This is the first of potentially many articles which focus on rarity and Condition Census information in the Liberty Head eagle series. The first sub-group I’m going to focus on is the 11 Civil War issues. These coins are, with one exception, rare in all grades and a number of them are either unknown or excessively rare in Uncirculated.Read More
The FUN show is clearly one of the two major market indicators. Symbolically, it is the beginning of a New Coin Year but it is, most of all, a huge economic event with hundreds of millions of dollars changing hands. For me, a good FUN show is a clear indicator that the first quarter—if not half—of the coin year will be strong.
This was one of the strangest FUN shows I can recall. I was constantly busy and there were people at my table from the beginning of dealer set-up on Wednesday until I was packing up to go home on Friday afternoon. It was one of the easiest selling shows I can ever recall having, and my wholesale numbers were well above average. But it was also a hugely difficult show at which to buy. If, like me, you were a dealer who buys choice, cool, rare coins there were slim pickings at best. I was able to buy a number of great coins (some of which are now posted on my website; others never made it back from Orlando) but I knew as early as Thursday morning that I was going to fall well short of my numeric goals in terms of coins bought.
Clearly, one of the facts of life about major coin shows (FUN and ANA in particular) is that the huge auctions that surround them have a profound and significant impact. I talked to numerous well-heeled collectors who roamed the floor but stated that they were “waiting until after the auction” to make purchasing decisions. Considering that the major segment of the auction was Thursday night, this left a short window of opportunity for them to buy coins.
Heritage should be credited for producing one of the all-time great FUN auctions, and although I don’t know exactly what their final numbers were, I am assuming the FUN sale set an all-time record, given that Platinum Night alone did north of $50 million dollars.
Some observations from the auction are in order:
- Rarity is clearly in vogue right now and even off-quality examples of truly rare issues are commanding huge premiums. As an example, an NGC EF45 1864-S brought just a shade under $100,000. And other seldom-seen eagles such as the 1863, 1873, and 1876 brought what I thought were enormous prices based on their actual quality.
- There were a number of really exceptional coins in the auction and they brought exceptional prices, as they should have. My two personal favorites were David Akers’ personal 1826 half eagle graded MS66 by PCGS which brought $763,750 (a price which I thought was strong but not at all outrageous), and the Eliasberg Proof 1889 double eagle, graded PR65 by PCGS but in an old green holder and looking more like a PR67 Deep Cameo by today’s standards, which sold for an extremely strong $352,500.
- Speaking of exceptional, the market for Liberty Head double eagles continues to rage on. The FUN sale had a deep offering with coins ranging from off-quality and very choice for the grade and issue. But it almost didn’t matter what the coin looked like as prices were strong across the board. Type One O mints? Very strong. CC’s? Very strong, although the nice PCGS AU50 1870-CC at $329,000 seemed like a much better value than the really unappealing PCGS EF45 at $282,000. Civil War dates? Crazy strong including a record-for-the-grade prices on the 1861-S in PCGS MS62, the 1863 in PCGS AU58, and the PCGS MS62 1864. I was taken aback by prices for the Big Five late date Type Three issues. An 1881 in PCGS AU58 sold for $111,625, an 1882 in NGC AU58 realized $94,000 and perhaps most incredibly, a tooled no grade 1886—the ultimate “what a shame” coin—brought a staggering $129,250. No grades in general did very well in this sale, by the way, but that’s another story.
- The best values in the 19th century series are clearly in the Liberty Head half eagle series. Prices on double eagles have made this series the playground of the 1%, and the eagle series has gone from neglected to flavor of the year (smart buys still can be made in this series but proceed with caution!). Even though there were some price records set in the FUN sale for finally-recognized date rarities such as the 1863 and 1865, there are still many dates in the $2,500-15,000 range which seem very fairly priced relative to their rarity. Given the great prices that schlocky rare date coins brought in the auction, I’d like to think that DWN-quality examples are even better values.
A few other non-auction observations, based on looking at dealer’s inventories: nice quality early gold is still in very short supply, Dahlonega gold is literally nowhere to be seen (I’m embarrassed to admit this but I came home with exactly two new D mint coins…two! From the FUN show!!! How is this possible?!?), CAC premiums are really noticeable - especially from sellers who don’t typically handle nice coins, and if I had listened to myself and bought Civil War gold coins when I predicted they’d be the Next Big Thing I’d have made myself a tidy little profit.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world's leading expert with you assembling a set of coins?
Contact Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my favorite American coins is the 1863 eagle. I had a lovely NGC EF45 pass through my hands recently and it inspired me to write a blog about what I think is one of the absolute rarest Liberty Head eagles. Production of this issue was limited to a scant 1,218 business strikes, and I rate the 1863 as the third rarest Liberty Head eagle after the 1875 and the 1864-S. There are probably fewer than 30 known in all grades, with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. There are very likely as few as six or seven known in AU grades and two in Uncirculated; more about these a little further down the page.
A quick search of auction records shows that no problem-free 1863 eagles have sold since October 2010, and only seven records exist for problem-free coins in the last decade. My records show that I have handled exactly two pieces in the last five years: an NGC EF45 and a PCGS AU53.
When available, the 1863 tends to be bright from having been cleaned or dipped and it is invariably very heavily abraded. This piece shown above is one of the very few circulated pieces that I have seen with natural color. There are a few small abrasions on the surfaces, but they are much cleaner than usual.
There are two high-grade 1863 eagles known. The finest is the Bass IV: 683 coin which sold for $52,900 in 2000; a price which, at the time, I thought represented possibly the single biggest bargain all of the three Bass sales which featured gold coins. Bass had, through an agent, bought this exact coin in August 1991 for $104,500. Harry didn't lose money on many coins but he got spanked — and good — on this one; all the more remarkable considering that it is the finest known example of a truly rare issue and it is exceptional for the grade. Today, it would bring considerably more than in either of its previous auction appearances.
The other Uncirculated 1863 eagle is an MS62 that was found as part of the S.S. Republic treasure. I have never personally seen this coin, but it is in the collection of a western specialist along with many other finest known or Condition Census pieces from this shipwreck.
Civil War gold coins have been very popular in recent years as a result of the sesquicentennial of the war plus promotions/popularization by dealers such as myself. While it is not well-known outside of the specialist community, it is my belief that there are currently many collectors who would appreciate a nice 1863 eagle in their holdings.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world's leading expert with you assembling a set of coins?
Contact Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 or by email at email@example.com.
Coin prices are impacted by a number of factors. The most obvious of these are supply and demand. Simply put, if a coin has a greater degree of demand than available supply, the price is going to be strong. But what are some of the not-as-obvious factors that impact coin prices? Here are some observations. 1. Quality of Demand. There are different levels of demand for any rare coin. There's "I'm sort of kicking tires and I'm wondering if you might have the following D Mint quarter eagle," and there's "I've been looking for a nice 1840-D quarter eagle for five years, its the last coin I need to finish my set and I have to have it!" The latter is, obviously, a higher quality of demand and this buyer would be willing to pay a significantly higher price than the lukewarm, casual buyer.
While this example is deliberately extreme in its contrast, there are clearly different levels of demand that impact coin prices. Another factor is venue.
I am very interested in marketing and branding and one of the things that interests me is creating demand for new products. Brands now do "mash ups" where a hot young designer of furniture, as an example, designs a limited edition sneaker design for Adidas or Nike. Only 500 might be released and collectors will pay a significant premium for this because of its perceived scarcity. And, it might be offered only at a "pop up" venue where you have to wait for an hour to just see the sneakers and where's there is no time to sit and ponder if you will or won't make the purchase. You are pre-sold and you represent a high quality of demand.
I see this sort of collector behavior for coins at auction. The major firms do a great job of creating an environment that fosters competition and turns a coin purchase into blood sport. As an example, how many times have you, as a bidder, placed an on-line bid and received an outbid notice only to say "I know I shouldn't this but I'll be damned if I'm going to let myself get outbid on this D Mint quarter eagle?" At a live auction, it is even easier to lose control when bidding (which is why I suggest hiring an agent, but that's another story...) and I can recall numerous incidents when bidding has turned into a ego-fest between collectors or dealers.
2. Promotions. A decade ago, when large-scale telemarketers seemingly controlled the coin market, having information about the next coin or series that was going to be promoted could make or break a wholesale dealer. As an example, I can remember at least a few times that Commemorative Gold coins were about to be pushed, and quietly buying coins at pre-promotional levels so that I could sell into a potential rising market.
This isn't the case so much in the 2012 coin market due to the Democratization of Information as a result of widespread web access. But rare coins are still being promoted and this can be a subtle factor in price increases.
In December 2010 I wrote a blog entitled "Which Civil War Gold Coins Will Be Promoted in 2011," which represented my unbiased opinion(s) that the upcoming 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War was a good opportunity for someone to promote Civil War gold coins. It seems that at least a few people read this blog, as I know of two marketers who, perhaps as a result of my suggestion, began promoting the exact coins I suggested in the article. Plus, said article inspired me to become a more active buyer of high end Civil War gold coinage and to write a major four part series in 2012 about collecting these coins:
3. Registry Set Collecting: In many series of coins, the passion of Registry Set collectors results in amazing prices for the right coin(s). This hasn't impacted 18th and 19th century gold coins all that much as there is little Registry Set collecting for early gold and Liberty Head issues (although I wouldn't be surprised if we begin to see serious registry collecting in popular areas like CC double eagles or Dahlonega half eagles in the very near future).
The areas in the better gold coin market that seem most likely to be impacted by Registry Set collecting in the immediate future are 20th century issues. I find it very surprising that dealers or marketers who specialize in series like $2.50 Indians haven't seriously promoted the Registry as a way to impact the demand on rarer dates in high grades. For a while, there were a small but dedicated number of Registry Sets in the St. Gaudens double eagle series that were highly competitive and which greatly influenced the prices of high grade better date PCGS encapsulated Saints. My guess is that this will happen again in the not-so-distant future.
4. Pushing Hot Buttons. Most collectors of high(er) dollar coins are Baby Boomers. And I believe that a major part of the strong, strong market in key date American coins in the past decade has been the ability of these coins to push the hot buttons of buyers. Let me explain:
Just the other day, I got back a coin from PCGS that hit my nostalgia button as hard as any has in some time. It was a perfect, even-brown VF30 1877 Cent. When I was a wee lad, I collected Indian Cents and the 1877 was a mythical rarity that I could only dream of owning. Today, this is a coin that I can easily afford and the $1,500-1,750 that this coin would cost me, as a collector, would exorcize some of the oh-why-can't -I-fill-that-1877-hole frisson that haunted me when I was eight or nine.
There are, of course, other hittable hot buttons for gold collectors as well. Cool design? That's an affirmative, High Relief double eagle. Great background story? Hello, Carson City double eagle! The "neatness" factor of owning an 18th century issue? That would be you, 1799 eagle.
5. Historical Significance. As numismatics becomes less about investors and more about collectors, I am finding the historic significance of certain issues are becoming more available because of their historic significance. This includes a number of factors, a few of which include the following:
-Background Story: I don't think its a coincidence that coins like 1861-D gold dollars and half eagles or 1861-O double eagles have become much more in demand due to their fantastic background stories. -Provenance: This may not be the case for all collectors but for some of us (and you know who you are...) the allure of an Eliasberg or Norweb pedigree is a definite factor that influences the price that we pay for a neat coin. -"The Look:" As the internet has (re)proven, numismatics is very visual. Coins that have a great appearance (such as wonderful deep coloration or lots of dirt clinging to the recessed areas) are pieces that a certain type of collector will pay a premium for.
There are other not-so-obvious factors that influence what collectors will pay for a coin. What are some of the ones that went undiscussed in this blog that impact you?
I have written a number of blogs in the past few years about how I price rare coins. Despite this, I still get many questions from new and experienced collectors about pricing. I'd like to share a specific coin that I recently handled and explain how I came up with buy/sell prices. As I have written, I find many of the published price guides to be of little or no use when it comes to complex, infrequently traded coins. When I make decisions at shows, in my office, or in the auction room on what to pay for a coin, I tend to put a lot more credence in auction records. So, if you'd like to play at home, I suggest that you follow along with the PCGS auction archives on pcgs.com as this is a major source of information for me when I make pricing decisions. Here is a "real world" model and the thought process(es) that went along with my pricing decision.
1863 Half Eagle, Graded MS60 by NGC and CAC approved
This is a coin I handled earlier this year and it is one of the first pieces in a while that, as soon as I saw it, I said "I have to own this." Before I discuss my thoughts about how to price it, let me discuss a little about the issue and about the coin itself.
Only 2,442 business strikes of this year were made and my experience is that the 1863 half eagle is rare in all grades, especially in AU50 or better. I jogged my memory and couldn't recall having seen an example I thought was better than AU53 to AU55 in more than a decade. And, I remembered that this was an issue that typically comes with zero in the way of eye appeal. A quick look online showed me that the PCGS population was none for Uncirculated coins and five for AU58; NGC had graded two in Uncirculated (an MS60 and an MS61) and five in AU58. At the time, CAC hadn't approved a single 1863 in any grade; a good indication that the eye appeal of the typical example was not good.
(How can you, even without my experience, make the same conclusions? Look at the pictures of the 1863 half eagles sold at auction during the last ten years. Are the coin fresh and original or are they bright, abraded and processed? Then, look at the number of auction records. A quick scan of the PCGS archives showed a total of 30 records since 1941. What was immediately impressive to me about this figure was that the highly-regarded 1864-S half eagle had 32 auction records in that time period!)
Of course, all these statistics are just gobbledygook if the coin itself isn't "all there." As you can see from the photo above, this coin had really good eye appeal. In fact, my first question was "why is this only in a 60 holder?" (I recently overheard heard a wholesale dealer, who I regard as one of the top three graders in the world, refer to the MS60 grade as "dumb" and that he "hated it." I tend to agree with him but, in this case, I was smitten with the coin; even it was in the funkiest of all Mint State grades.)
So, at this point I was sold. What would I pay?
With no auction records for an Uncirculated coin, I looked at AU58's. The two most recent sales were $14,950 by Stacks Bowers in August 2012 and $14,375 by Heritage in May 2010. A quick look at images for both coins showed two pieces that were no better, in my opinion, than AU53 to AU55. So, after digesting this, I decided that I would pay at least $17,500-20,000 for a coin that was a real, CAC-quality AU58 (the last "real 58" I had seen was the Bass II coin which sold for $13,800 back in 1999...).
Having concluded that a "real" AU58 was worth as much as $20,000, I figured it would be OK to pay at least $30,000 for a really nice MS60. I wanted confirmation and then decided to see if there were comparable coins that had recent auction records in this grade. Back to the archives I went.
I didn't really find any good comparables for the 1864-P and 1865-P, two dates that I regard as somewhat similar to the 1863; at least in terms of overall desirability. I then looked at the 1863-S; an issue with 17,000 struck but a low survival rate. I believe that this date is about twice as available as its Philadelphia counterpart but, like the 1863-S, it is extremely rare in AU58 and above.
In their June 2011 auction, Stacks Bowers sold a nice NGC AU58+ 1863-S for a remarkable $25,875. This was the single best example of the date that I had seen in years and I thought the price realized would be strong but I was clearly not expecting a winning bid of over $25,000. But this was as good a comparable as I could find and it made me think that if a "gem slider" 1863-S half eagle was worth nearly $26,000 then a somewhat nicer example of a decidedly rarer date (the 1863-P) had to be worth at least $30,000-32,500.
After negotiations, I was able to purchase the 1863 half eagle in this price range. I sent it to CAC where it was approved, thus becoming the first and only stickered example of this date. I listed it for sale in the mid-30's and within a few hours I sold it to a specialist who had been looking for a high grade 1863 half eagle for many years.
And what exactly does this all prove? Here are a few thoughts that I gleamed:
1. With CDN Monthly Summary showing a "bid" of $20,000 for this date in MS60, I knew that I wasn't going to get any help from published price sheets. But that's not a surprise, given that no MS60 coin had ever traded.
2. A few things convinced me to stretch on this coin: its true rarity in all grades, its Civil War date of issue and its great eye appeal. But if I had been offered an 1863-P half eagle in MS60 that was ugly and processed, I might not have figured it for much more than the $20,000 or so that I decided a properly graded, attractive AU58 was worth; maybe even less, in fact.
3. When you are contemplating a purchase of a coin such as this 1863 half eagle, you have to be prepared to stretch. My quick analysis made me think it was a great deal at $25,000 and probably too much of a stretch at $40,000. So, at $30,000 I was still all in and at $35,000 I probably would have been as well but not without some complaining to the seller.
4. How effective is the comparable method I mentioned above for determining value? It can be very effective but it is fraught with potential landmines. Let's say there was just one comparable and it was from over a decade ago--would that be effective? Or what if there were three records and one was 100% higher for a comparable coin) than the other two--would you, as an informed buyer, know the circumstances behind this sale? Is it effective to compare a coin like an 1863 half eagle to, say, an 1863 eagle? Or is this too much of an "apples to oranges" scenario.
5. The bottom line is that no matter how pseudo-scientific we as dealers or collectors try to make pricing, a lot of the numbers that get placed on really rare coins are instinctual. If you are knowledgeable, you'll have a gut feeling that the price is "right" or its "wrong."
Would you like to read more about my thoughts on coin pricing? If so, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and fire away with some off your questions.
The first installment of this three-part article discussed the various Civil War gold issues struck in 1861 and 1862. The second part looks at the very interesting gold issues from 1863; a pivotal year in the history of the brutal war and a very significant year in the annals of American numismatic history.
1863 Gold Dollar: While 6,200 business strikes were made, this is a rarer date than most casual collectors know. I regard it as the single rarest gold dollar from the Philadelphia mint; rarer even than the 1875 with a mintage of just 400 pieces. The odd thing about the 1863 is that when available, it is likely to be found in the lower Uncirculated grades. As an example, there are a total of forty graded by PCGS but over half of these (twenty one to be exact) are in Uncirculated. There are a few Gems known. The finest is an incredible PCGS MS68 owned by a California specialist that, I believe, is from the Brand collection. There is also a PCGS MS66 that is owned by a collector.
This is an issue that is well made but one which tends to have problems with original surfaces and luster. I have seen a few really nice 1863 gold dollars but most have been cleaned or dipped and have poor eye appeal as a result. Any nice example of this issue is very desirable. For the advanced Civil War collector, the opportunity to acquire a piece grading MS64 or above would be quite special and should be looked at as important.
1863 Quarter Eagle: As you might recall from the first part of this series, the mintage for the 1861 quarter eagle was an absurdly high 1,283,878. Thus, there was no real need for business strike quarter eagles in 1863. The 1863 is a proof-only issue with just thirty struck. This makes it a key rarity in the Civil War gold set and, of course, the single rarest (and most expensive) issue from 1863.
There are around twenty 1863 quarter eagles known. Most are in the PR63 to PR64 range but there are a few gems remaining including some with lovely Deep Cameo contrast between the devices and the fields. I know of at least four or five PR65's and there may be a few more. The current auction record for this date is $149,500 for Heritage 1/07: 3107, graded PR66UC by NGC.
I have mixed feelings towards the 1863 quarter eagle. In some ways, I think it is a very undervalued issue as it is the third rarest Liberty Head quarter eagle (after the 1854-S and the 1841) in terms of total known. But if you look at it merely as a Proof issue from this era, it sells for a huge premium over dates like the 1864 and 1865 which are actually as rare--if not rarer--in terms of the total known as Proofs. What needs to be remembered is that if collecting Liberty Head quarter eagles by date ever becomes fashionable, the demand for this date is likely to exceed its supply and today's price levels are inevitably going to seem cheap.
1863-S Quarter Eagle: As you might expect, the 1863-S quarter eagle tends to be overlooked due to the rarity of its Proof-only Philadelphia counterpart. With just 10,800 struck, it is scarce in its own right. There are an estimated 100-125 extent with most in ther VF-EF range. An accurately graded AU50 to AU55 1863-S quarter eagle with nice color and surfaces is scarce and a properly graded AU58 is very rare. There are three or four in Uncirculated including two Gems: ANR 3/06: 1457 that sold for $50,600 (it is ex Eliasberg: 198) and the Dodson: 41 example that brought $18,700 all the way back in May 1992 when it was sold by Mid-American.
There are a few examples known of this date that are very weakly struck at the centers; this seems to be the result of an improper alignment of the dies. Most are well detailed but have unoriginal surfaces. The natural coloration for this issue is a medium to deep rose-gold to reddish hue which can be very appealing. For most Civil War date collections, a nice AU example of the 1863-S quarter eagle will suffice but I think Uncirculated pieces, if available, are good value.
1863 Three Dollars: This is one of the odder issues from the entire Civil War era. With just 5,000 business strikes made, you would expect the 1863 three dollar to be a rarity. While it is reasonably scarce from an overall standpoint, it is the most available Civil War issue of this denomination in Uncirculated and there are actually as many as a dozen to fifteen Gem to Superb Uncirculated pieces known. I have seen 1863 Threes that grade as high as MS67 to MS68 and I know of an example in a well-known dealer's collection (graded MS67 by PCGS) that is probably the single best business strike Three Dollar gold from the Civil War era of any date.
Nearly all 1863 Threes have prominent clashmarks at the centers and numerous mint-made die striations in the fields. The quality of strike is usually sharp and the luster tends to be excellent. There are a number of outstanding examples known and the collector should be able to find a great piece for his Civil War set. I'd suggest at least an MS64, if not a Gem.
1863 Half Eagle: There were 2,442 business strike half eagles made at the Philadelphia mint in 1863. There are around three dozen known today and while a number have been graded AU50 and better by NGC and PCGS, this is an extremely rare coin in higher grades. It is unknown in Uncirculated and I have seen maybe six to eight that I thought were truly About Uncirculated. The best I can recall was the PCGS AU58 Bass II: 1143 coin which went cheaply at $13,800 and it has been years since I've seen an AU example with even the slightest amount of eye appeal.
This is a date that saw quite a bit of circulation and the few that survived the melting pot tend to have excessive abrasions on the surfaces. In addition, nearly every 1863 half eagle that I have seen has been cleaned or dipped. As a result, examples with even decent eye appeal are exceedingly rare and the collector who only wants nice, original coins for his Civil War date set is going to find the 1863 half eagle to be a very frustrating issue. That said, I'd suggest waiting for the best available piece which is likely to be around AU55 or so.
1863-S Half Eagle: Demand for gold coins remained high in the western states during the Civil War and the mintage figure for the 1863-S half eagle was 17,000; nearly seven times more than for the 1863 Philadelphia half eagle. The 1863-S is certainly not seven times more available than the 1863-P; it saw heavy use in commerce and was later melted extensively. I have seen estimates that as many as sixty to seventy-five are known but this seems high; the likely number is more like fifty to sixty-five with most of these in very low grades. There is a single 1863-S half eagle known in Uncirculated (it is graded MS61 by PCGS) and there are maybe as many as seven to ten in AU. The current record for the date is $25,875 set by the NGC 58 sold as Lot 9489 in Stack's 6/11 auction.
When available, this date is found with better eye appeal than the 1863-P but not by much. The luster tends to be decent but most 1863-S half eagles are abraded (often heavily) and show evidence of cleaning or dipping. Any coin with original color and surfaces is rare and desirable. The Civil War collector should look for a nice AU53 to AU55 for his set.
1863 Eagle: And now we get to my favorite 1863 gold issue: the 1863-P eagle. The mintage of this issue is a tiny 1,218 business strikes and by most accounts, there are around thirty or so known. The 1863 is the second rarest Liberty Head eagle from this mint after the 1875 and it is one of the hardest issues of the entire design to locate in all grades despite not being all that well known. This date is unique in Uncirculated (a PCGS MS63) that is ex Bass IV: 683 (at $52,900) and earlier ex MARCA 9/91: 755 (sold to Harry Bass for a then-remarkable $104,500). There are around six to nine known in About Uncirculated and I can't recall having seen more than two or three that I felt were AU55 or AU58.
My comments for this issue are very similar to the 1863-P half eagle. It is a coin that saw rough use in commerce and the few that survive tend to show numerous abrasions, often in obtrusive locations. You can almost forget about eye appeal when it comes to this date, but I'd say that if you ever have the chance to obtain an 1863 eagle with an even remotely decent appearance, I'd suggest you approach it aggressively.
1863-S Eagle: There were 10,000 eagles struck at the San Francisco mint in 1863. This is a rare issue although not as much so as the 1863-P. I believe that there are around fifty or so known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. As surprising as it seems, there may be as many as three 1863-S eagles known. The best is a PCGS MS61 that is ex Heritage 10/95: 6330 and before this was in the Norweb collection. The Bass IV: 684 coin was also a PCGS MS61. NGC has graded an MS61 that was last sold as Goldberg 2/09:1535. There are also a few reasonably nice AU's known including at least one from the S.S. Republic graded AU58 by NGC.
As with nearly all SF Civil War era gold, the 1863-S eagle is seldom found with natural color and surfaces. It is an issuee that is somewhat better made than in its half eagle counterpart and the few higher grade pieces known have better than average quality luster. This will not rove to be as challenging an issue to find as the 1863-P eagle but it is a rarity in its own right and any collection that has a nice AU55 or better example will probably never need to improve upon this.
1863 Double Eagle: After the 1862, the 1863 is the hardest Philadelphia double eagle from the Civil War to locate. There are a few hundred known in all grades with EF40 to AU50 examples being the most often seen. This date becomes scarce in the higher AU grades although it is far more available than, say, the 1863-P half eagle or eagle. In Uncirculated there are around two dozen known with most in the MS60 to MS61 range. The finest known is a single MS64 graded by PCGS; I believe this was once sold as Akers 8/90: 1960 and it brought $41,800 long before the Type One double eagle market was as active as it is today.
This is a well made issue that is better struck than the 1863-S double eagle and generally less abraded as well. The patient Civil War gold coin collector should be able to locate a nice AU example without much of a problem. An Uncirculated coin, at least in the MS60 to MS61 range, will be available from time to time as well. Anything that grades MS62 or finer will prove extremely hard to locate.
1863-S Double Eagle: The mintage for this one issue (966,570) is considerably more than all the other San Francisco gold denominations combined. Much of the newly discovered gold from California and Nevada was being used to produce double eagles and these coins saw active use in commerce.
The 1863-S double eagle is the most common gold coin of this year in circulated grades. It is possible to procure a presentable example in the $2,000-3,000 range and a nice Choice AU for around $5,000. In Uncirculated, the rarity of this date takes on a different profile. The 1863-S is scarce in MS60 to MS61 and very rare in properly graded MS62 with maybe five or six known. In MS63 there are probably another three or four. The finest known is currently an NGC MS64* that recently sold for $43,125 as Lot 5041 in the Heritage 1/12 auction.
As a year, the 1863 is one of the most interesting of the Civil War era. It is a year that has some really scarce coins but unlike the 1861, it has nothing that is impossible to find at any price (the 1861-P Paquet) or expensive due to its rarity and/or popularity. 1863 is a year that will prove extremely challenging to locate in higher grades and there are no "slam dunk" issues like the 1861 and 1862 gold dollars that will be easy to locate even in Gem grades.
In the upcoming third and final installment of this series, we will look at the 1864 and 1865 gold coinage. If you have questions or comments about these--or any--coins, please feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com
The combination of history and numismatic significance makes the United Sates gold coins struck during the Civil War era (1861 to 1865) a fascinating possible collecting area for the sophisticated numismatist. Let's take a look at each coin produced during this year and determine the most practical grade range for the collector.
1861 Gold Dollar. The 1861-P dollar is common in nearly all grades and can be found even in MS65. The finest known grade MS67 and there are as many as three to five known at that level. The best that I have personally seen is ex Heritage 2/10: 1420, graded MS67 by PCGS, that brought $19,550. This date typically comes with striated surfaces but it is well struck and well-produced with good luster and color. For most collectors, a nice MS64 to MS65 should be sufficient.
1861-D Gold Dollar. This is the most popular singular coin in the entire Civil War gold set due to its status as the only issue that is positively attributable to the Confederacy. An estimated 1500-2500 were struck and there are probably fewer than a hundred known today. This issue is typically seen in AU50 to MS60 grades and it is less rare in Uncirculated than commonly believed due to hoarding. As many as a dozen+ are known in Uncirculated including a few in the MS63 to MS64 range. The finest available in the last decade was Duke's Creek: 1493, graded MS65 by NGC, that sold for $138,000. This issue is always found with weakness on the U in UNITED and it has a unique appearance. For an advanced collector, I would suggest a nice MS62 to MS63 if available.
1861 Quarter Eagle. Over a quarter of a million were struck and this is a common issue which is well made and easy to find with good eye appeal. It is common through MS63, slightly scarce in MS64 and only marginally rare in Gem. The best I have seen are a small group of MS66 examples and even these are priced well below $10,000. There are two varieties: the old reverse (scarce) and the new reverse (common). For most collections of Civil War gold, I would include a nice MS64 or MS65 example of this issue.
1861 Three Dollars. Including Proofs, there a total of 6,072 examples produced. This is a scarce but not really rare date that is typically seen with lightly clashed dies and naturally striated planchets. The best I have seen is the Heritage 12/05: 30639 coin graded MS67 by Heritage which sold for $46,000. NGC has graded one coin an MS67 and it last sold for $47,000 in the Heritage 10/09 sale. The 1861 Three Dollar is typically seen in AU grades. It is slightly scarce in the lower Uncirculated grades, very scarce in MS63 and rare above this. For most collections of Civil War gold, I think a nice Uncirculated example would suffice. A Gem will be available with some patience at a cost of $20,000-30,000.
1861 Half Eagle: This is another common issue and it is by far the most available of the four half eagles produced in 1861. It is a well made coin that can be found with good luster and color and an oustanding strike. The best I have seen is Stack's 1/08" 949, graded MS66 by NGC, that sold for a record $52,900. There are probably around a dozen or so Gems and maybe two or three pieces that grade MS66. The current value for a nice MS64 is $10,000-12,000 while a Gem is at least double. Given the many expensive coins it takes to complete this set, I'd suggest going with an MS64 and saving your money for a true rarity.
1861-C Half Eagle: With only 6,879 minted you'd expect this to be a scarce coin and it is. But the 1861-C half eagle wasn't a really in-demand coin until recently. That said, this is still an affordable coin in EF grades and the collector can find a decent example in the $5,000-10,000 range. Most 1861-C half eagles are abraded and show poor quality surfaces. There are three or four known in Uncirculated with the finest being, by a large margin, the NGC MS63 sold as Heritage 1/00: 7769 at $59,800. I love the history and think it is an integral part of a comprehensive Civil War gold collection.
1861-D Half Eagle: I have discussed this issue comprehensively in other blogs and articles so I won't get too deeply into it here. I'd rather discuss, quickly, what the real value of this coin is right now in collector grades). Clearly, the price levels on the 1861-D (both the dollar and half eagle) have risen dramatically in recent years. I think a decent looking EF 1861-D half eagle is currently a $30,000+ coin and a nice AU is probably worth at least $50,000. Are these good values? That's hard to say and as someone who remembers buying nice AU's for $15,000 I may not be the best person to ask. But this is a critical coin in the Civil War set we are discussing here and the collector needs to be prepared to jump on the first good 1861-D half eagle he sees.
1861-S Half Eagle: This is a much scarcer issue than its mintage of 18,000 would suggest and it is actually rarer in high grades than the 1861-C or 1861-D. I am not aware of a single Uncirculated 1861-S half eagle and I have never seen one better than AU55 to AU58. The few nice ones I have seen seem to have been off the market since the 1990's (like the Milas coin) and today it is very hard to find one better than EF. Most 1861-S half eagles are weakly struck, well worn and have abraded surfaces. An AU50 or better with original color and surfaces would be a great addition to a Civil War gold set.
1861 Eagle: This is a common issue in nearly all circulated grades and it is not hard to find a decent looking AU coin with good luster and scattered abrasions. In Uncirculated, there are probably fewer than fifteen to twenty known with most in the MS60 to MS61 range. I recently sold a nice NGC MS61 for less than $7,000 so this isn't an expensive coin in the lower Uncirculated grades. The finest known is an amazing PCGS MS66 from the Bass IV sale that brought $50,600; today this is easily a six-figure coin. I'd suggest an MS61 to MS62 for the Civil War collector.
1861-S Eagle: The 1861-S eagle is more available than its half eagle counterpart both in terms of overall and high grade rarity. A single Uncirculated coin is known (ex Heritage 1/12: 4977 where it brought $54,625; it is graded MS61 by NGC) as well as three to five properly graded AU55 to AU58 coins. This issue is most often seen in EF40 to AU50 grades and it is typically bright and baggy. Well struck, naturally toned examples are very scarce and it will prove very hard to locate an example in AU55 for this Civil War gold coin set.
1861 Double Eagle: With nearly three million struck, the 1861 double eagle has the highest mintage of any coin in this set. It is readily available in circulated grades and not hard to find in the MS60 to MS62 range. It becomes scarce in properly graded MS63, rare in MS64 and very rare in MS65. The finest known is a mind-boggling PCGS MS67 that, as far as I know, has been off the market since the mid-1990's. There are maybe a dozen or so Gems known but for most collectors, the best value grade might be MS63 to MS64 with coins available, from time to time, in the $12,500-25,000 range depending on appearance and quality. This is a well produced issue that can be really spectacular in higher grades.
1861-O Double Eagle: This is another very historic issue and one that you read about in great depth in my book on New Orleans gold coinage. It is scarce in all grades but it is offered a few times per year at auction or through specialist dealers like myself in EF and low AU grades. I am aware of between four and six Uncirculated examples with the finest of these grading MS61 to MS62. This is a very, very hard coin to find with good eye appeal as most are not well struck and have been cleaned in the past few decades. Examples with natural color and choice surfaces are extremely scarce and command a strong premium over typical pieces. For a high quality Civil War set, I'd suggest an AU example and I would be hold put for as nice a piece as possible due to the importance of this issues. (NOTE: A second variety is known but it is not included in this article due to its extreme rarity. There are just two 1861 Paquet Reverse double eagles from Philadelphia currently known).
1861-S Double Eagle: There are two important varieties of San Francisco double eagle dated 1861. The more common of the two is the 1861-S with a normal reverse. This date is readily available in grades up to AU55 and scarce but obtainable in AU58. In Uncirculated, it is very scarce and it is very rare in MS62 or better. For most Civil War collectors, a nice MS60 to MS61 will suffice. The rarer variety is the 1861-S Paquet Reverse. There are a few hundred known, at most, and many have been found overseas since the 1970's. This issue is typically seen in EF40 to AU50 and properly graded AU55 examples with good color and surfaces are quite rare. I have seen one or twwo with claims to Uncirculated and the nicest to be sold in recent memory was Heritage 1/12: 5039, graded AU58 by NGC, that brought $184,000. This is a coin that I would stretch on if I were a Civil War collector due to its unique back story and appearance.
1861 Summary: This is a very interesting year in the annals of American gold coinage. You have coins struck this year that are very common (gold dollar, quarter eagle and double eagle), coins that are extremely rare (1861-P and 1861-S Paquet double eagles) and coins that are highly prized due to their historic connotations (1861-D dollar and half eagle, 1861-O double eagle).
1862 Gold Dollar: This issue has a huge mintage of 1.36 million and it is very common in grades up to MS64. It is only moderately scarce in MS65 and I have sold MS66 examples in the last year for between $3,500 and $4,000. The best I have seen are a small number of MS67 and these are only valued at $7,500 or so. This is an issue that comes well made with good luster and color. I suggest that the Civil War collector buy a nice MS65 or MS66.
1862 Quarter Eagle: For many years, the 1862-P quarter eagle was a "sleeper" and it was possible to buy a nice EF/AU coin for under $1,500. Prices shot up after an ill-advised promotion and now this issue is somewhat out-of-favor. It is relatively available in all circulated grades and there are around 15-20 known in Uncirculated. The best I have seen are a group of three or four in MS64; this includes two from the Bass collection. This date is found frosty or semi-prooflike and original coins can show very nice rich color. For most Civil War collections, a nice MS62 or MS63 will be a great addition but a properly graded MS64 at the right price (around $17,500-20,000) should merit strong consideration.
There is also an 1862/1 overdate known. I have always been a bit skeptical about this variety's status as a true overdate but it is recognized by both PCGS and NGC and always included in a date set of Liberty Head qurter eagles. It is scarce in all grades and very rare in Uncirculated. The best I have seen is a PCGS MS62 but I can't recall having ever handled an Uncirculated 1862/1 that I thought was choice. Nearly every example is bright from having been dipped and most are heavily abraded. It is possible to buy a nicer AU example in the $5,000 range and this is what I suggest for a Civil War set.
1862-S Quarter Eagle: Only 8,000 were struck and this overlooked issue is scarce in all grades with probably fewer than 100 known. There are three or four known in Uncirculated and the finest by a clear margin is Goldberg 2/12: 1217, graded MS63+ by PCGS, that I recently purchased for $43,700. The typical 1862-S quarter eagle grades EF and original examples tend to show nice deep orange-gold or lighter rose shadings. Abrasions tend to be a problem for this issue and most are marked in the fields. A world-class Civil War collection would contain one of the few known examples in Uncirculated.
1862 Three Dollars: The 1862 three dollar is scarcer than the 1861. It is an issue that is generally found in AU grades and lower end Uncirculated pieces aren't really scarce. This date becomes rare in properly graded MS63 to MS64 and Gems are very rare with maybe four to six known. The best I have seen are a pair graded MS66; this includes ANR 3/05: 625, encapsulated by PCGS, that sold for $36,800. Collectors should look for pieces with shimmering satiny luster and light clashmarks and avoid examples that are bright or over-abraded. For most Civil War collectors, an MS63 to MS65 will suffice.
1862 Half Eagle: Until recently, this was a nearly-forgotten issue but the 1862-P half eagle has suddenly becomes popular (and seemingly more available as well). Of the estimated 75-85 known, most are very heavily abraded and range from VF35 to EF45. This is a tough coin in the lower AU grades but not a really rare one until you reach AU55. There are two known in Uncirculated: a PCGS MS62 that is ex Goldberg 5/07: 1610 and a PCGS MS61 that is ex Bass II: 1140. I would suggest waiting for at least an AU55 to an AU58 for your Civil War set and I would hold out for a coin with choice, original surfaces if possible.
1862-S Half Eagle: While this is a very scarce coin, I think its rarity has been a bit overstated in the past few years. I think it is actually a bit more available than the 1862-P and, for some reason, it seems more available in AU grades than one might expect. That said, it is still a rare coin (probably just a dozen or so exist in AU) and most are low end coins with dipped, abraded surfaces. I know of two Uncirculated 1862-S half eagles: a PCGS MS62 (ex ANR 8/06: 1454, as PCGS MS61) and an NGC MS61 that was last sold as Heritage 11/07: 2047. A high quality Civil War set should aim for at least an AU55 to AU58.
1862 Eagle: As with its half eagle counterpart, this is a rare, undervalued date whose interest level has soared in the past two or three years. While 10,960 were produced, many were melted survivors tend to be in the EF40 to AU50 range. This issue is very scarce in AU grades although bagmarked AU55's are available from time to time. There are two known in Uncirculated. The finest, graded MS64 by NGC and pedigreed to the S.S. Republic shipwreck, sold for $41,975 as Lot 2004 in Bowers and Merena's 4/05 auction. The other is a PCGS MS62 from the Bass II sale (lot 681) that sold for a very reasonable $12,650. For most Civil War collectors, a nice AU55 to AU58 example will do the trick.
1862-S Eagle: This issue is probably the single rarest 1862 gold coin from any U.S. mint. It is seldom seen in any grade and when it is available, survivors are usually in very low grades. I believe that no more than five or six properly graded AU coins exist and most are in the AU50 to AU53 range. A single Uncirculated coin is known; it was recently sold as Heritage 4/11: 5427, where it brought a remarkable $103,500. It is graded MS61 by NGC and I have never seen another 1862-S even close to it in terms of quality. This will be an extremely hard coin for the specialist to find and I'd suggest that the Civil War collector aggressively pursue the chance to purchase any 1862-S eagle that grades AU50 or better.
1862 Double Eagle: The 1862 is the rarest Philadelphia double eagle made between 1850 and 1880. It is much scarcer than its original mintage figure of 92,133 would suggest and when it is available, it is likely to be found in the EF40 to AU50 range. It is very scarce in the higher AU grades and rare in all Uncirculated grades. The best I am aware of is an NGC MS64 now in a New England collection that is ex Heritage 11/05: 2459 (where it brought $62,100). This issue is well struck and typically has satiny luster but most are very heavily abraded. For a high quality Civil War set, any Uncirculated 1862 double eagle would be a great addition. You can count on spending at least $30,000 for one if it becomes available.
1862-S Double Eagle: Over 850,000 1862-S double eagles were made and this is by far the most available 1862-S gold coin of the four different denominations that were produced. It is typically seen in EF-AU grades and it is available even in AU55 to AU58 without much of a search. Virtually all examples show some weakness of strike at the centers and on the obverse stars and most are considerably abraded. There are shipwreck examples of this date available from both the S.S. Brother Jonathan and the S.S. Republic with a small number from the latter wrecking grading as high as MS62. The single best 1862-S double eagle that I have seen is ex Heritage 3/11: 4925. Graded MS63 by NGC, it brought $57,500. For most collectors, an MS61 to MS62 example of this issue will fit well into their set.
1862 Summary: There are fewer coins in the 1862 gold Civil War set than in the 1861 version and fewer great rarities. A few of the 1862 dated are common while most are scarce to rare. But none is unobtainable unless the collector has to have all Uncirculated coins; then some problems will ensue. All in all, this is a challenging but completable year for the Civil War set.
Some images appear courtesy of Heritage, with our thanks.
Douglas Winter Numismatics recently sold two very rare and very beautiful Proof gold dollars from the Civil War era. These were an 1862 graded Proof-64 Deep Cameo by PCGS, and an 1864 graded Proof-66 Deep Cameo by PCGS. Both coins had also been approved by CAC. I'd like to share some information about these pieces with you and discuss very rare but comparatively affordable Proof gold from this era as well.
The rarity of Proof 1862 gold dollars is not widely recognized, probably due to the fact that business strikes are very common and were minted to the tune of 1.36 million pieces. Proofs are another story with just 35 coins struck for collectors. On the PCGS website, it states that "between 18 and 25 are known," but this number seems high to me given the typical survival rate for small-size gold proofs of this era. I believe that the number known is more likely in the area of 15 to 18, with the average piece grading PR64 to PR65.
As of the end of October 2011, PCGS has graded a total of 17 Proof 1862 gold dollars. This includes seven in PR65 and two in PR66 with no adjectival modifier(s), as well as two in PR64 Deep Cameo and two in PR65 Deep Cameo. NGC has also graded 17 Proofs for this date. Included in this number are four in PR65 and two in PR66 with no modifiers, as well as two in PR66 Ultra Cameo and a single coin in PR67* Ultra Cameo. I believe that these numbers are significantly inflated by resubmissions, especially in PR65.
The finest known Proof 1862 gold dollar is clearly the NGC PR67* Ultra Cameo that was last sold as Scotsman 10/08: 790 ($51,750). It was earlier ex Eliasberg: 50 and it is one of the nicer Proof gold dollars of this era that I have ever seen.
A number of Proof issues of this denomination are challenging to distinguish between Proof and business strike manufacture. This is not the case with the earlier Type Three Proofs. Business strikes from the 1856-1872 era tend to seldom come with the deep, reflective surfaces that are seen on the 1872-1889 issues and these early Type Three Proofs have an overall "look" that is totally different from business strikes of this era.
The 1862 dollar that is illustrated above is a choice enough coin for the grade that I think it merits a paragraph or two to discuss why it is "only" a PR64.
While not necessarily clear on the image, there are a few very light hairlines on the obverse that very narrowly preclude a PR65 grade. How hairlined can a Proof gold coin be to still garner a PR65 grade?
Back in the early days of PCGS and NGC, the grading services were extremely strict when grading Proof gold. A coin with any signs of friction or hairlines (even hairlines that were not from past cleanings) was automatically knocked out of the Gem level and this meant that larger denomination Proofs (specifically eagles and double eagles) were almost never seen in PR65 and were essentially unknown above this.
In today's market, a Proof gold coin can have a few very light hairlines and still grade PR65. But in order to garner a PR66 or higher grade, a coin has to be exceptional. And what about lintmarks or other mint-made features on the surfaces? Lintmarks (which are cause by polishing the blank planchets before striking in order to attain a highly reflective surface) are generally overlooked in the grading process unless they are extensive or they are situated in extremely obvious focal points such as the cheek of Liberty or exposed in the left obverse field.
In 1864, mintages of Proof gold coins actually increased to 50 pieces. Given the severe economic climate of the war-ravaged country, this seems like wishful thinking on the part of the U.S. Mint, and it is likely that at least some of these coins went unsold and were melted.
PCGS estimates that "17 to 22 examples survive." As with many of their estimates, I find them a bit on the high side. My guess for total number known is around 14 to 18, and this is based on the fact that there are only 12 auction appearances for Proof 1864 gold dollars dating back to the early 1990's.
The 1864 gold dollar is rarer than than the 1862 in high grades with at least a few pieces known in the PR62 to PR63 range. It is extremely rare in Gem, and there appear to be around four or five known that grade PR65 and higher grades.
As of the end of October 2011, PCGS had graded seven in all. The best non-cameo was a single PR66, while the best Deep Cameo was the PR66 DC shown above. NGC shows a very inflated population of 16 in all grades. The single highest graded was a PR67 Cameo. They have also graded two in PR66 Ultra Cameo.
The aforementioned NGC PR67 Cameo has never appeared at auction and I have not seen it. The record price at auction is $32,200, set by Heritage 10/11: 4625, which sold for $32,200. This is the exact coin shown above. I bought it for a client in an NGC PR66 Ultra Cameo holder, crossed it to a PCGS PR66 Deep Cameo holder, and received approval at CAC.
This coin has terrific overall eye appeal with deep, reflective fields that are strongly contrasted by the devices. There are a few very small lintmarks (as made), but no hairlines.
It is interesting to note that the collector I purchased this coin for has been working on an 1864 gold proof set for a number of years. The gold dollar was the last coin he needed and the set is now complete. I find this to be a real endorsement of the rarity of the 1864 gold dollar in Proof; given that this collector was able to find the rare (and expensive) eagle and double eagle of this year before he could locate the humble (and more affordable) gold dollar.
Which brings us to the final topic of this blog: it has been said again and again that Proof gold is the "caviar" of American numismatics. There is no question about the fact that Proof gold is an expensive area to collect and that specializing in this area of the market is ambitious, to say the least.
But within the area of Proof Gold, there are pockets of value. I have always liked the smaller-size (dollar and quarter eagle) issues with mintages of 50 or fewer in PR63 to PR65 grades. As an example, the 1862 dollar that I discussed above was a beautiful PCGS PR64 Deep Cameo example with CAC approval. Without knowing the market, would you care to venture a guess of this coin's value? $20,000? $30,000? More?
Surprisingly, I listed and sold this coin in the mid-teens.
Say a collector had a budget of $30,000-40,000 to spend each year on Proof gold. Would he be better off buying a few relatively common coins in exceptional grades (an example of such a piece would be a 1902 quarter eagle in PR67 cameo) or a few very rare coins in choice but not as spectacular grades?
Being someone whose numismatic decisions are typically based around rarity, I'd go with two very rare low mintage coins in the $20,000 range as opposed to one more common but spectacular coin in the $40,000 range. The exception would be if I were putting together a type set of Proof gold and I needed just a single example of each type. Then, I would tend to go with a coin like an 1886 gold dollar in PR66 as opposed to, say, an 1866 gold dollar in PR64.
Do you have questions about Proof gold? Feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to answer them for you.