to cast aspersions on the 1885-CC and its friends and family but this date just doesn’t feel like a rarity anymore. Sure, it’s a better date in the series but it seems more plentiful than it was back in the day. One quick observation: this date used to be priced in tandem with the 1878-CC and 1879-CC in higher grades but it now lags both of these issues. The last nice coin to sell, ex Stacks Bowers 4/13: 1401 and graded PCGS MS61, at $35,278, actually seems like a good value to me within the context of this series.
I just sold a nice PCGS AU58 example for over $8,000 to a savvy wholesaler and this was sort of a “gulp!” moment for me. I looked at my old records and saw that I was selling the same date in this grade for around $5,000 around three years ago. The gulp wasn’t so much that I thought these were now overvalued at $8,000; I leave that to the market to decide. The gulp was more that I wistfully thought “why didn’t I just put four or five of these away for a few years and sell into a market I knew was going to be strong.” Sigh…
I’m now pretty certain that this is the most available date in the series in lower grades. I still see 1890-CC double eagles coming out of Europe and even some pretty decent EF45 to AU55 examples from these sources. This is one of the few CC double eagles that are still comparably affordable in AU58. I have sold a few nice examples in the last couple of months for around $6,000. Not cheap but not as pricey as some of the other common dates in this series.
This date has proven itself to be scarcer than the 1885-CC and it seems far less available in the current strong CC double eagle market. No Uncirculated examples have sold at auction since the nice MS62 in Battle Born (it sold for a reasonable $48,875) and I don’t think I’ve handled more than two or three nice AU’s this year. Presentable AU’s at less than $20,000 seem like good value to me in the context of this market.
Let’s say you bought a nice PCGS MS62 1892-CC in 2008. You probably paid around $16,000-18,000 for it. Fast forward to today. You send your coin to CAC and since it was nice for the grade, it is approved. If you go to sell the coin, the chances are good you’ll get around $25,000 for it and possibly more if someone like me thinks it has a chance to upgrade to MS63. Not a terrible return, especially given the fact that many non-CC Type Three double eagles have had spotty price performance during this five year period.
The rumor about this date used to be that there was a bag of them and someone was quietly selling them two or three at a time. True? I doubt it but there were certainly a lot of similar looking Uncirculated 1893-CC double eagles on the market a few years back. There are still some nice coins around but they tend to have a bleached-out look as they have been processed to remove the deep peripheral color you used to find on this date.
Do you collect Carson City double eagles? If so, I would be pleased to help you assemble a great set. Feel free to contact Doug Winter by email at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: The following reply was received by me this morning and it was written by well-known collector Robert Kanterman about the blog I published yesterday. It is unedited and, I think, an interesting insight into the mind of a sophisticated, well-focused collector. I was the lucky buyer, and I will address DW's points from the previous blog.
1. Underpriced? Perhaps a little bit, not too much — okay, I thought it was a screaming bargain! I would have been interested up to the $1200-1300 range. Maybe even $1500 if I really needed it for a date or type set.
As recently as a few months ago, the basal value of any old Liberty $10 was approaching $1000. Perhaps I am living in the past, but I still view $10 Libs as $1000 or so coins.
2. CC gold is extremely popular. More popular than ever. Just when I think that interest is starting to wane, it seems to gather more steam. Good luck trying to find me some CC $20's in OGHs.
3. I love OGHs, and I am not afraid to admit it. Graded years ago, under perhaps different standards, and untouched by human hands for 20+ years, what's not to love? Add to that the fact that many filthy gold coins from European hoards were slabbed in the OGH era (more below). I also believe that the green of the label and the gold of the coin complement one another in a way that even art enthusiasts like DW should appreciate.
A wise coin dealer friend told me earlier this year that the PCGS Reconsideration service marked the death knell of the OGH. I am not so sure. The OGH is dead. Long live the OGH!
4. DOGs (Dirty Original Gold coins) are The Bomb among serious collectors of 19th century circulated gold coin and other numismatic vagabonds. DWN has certainly educated collectors about originality, in his books, website, and in person, and made them popular, but RYK invented the "DOG" and used his big mouth (or noisy keyboard, anyway) to spread the gospel.
5. Liberty $10's are a great series, chock full of rarities and interesting dates. There are numerous logical ways to collect them that do not necessarily bust your coin budget (or require you to sell your home). There is also no question that David Hall's finest ever PCGS registry set and its well-publicized sale a few years back has raised the profile of these coins. Here's a confession — the first coin that I ever purchased from DWN was an 1849-O $10. The second coin was an 1883-CC $10. The last two were also Liberty $10's, both in OGHs. I really like Liberty $10's a lot.
I bought a ton of coins at the recent ANA. They ranged in price from under $1,000 to close to $100,000 and nearly all have been sold on my website in the two+ weeks since the end of the show. One coin garnered more attention than any other. It was ordered no less than eleven times (by different individuals) until I finally marked it "on hold." I would have never guessed, when I bought it, that this seemingly mundane coin would have become my Most Popular New Purchase for the 2013 ANA. And the winner for Mr. Popularity was (drumroll)......???
An 1892-CC eagle graded EF40 by PCGS (and approved by CAC) in an Old Green Label Holder.
Priced at a whopping $1,000, this coin connected with a wide range of people. It was ordered by two dealers and nine collectors running the gamut from beginners to seasoned vets.
What was it about this coin that made people go gaga?
I have a few theories. Let's explore them.
1. It Was Underpriced
As I mentioned in the description, by today's standards this coin grades more like AU50 to AU53 than EF40. This made it more likely to have a final value of $1,250 or so as opposed to the $1,000 it was listed for. At least eleven people spotted that this was a good deal, if not an actual bargain.
2. It Was An Affordable But Nice CC Gold Coin
If you don't have a huge budget but want to own a Carson City gold coin with a good overall appearance, you don't have a ton of choices. The typical CC double eagle now costs over $2,000 - and at the $1,000 price point any half eagle that's not dated 1891-CC tends to be kind of boring. I can't remember the last time I had an interesting CC eagle that was priced at $1,000.
3. The Lure of the OGH Is Strong...
Collectors love OGH PCGS coins and it isn't hard to understand why. The purist in me appreciates that a coin graded back in the late 1980's or early 1990's is going to look the same in another 20+ years as it does now. In other words, if PCGS had missed surface enhancement(s) on said 1892-CC eagle, the coin would have already turned in the holder. The fact that it was dark and dirty was a pretty sure sign that it was "as is" and wasn't going to turn.
4. Nice, Original Coins Are In Demand
This coin was dirty and original and coins with this sort of appearance are in demand. I'd like to think I had a little bit to do with this...
5. Liberty Head Eagles Are In Demand As Well.
As I've pointed out a number of times in the last few years, the Liberty Head eagle series has gone from mildly popular to very popular. This denomination will never be as popular as its big brother the double eagle but the number of people who dabble or specialize in this denomination has grown dramatically since 2008-2009. And an interesting Liberty Head eagle priced at a grand isn't easy to find.
I would have to guess that this perfect storm of desirability and appeal was what made this 1892-CC eagle so popular. To the collector whose email I received first and who is now the happy owner of Mr. Popularity...kudos. And to everyone else who tried and failed to buy the 1892-CC eagle...thanks and sorry. We will do another deal and soon, I hope!
The recently concluded Battle Born sale, held by Stack's Bowers at the 2012 Philadelphia ANA convention, was clearly a benchmark for collectors of Carson City coinage. It was probably the finest collection of gold from this mint that has been sold at auction during our lifetime; only the Bass sales of 1999-2000, the Old West sale held in 2006, and the Lang collection in 2003 are comparable. I attended the sale and would like to share some quick impressions of each denomination in the gold section. (NOTE: All of the prices below reflect a 15% buyer's premium and not the 17.5% that was charged to buyers who spent less than $50,000, cumulatively, at the auction). Half Eagles: On a coin-by-coin basis, the half eagles were the strongest individual series in the gold portion of this collection. Fifteen of the nineteen coins were Uncirculated and at least seven or eight were either finest known or tied for finest. But this series is not currently being contested by multiple numbers of wealthy collectors (as are, for example, Carson City Dimes and Carson City eagles). I felt that prices for the half eagles were disappointing at best, and that there were some great values for bidders.
A few coins stood out as great values. The foremost of these was the 1870-CC in PCGS MS61 CAC that sold for $103,500. I expected this coin to bring at least $125,000-150,000 based on the fact the fact that it is possibly unique in Uncirculated and clearly the finest known example of the rarest and most numismatically half eagle from this mint. The 1871-CC, graded MS63 by NGC, sold for $63,250 and I thought this was very cheap as I expected a final price of close to $100,000. The 1873-CC in PCGS MS62 sold for $103,500, and this seems low based on its Heritage 2011 record of $161,000 but I always felt that price was an anomaly. The 1874-CC in PCGS MS62 CAC and the 1875-CC in PCGS MS61 CAC, at $43,125 and $37,375, were both very cheap and I expected them to sell for considerably more.
Which brings us to my favorite coin in the sale, the 1876-CC graded MS66 by PCGS and approved by CAC. When I bought this coin in 2003 for $138,000, it was a piece that I really wanted to put away for a decade as I thought it was an amazing coin and the sort of "freak" that could bring a lot of money in a more appreciative market. But I sold it to the owner of the Battle Born collection and it has stayed off the market since then. I bid up to $350,000 for it this time but was left in the dust as it sold for $415,000 plus the buyer's premium, or $477,250. I'm certain that this is a record for any Carson City gold coin at auction and the buyer of the coin is a dealer I greatly respect who will, thankfully, not mess with this wonderful piece or worry about regrading it.
There were a few other half eagles that must have been disappointing for Mr. Born. The 1879-CC, graded MS62 by PCGS and approved by CAC, had sold to the collector for $69,000 in the Heritage 2/11 auction. This time around it brought $37,375. The 1881-CC in NGC MS63+ sold for what was close to the mid-way point of my pre-sale estimate of $40,000-50,000. A coin I really wanted to buy was the glorious PCGS MS65 CAC 1890-CC. I figured this coin would bring around $50,000 and it sold for $46,000 in the sale. Perhaps the biggest bargain, though, was the NGC MS65 1893-CC that sold for $18,400. I didn't especially like the coin, but I estimated that it would bring around $25,000.
Eagles: I expected this to be a strong part of the sale but was curious to see what impact the mixed quality would have on prices. There were some PCGS coins with CAC approval that I thought would do well. There were other coins that I thought were a bit generously graded and which were the sort of pieces that generally need to be priced at some sort of discount to sell to advanced collectors. At this sale, it didn't matter about the holder. As long as the coin had a "CC" on the back, the price was strong.
I disliked the 1870-CC in PCGS AU55 and strongly disagreed with the cataloger who claimed it was the finest known (the Old West: 1341 coin is clearly finer). It sold for $126,500 which in theory seemed like a marginal price but I would have passed at $100,000 if the coin had walked up to my table for sale at a show. The 1871-CC in PCGS MS62+ CAC seems pricey at $126,500 until you realize that it is the finest known and the only true Uncirculated example. One coin that sold for nearly double my pre-sale estimate was the 1874-CC in PCGS MS63. I thought bidders would be scared off by the two big scratches on the obverse (otherwise, it was a Gem...) but two collectors had to have it and the coin sold for a crazy $195,500.
A coin that really surprised me was the 1873-CC in NGC AU58. I really liked the appearance of the coin but graded it AU55 and thought that bidders would also see it as such. Ummm...wrong. It sold for $92,000 which made the nicer PCGS AU55 I sold a few years ago for a lot less seem like a really good deal.
The exact same scenario played out with the 1878-CC in NGC AU58. It was a fresh-looking and very attractive coin but one I know for sure had been upgraded from AU55. It sold for $80,500 which is more than double what I was prepared to pay for it.
Even though it is a common date in Uncirculated, the quality of the 1881-CC (graded MS64 by NGC and approved by CAC) made it special. I paid $74,750 for the coin in the Old West sale and I imagined that it would bring around that much this time; possibly less. It sold for $97,750 which I think is a ginormous amount for the date.
My "sleeper" CC eagle in the sale was the 1882-CC in PCGS MS61 CAC. It is one of only two known in Uncirculated and I liked the coin a lot due to its fresh appearance and lack of rub or wear. It brought $27,600 and I was the underbidder.
The worst value in the sale? I'm sorry to pick on the buyer of this coin--and I don't know who it was--but the NGC MS65 1891-CC at $57,500 was just not a savvy purchase.
Double Eagles: While I sold many of the half eagles and eagles to the collector, I was not involved in much of the assemblage of the double eagle collection. I thought the overall quality was nice. I wasn't fond of the 1870-CC (the previous 1870-CC in the collection, which I sold many years ago, was far nicer) and a few of the more common dates in MS62 and MS63 did nothing for me, but there were some great coins available.
The 1871-CC, graded MS64, is a coin that has bounced around for years and I've never understood why it hasn't been more appreciated. It was a little overgraded in an NGC MS64 holder (I like it more as an MS63) but it is easily the finest known and extremely rare in Uncirculated. It last sold in the Heritage 2008 auction for $414,000 and this time it went very reasonably at $322,000.
One of my favorite coins in the sale was the finest known 1872-CC in PCGS MS62 with CAC approval. I first saw this coin a few years ago in a bid deal at a coin show and it was in an NGC MS62* holder. If I'm not mistaken it sold then for around $100,000. In the Battle Born auction it brought $161,000 which is a very strong, but not unreasonable, price.
My favorite "sleeper" coin in the double eagles was the PCGS MS61 (with CAC approval) 1874-CC that sold for $28,750 in the Heritage October 2010 auction. This is a common date in circulated grades but it is very rare in Uncirculated. I thought the coin was worth around $20,000 back in 2010 and was willing to pay a touch more today. It brought $24,000 and I was the underbidder.
I don't remember the exact price of what I sold the PCGS MS62 1877-CC for in 2002 when it went into the Battle Born collection, but I'm certain it was less than $20,000. It brought $63,250 today. This is a good indication that nice MS62 and better examples of virtually all CC double eagles have performed extremely well during the past decade, often doubling or even tripling in value.
One coin that I sold to the Battle Born collector (in 2003) that I thought went sort of cheaply was the NGC MS61 1878-CC that was bid up to $48,875. I was expecting it to bring over $50,000 as it is a date that is virtually unavailable finer.
If there was one double eagle in the collection that I expected the owner to lose money on it was the 1882-CC graded MS63 (and approved by CAC). Yes, it is a condition rarity (one of just two in this grade with none better and it is the only one in MS63 with a CAC sticker) but I just didn't care for the coin. It wound-up selling for a whopping $80,500. To me, this shows the strength of the CC double eagle market and it tells me that buyers are very anxious to acquire examples that are very low population.
I was really fond of the 1885-CC graded MS62 and approved by CAC. This exact coin had sold for $37,375 in Stack's Bowers 2011 auction and, just a year later, it realized $57,500 which is easily a record price for the date at auction. Why did it bring so much more this time? I'd attribute it to three reasons: the "hotness factor" of the CC double eagle market, the "frenzy factor" of the Battle Born sale and the "comfort factor" of it now having CAC approval.
From a quality standpoint, the 1889-CC in PCGS MS62 with CAC approval was one of my favorite double eagles in the sale. It was really nice for the grade with good color and luster and choice surfaces. I thought it had no chance whatsoever to upgrade but thought it was a textbook example of a "real" MS62 CC double eagle. The last three auction records for this date in this grade were $20,125, $25,300 and $20,700. The coin in this sale brought $27,600.
A few more thoughts on the sale. Kudos are certainly in order for Stack's Bowers who did a great job promoting the sale and certainly proved that they are a formidable competitor to Heritage in the specialized gold coin market. The catalog itself was extremely well done with great information and lovely graphics. I was pleased to see that my name was totally Stalinized out of the pedigrees as I expected it to be. The overall price realized for the collection was just shy of $10 million (including the silver coinage) and I would have to think that the owner was pleased with the results.
How, then, would I rate the overall health of Carson City gold after the most important sale in this in close to a decade? I would, in a nutshell, make the following observations: the half eagle market is fairly weak and this sale would have been a great time to begin a serious collection of ultra-high quality pieces. The eagle market is extremely strong and there is far greater depth in the high end than I expected. I already knew the CC double eagle market was smoking hot, and this sale just confirmed it.
For more information on Carson City gold coinage, please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
all images appear courtesy of Stack's Bowers