How to Get Started Collecting Early Gold

To my way of thinking, early gold coins (i.e., those struck prior to 1834) and among the most collectible and interesting areas in all of American numismatics. No, these coins aren't cheap and they are, in reality, somewhat overvalued when you compare them to many mid-19th century Liberty Head issues. But there is a pride-of-ownership factor associated with owning a 200 year old gold coin that you get from nothing else. 1. An Overview

When we refer to "early gold," this typically includes quarter eagles, half eagles and eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint from 1795 through 1834. I'd also like to include the Classic Head coinage of 1834-1838 as these pieces are more affordable and this article will then be of greater relevance as it will cover a more broad scope of collecting budgets.

The various types of early gold are as follows:

Quarter Eagle: No Stars on Obverse, 1796 only Quarter Eagle: Capped Bust Right, 1796-1807 Quarter Eagle: Capped Bust Left, 1808 only Quarter Eagle: Capped Head Left Large Size: 1821-1827 Quarter Eagle: Capped Head Left Reduced Size: 1829-1834 Quarter Eagle: Classic Head, 1834-1838

Half Eagle: Capped Bust Right, Small Eagle, 1795-1798 Half Eagle: Capped Bust Right, Heraldic Eagle, 1795-1807 Half Eagle: Capped Bust Left, 1807-1812 Half Eagle: Capped Head Left Large Size, 1813-1829 Half Eagle: Capped Head Left Reduced Size, 1829-1834 Half Eagle: Classic Head, 1834-1838

Eagle: Capped Bust Right, Small Eagle, 1795-1797 Eagle: Capped Bust Right, Heraldic Eagle, 1797-1804

The total number of types that most collectors pursue are fourteen. This includes six each of the quarter eagle and half eagle, and two eagles. The rarest and most expensive of the individual types are the 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles, and the 1829-1834 Capped Head Left, Reduced Size half eagle. For each of these three types, "entry level" coins will approach six figures and choice, significant pieces can run into the mid-six figures.

2. What to Buy to Get Started

Before you begin an early gold collection, I think its a good idea to spend $500-1,000 putting together a library of reference works.

The best book for new collectors is the Bass/Dannreuther reference that is published by Whitman. While it is oriented more towards die varieties than general collecting, it is still an extremely useful book.

I have written some good general articles on collecting early gold and these can be found in both the "articles" and "market reports" section of my website.

There are not many other books that deal specifically with early gold. The Akers books on United States gold coins are out-of-date but still of use. And the Harry Bass Research Foundation website ( has wonderful images of extremely choice gold coins in all three denominations, including extremely rare Proofs and specimen strikes.

One of the best sources of information for collectors of early gold are auction catalogs. Some of the sales held during the last few decades that had very strong holdings of early gold include Eliasberg (1982), Norweb, Bass, Keston, the "Apostrophe" sales, Archdiocese of Buffalo, Ed Price and many of the Heritage FUN and ANA Platinum night sessions. Do a search on the web for coin book dealers (there are a number of good ones) and ask for their help in putting together a nice group of 15-20 catalogs that are essential additions to any early gold library.

3. Deciding What to Collect

After you've decided to collect early gold, your next question is what direction is your collection going to take.

Basically, there are two paths that a new collector can take: collecting by type or specializing in a specific series and collecting by date. The path you take will depend on your budget.

Collecting early gold coins by date is ambitious (to say the least) due to the number of very rare coins in each of the three denomination. A date collection can be modified and made less expensive by deciding to collect only by date and not by variety. As an example, a collector working on early quarter eagles might opt to purchase only an 1804 with 14 stars on the reverse due to the fact that the 13 star variety is very rare and very expensive.

The decision to collect early gold is, of course, predicated on a collector's budget. If the collector has a reasonably modest budget, my suggestion would be to focus on the half eagles struck between 1800 and 1812 in the Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated grade range. This is a great date run as there are no rare issues (except for varieties) and every coin will be available in the $7,500-12,500 range depending on grade.

If a collector has a healthy budget available, the possibilities are almost limitless. A high quality type set, featuring one example each of the fourteen issues listed above, would be challenging and numismatically significant.

Two sets that I have been able to work on for clients are date runs of quarter eagles from 1796 to 1834 and Capped Head Left half eagles from 1813 to 1829. These are both truly challenging. There is a tremendous amount of subtle strategizing inherent in both sets as they include many issues that might come up for sale once every three to five years. It can be hard to figure out what to pay for a very rare date whose last auction record was as much as a decade ago!

4. Where to Buy

As a collector you have two options on where to purchase your early gold coins: from a specialist dealer or at auction. As a dealer who specializes in early gold, I obviously would suggest that you buy from me, but the answer is not so cut and dry.

Early gold can be quite complex to collect. Many early gold coins have been cleaned or "doctored" and it takes an expert to determine which are nice for the grade and which are average. This is an area that a collector would be smart to deal with a specialist and he will need to do some research into who he should buy from, as there are only a handful of United States coin dealers who really know the intricacies of the early gold market.

Certain very rare early gold coins are almost never offered for sale except at auction, so the auction market is always going to be a factor for the collector. I suggest hiring a dealer and paying him a standard 5% fee for viewing and executing bids.

Be forewarned that you are never going to buy a good coin "cheaply" at auction. Auctions are best used to pursue very rare coins or very high grade coins. They may not be the best source for more run-of-the-mill pieces (and I am not saying this in a derogatory sense) which a specialist dealer will have access to at more reasonable prices.

Some auctions are great sources for early gold coins because they offer pieces with impressive pedigrees. I am an advocate of buying early gold with strong provenance when possible and, for better or worse, many such coins wind-up in auctions. I know of at least a few collectors who are as interested in early gold coins with pedigrees and they are in the coins themselves. They would consider buying a duplicate or even a triplicate of an issue they already own because it has a great pedigree.

5. CAC or non-CAC?

There are areas of the rare coin market that CAC has made strong inroads on and others where it has had little or no impact. In my opinion, early gold is an area where CAC has made a very strong impact. CAC typically rewards originality and as the vast majority of early gold coins aren't original, CAC examples are often selling for premiums that range from 5% to 20%.

I think the early gold coins that are most impacted by CAC approval are common date pieces in higher grades. So many of the Capped Bust Right and Capped Bust Left half eagles that I see in MS63 to MS65 holders have been played-around with that I think a CAC stickered coin is an important purchase for the inexperienced collector.

I think CAC stickers are not as important on very rare early gold coins and more common issues in lower grades.

If you are looking at an early gold coin with a total population of a few dozen coins, you are not able to be as selective as with an issue which has hundreds of coins surviving. While I would never suggest buying a very rare early gold coin with problems (such as damage, signs of harsh cleaning, repairs, etc) I would (and will continue to) buy a coin like an 1804 14 star reverse quarter eagle or a half eagle from the mid-1820's that was decent-looking but not nice enough to be approved by CAC.

I also note less of a premium being given to less expensive early gold coins with CAC approval but I wouldn't be surprised if this changes as buyers of these coins are becoming more sophisticated and want nicer quality pieces.

6. Value Plays/Best Value Grades

Every collector wants to buy coins that are good value. Collectors of early gold are no different. There are some issues that I think are very good values. (important note: I think that any properly graded, choice early gold coin with natural surfaces is a good value but the following list are coins that are the best values).

Virtually all pre-1834 quarter eagles are rare and until a few years ago, they were priced at levels similar to the far more available half eagles of this era. This isn't the case anymore and a nice example of a reasonably available date of the Capped Right design (such as the 1802, 1805 or 1807) is now a $15,000-20,000 coin.

Early quarter eagles that I find to be undervalued include the 1798 (the only relatively affordable 18th century issue) and the 1806/4.

I like the Capped Head Left type of 1821-1827 and find this to be the most undervalued early quarter eagle type. Survival rates tend to be low and the five issues of this design are often overlooked. My two favorite dates of this type are the 1821 and the 1826/5.

There are so many early half eagles that I feel are undervalued that instead of listing them by date and discussing them, I'm going to focus on "best value grades" instead.

For circulated coins, I like AU55 and AU58 grades. An early half eagle graded AU55 to AU58 is going to show minimal wear and have a decent amount of remaining luster. There isn't a huge price spread between an AU50 and an AU58 common date early half eagle (the spread right now is a few thousand dollars at most) and if you are collecting half eagles by type, it makes sense to me to go for an AU55 or AU58.

In the Uncircuated grades, I tend to shy away from MS60 and MS61 coins (which are often "rubby") and stick with MS62's which, for the most part, are actually "new."

For type collectors with higher budgets, a nice MS64 early half eagle typically makes more sense to me than an MS65 at multiples of the price. The last few common date early half eagles that I have sold in MS64CAC have been nicer than some of the low-end MS65 non-CAC coins that I've seen offered at auction.

Since there are not many early eagles, there are few coins that I regard as undervalued. Among the common dates, I actually prefer the 1799 to the 1801 or the 1803 given its 18th century origin.

7. Let's Not Forget Classic Heads....

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I wasn't going to overlook the Classic Head quarter eagles and half eagles. These designs were produced from 1834 to 1838 at the Philadelphia, Charlotte and Dahlonega and New Orleans mints. The branch mint issues include the 1838-C, 1839-C, 1839-D and 1839-O quarter eagles as well as the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles.

The great thing about Classic Head gold is its affordability. As an example, I just sold an absolutely beautiful 1834 Classic Head half eagle graded AU55 by PCGS and approved by PCGS for just a touch over $2,000. Nice examples of most of the Philadelphia quarter eagles and half eagles of this type can be obtained for $2,000-4,000. Even Uncirculated examples, at least in MS60 to MS62, are not out of the price range of most early gold collectors.

I would suggest that if you are purchasing a Classic Head gold coin for type purposes that you be extremely selective. These coins are not rare and really nice examples can be found with patience. Pay a little extra for original coins with great color and, if possible, buy a slightly better date like an 1837 quarter eagle or an 1836 half eagle for just a small premium over the common 1834.

Classic Head gold can be collected in a number of different ways. You can buy just two coins and have a complete type set, or you can buy eleven coins and have complete year sets of both denominations. The addition of the branch mint issues will add some cost to a Classic Head collection, but these issues are still affordable in the EF40 to AU50 grade range.

8. Some Final Words

Its hard to convey in 2000~ words the ins and outs of collecting early gold coins, but hopefully this article will serve as motivation to become involved in an aspect of the hobby that I find fascinating. If you have any specific questions about early gold, please feel free to contact me via email at and I will do my best to answer them.

The Best Values in Todays Rare Coin Market

There are many issues that face collectors in the coin market of 2010. A lack of quality coins is driving many collectors to seek new areas of specialization. Both PCGS and NGC have recently added “plus” grades which will no doubt change certain areas of the market as well. More than ever, collectors are gravitating towards areas that offer value. The days of new collectors and uninformed wealthy investors arbitrarily throwing money at plastic rarities are over and we appear to be back to a collector-oriented market. So what are some of the areas in this new market that offer the best value to collectors? I have chosen three price ranges ($1,000-5,000; $5,000-10,000 and $10,000 and up) and included some of the series and/or types that I feel are especially good values. Some are currently popular; some are not. What I have tried to focus on are coins that are actually available in some quantity and issues that I gladly buy to put into my own inventory when they are available.

1. $1,000-5,000

a) Gold Dollars, 1865-1872: The eight year run of gold dollars produced at the Philadelphia mint from 1865 through 1872 doesn’t include any real rarities but nearly all of these coins are scarce and undervalued in MS63 to MS64 grades. Most are priced in the area of $1,500-2,000 in MS63 and $2,000 to $3,000 in MS64 (the 1865 is rarer and more expensive in both grades) and they seem like good value to me. Take the 1872 as an example. Just 3,500 business strikes were made and only a few hundred exist in all grades. In MS64 this coin is worth around $3,000 yet it might take me months to find a decent example in this grade. Yes, gold dollars are small but this is a very collectible series and one with a number of really undervalued issues.

b) Classic Head Quarter Eagles: I’m a big fan of this series in properly graded AU55 to MS62 grades. Note that I stress properly graded as many of the coins that I see are either low end or unappealing due to having been processed. The Philadelphia issues, with the exception of the rare and much undervalued 1839, are affordable in this grade range with pieces valued at $1,750 or so at the lower end and around $5,000 at the higher end. The mintmarked coins are, of course, far more expensive and are not necessarily “good values” although I am an avid buyer of any mintmarked Classic Head quarter eagle in EF40 and better that is choice and original. For collectors at the lower end of this budget range, a nice set of About Uncirculated Classic Head Philadelphia quarter eagles is a fun and challenging endeavor.

c) Three Dollar Gold Pieces: After a few years of collector and investor popularity, this series has recently gone quiet. I don’t necessarily believe that all three dollar gold pieces are good value. In fact, I feel that some formerly undervalued issues are now marginal value at best (primarily due to the fact that many are grossly overgraded and have absolutely no eye appeal). What I do like about this series is that prices are actually down versus where they were five to seven years ago; which is pretty remarkable when one considers that gold has essentially doubled in price since then. Given the lack of collector interest, a new collector can buy PQ quality three dollar gold pieces for a very small premium right now. There are many coins on the market and with some patience, a really nice partial set of Threes could be assembled. The dates I still regard as undervalued include the 1858, 1862, 1864, 1870-72 and the ultra-low mintage issues from the 1880’s.

d) No Motto Half Eagles and Eagles: In the $1,000-5,000 range there are few areas in the United States gold coin market that offer better value than No Motto half eagles from the Philadelphia mint in the higher About Uncirculated grades. As an example, I frequently sell very nice common date AU58 half eagles from the 1840’s for under $750. That might not seem like a big thing until you consider that an ultra common With Motto half eagle in AU58 is worth $350 or so. In the case of the eagles from this era, many of the common date issues from the 1840’s are still available in nice AU58 for less than $1,500. I love the idea of a large size, visually attractive U.S. gold coin that was made well before the Civil War being highly affordable.

e) Crusty Original Charlotte and Dahlonega Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles in Extremely Fine: It will be very interesting to see what percentage of Charlotte and Dahlonega quarter eagles and half eagles receive a “plus” designation from PCGS and NGC in the coming years. If they are strict with their standards I believe that the number could be as low as 10-15% of the total submissions. As someone who is a strong buyer of nice, affordable branch mint gold I can tell you that choice, original pieces with natural color and surfaces have become exceptionally hard to locate. You can still buy nice Extremely Fine Charlotte and Dahlonega quarter eagles and half eagles in EF40 and EF45 for less than $3,000. I think these are wonderful values given their history and rarity.

2. $5,000-10,000

a) Early Half Eagles in Choice, Original About Uncirculated: Given the fact that early half eagles have doubled in price in the last five to seven years, I’m not certain that calling them “undervalued” is the right term. But even at current levels, I like the values that Bust Right (1795-1807) and Bust Left (1807-1812) half eagles offer in the higher AU grades. These are exceptionally historic issues and they are instantly appealing to virtually any new collector or investor who has the resources to afford them. These individuals might not want to assemble a date set of Bust Left half eagles but at $9,000-11,000+ for a high quality About Uncirculated example it is likely that these will become a centerpiece of any new collection. As with the Extremely Fine C+D coins I mentioned above, it will be interesting to see what percentage of early half eagles are given a plus designation by PCGS and NGC.

b) Affordable Uncirculated Dahlonega Half Eagles: If I had to choose the quintessential Dahlonega gold coin for the new collector, I’d select something like an 1847-D or 1853-D half eagle in properly graded MS61 to MS62. These coins are big, rare, attractive and reasonably priced at less than $10,000. What’s even more interesting about coins like this is that they are priced at essentially the same level as they were in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. Yes, gradeflation has pushed many AU58 coins into MS61 and MS62 holders. But the popularity of Dahlonega half eagles is as high in 2010 as at any point I can remember. If you can locate a few CAC or “plus quality” Dahlonega half eagles in MS61 to MS62 at today’s levels, I’d suggest that you jump on them.

c) No Motto Half Eagles and Eagles in MS62: MS62 is the “sweet spot” for most No Motto gold. The coins in MS60 to MS61 holder are often questionable as to their “newness” but most MS62 gold from this era tends to have a pretty nice overall appearance. What’s most interesting about this grade is its price point. Take, for example, a common No Motto half eagle like the 1847. In MS62 it can be purchased for around $3,000. In MS63, the same issue is going to run at least $6,000. In the eagle series, the price differences are more extreme. An 1847 eagle in MS62 is a $7,500 coin but in MS63, if available, it could cost $20,000 or more. I believe that more collectors will begin to focus on high quality No Motto gold from the 1840’s and 1850’s in the near future and there are still many issues that a $5,000-10,000 per coin budget can secure a piece that is not that far removed from the Condition Census.

d) Type Two Liberty Head Double Eagles: The Type Two series has sort of fallen through the cracks in recent years. Type One double eagles are remarkably popular with collectors and the Type Three series seems to be an area that is a marketer’s delight right now. That has left the Type Two series as a sort of void. There are two areas in this market that I currently like as good values. The first are the scarcer date Philadelphia issues from 1866 to 1872 in About Uncirculated and above. The second are choice, original common dates in MS62 to MS63. The scarce Philadelphia issues have retained most of their value despite not having promoted in the last few years; imagine what an influx of new collectors might do to prices for these coins. Common dates in MS62 and MS63 are scarce and have dropped quite a bit in price from their highs of a few years ago. At $3,500-4,000 for a choice MS62 and $11,000-13,000 for a nice MS63 I like the value that these offer as type coins.

3. $10,000-25,000

1. Capped Head Quarter Eagles: In this price range, it is hard to beat the Capped Head quarter eagles (produced between 1829 and 1834) for value. All of these issues were produced in limited quantity and even the most “common” date (the 1829) has considerably fewer known than the early half eagles and eagles in this price range. After the market highs of 2006 and 2007, prices on Capped Head quarter eagles have dropped around 15-20% but few pieces have been available at the new lower levels. I especially like choice, original examples that grade between AU55 and MS62. In this grade range you are typically getting an aesthetically appealing coin. A nice About Uncirculated pieces will cost in the mid-teens while an MS62 that is properly graded will run in the low to mid 20’s. The “sleeper” date in this series is the 1833 while the 1832 is tougher than many people realize as well.

2. Classic Head Half Eagles in MS63 and MS64. I’ve already mentioned Classic Head quarter eagles in the first part of this article. I also like high grade Classic Head half eagles. In MS63 and MS64 this type is scarce and when these coins are nice they typically have great cosmetic appeal with lovely coloration and surfaces. Classic Head half eagles were made from 1834 to 1838. The commonest issues are the 1834 Plain 4 and the 1835. If you’d like an example of this design for type purposes, you are very likely going to buy an 1834 or an 1835 but the 1836 and 1838 are much scarcer and priced at just a 10-20% premium in the MS63 to MS64 range. Current price levels are around $11,000-12,000 for a nice MS63 and $18,000-20,000 for a nice MS64. Considering that a full Gem MS65, if available, will run around $60,000-65,000+, I think these MS63 and MS64 examples offer really good value.

3. Condition Census No Motto Issues: This area is a pretty narrow focus, I admit, but I think some of the best values in the entire coin market are in the $10,000-25,000+ Condition Census quality No Motto issues. This includes half eagles and eagles produced in the 1839-1866 era. I would throw the quarter eagles from this era into the mix as well. If you can find them, very high grade (in this case MS63 and higher) Philadelphia gold coins from the 1840’s and 1850’s seem like the best values in this area. The coins tend to be very well made, very attractive and genuinely rare in this grade. Given the fact that there are not many date collectors of these coins, they need to be viewed more as type issues. But it is hard to argue with their rarity in high grades, especially due to the fact that most smaller denomination Philadelphia gold coins struck prior to the Civil War are unknown in Gem and excessively rare even in MS64.

Classic Head Gold: An Update

I frequently write about the state of the market as it pertains to early gold and Liberty Head issues but I haven’t commented on Classic Head gold in quite a while. So how is the market for Classic Head quarter eagles and half eagles and what do I expect the coming months to look like for these coins? To answer these questions, we need to turn the clock back a few years. Classic Head gold was dormant for what seemed like an eternity. Everyone thought these coins had “potential” but there was never much demand for Classic Heads and they snoozed away in their own little niche-like corner of the market.

This began to change around 2004-2005. A dealer in the Southeast had been quietly building a large position of coins (primarily in the EF-AU grade range) and he carefully began to raise his buy prices. Within a year or two, he had accumulated an impressive number of coins and, on paper, the value of the position had increased.

I never really understood what he did next. Instead of slowly marketing these coins, one day they showed up in another dealer’s inventory (apparently on a consignment) and for many months, the secondary dealer toted hundreds and hundreds of Classic Head gold coins to every major show. It was hard to get excited about this deal when it seemed like every Classic Head gold coin that had ever been slabbed was for sale. At once.

So now you had coins that doubled in price and were readily available. Would the market be able to sustain the new levels? The answer was “no, not really” but in some isolated cases yes.

Had the market for Classic Heads been properly developed, there would have been collectors lined-up for all the EF and AU common dates that were available. As I’ve written before, I think this series is begging for a collecting guidebook. Most dates have a number of very interesting varieties, the sets are completable by collectors on a relatively limited budget, the designs are great and the number of pieces that make up a set are not overwhelming (as with Liberty Head issues).

At the height of the Classic Head market run-up, it wasn’t unusual to see a common date quarter eagle in AU55 trade for $1,750 or so. Today, these same coins have dropped down to $1,250. That’s still a relatively strong level considering that these were $750-1,000 in the earlier part of the decade. How have the common dates in higher grades done? The current market for a common Classic Head quarter eagle in MS63 is around $7,000-8,000. These had been as high as $9,000-10,000 but only if the coin in question was exceedingly nice for the grade. Considering that common dates MS63’s had been around $4,000-5,000 for many years at the earlier part of the decade, I think they’ve held their value reasonably well.

The part of the Classic Head market that has always been the most interesting for me has been the branch mint issues: namely the 1838-C and 1839-C quarter eagles, the 1839-O quarter eagle and the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles. Unlike the Philadelphia Classic Head issues these five dates have the added demand level caused by branch mint specialists, first-year-of-issue collectors and individuals who just like “neat” coins.

Values for the 1838-C and 1839-C quarter eagles jumped to what I believe were unsustainable levels. This is especially so for the 1839-C. There were suddenly oodles of AU55 and AU58 examples available for sale in the $10,000-20,000 range but the demand for such coins couldn’t keep up with the prices. I think you’ll see levels for these two dates in AU continue to drop but they will remain strong in the “collector grades” (i.e., VF and EF).

The two Classic Head issues that continue to exhibit very strong demand in all grades are the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles. In the last thirty days, I owned three (!) 1838-C half eagles graded between EF40 and AU50 and, remarkably, every one of them sold within a week of being listed on my website. If I were able to purchase three nice 1838-D half eagles I believe the results would be the same. These are coins where the demand exceeds the supply and I won’t hesitate to continue to buy nice examples whenever they become available.

What are my expectations of the Classic Head market in the coming months? I think you’ll see some continued drops in prices for common date coins graded AU55 to MS63 with the exception of pieces that have nice original color and choice surfaces. I wouldn’t be surprised if the schlocky, processed shiny examples drop another 10-20%.

At new, lower levels I think choice, original common date Classic Head quarter eagles and half eagles are a good value. If you can buy a nice AU55 1834 quarter eagle in the $1,250-1,450 range that seems like a good deal to me. Same goes with a nice AU55 1834 half eagle at, say, $1,500 or so. As I mentioned above, I still love the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles and I think both of these issues have real upside at current levels.

I think the “secret” dates in the quarter eagle and half eagle series are probably worth exploring right now. I like the 1837 quarter eagle and have always thought that nice 1839 quarter eagles were highly undervalued. In the half eagle series, I think that the 1837 is a good value.

One final thing before I end this article. I’m not going to be the person who does this, but I’d sure like to see someone properly promote the Classic Head series the next time around. By this I don’t mean manipulate prices and demand, but help take a slightly chaotic market and make sense of it. Write a good book, get collectors interested in these coins and gently “push” the market in the right direction by actively buying and selling. That would be a beautiful thing...

Attack of the 1839-C Quarter Eagles!

At the Heritage 2008 FUN sale it was the Attack of the 1839-C Quarter Eagles as there were no less than a dozen (!) examples of this popular Classic Head issue available for sale. How did these coins do and what nuggets o’ information can be gleaned from the auction results? The 1839-C quarter eagles in question ranged in grade from a low of PCGS VF30 to a high of NGC MS61 and included ten coins in NGC holders, one in a PCGS holder and one orphan in an ANACS net AU50 holder that had been cleaned.

Two interesting things can be determined right away from the statement made in the paragraph above. The first is that 1839-C quarter eagles are pretty difficult to define as “rare” if eleven examples appear in one sale (although if you read the rest of this blog I contend that a certain type of 1839-C quarter eagle is, in fact, quite rare...) and that secondly, NGC seems to have the market cornered on this date. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this (cue raised brow...)

One last thing before we analyze. If I were a consignor I’m not sure I’d be thrilled that my 1839-C had to share the spotlight with eleven of its cousins. But, to Heritage’s everlasting credit, these giant auctions continually prove to me that there are enough people looking at the coins that quality typically trumps quantity.

An interesting place to begin is with Lots 3809 and 3810. The former was in an old green label holder and was called VF30 by PCGS (I graded it AU50 or thereabouts but noted in my catalog that it had been cleaned at one time) while the latter was in an NGC 45 holder and was, in my opinion, pretty marginal for the grade. The PCGS VF30 coin sold for $4887.50 while the NGC EF45 brought $4,600. This result wasn’t really a surprise but it doesn’t point out that when someone analyzes the Heritage auction archives they should assume that the 1839-C quarter eagle that they own in VF30 is worth $4,887.50.

The next pair to compare are the two examples graded AU53 by NGC, Lots 3812 and 3813. The result of these coins was interesting to say the least. The former sold for $20,700 while the latter brought $5,750. How is it possible for two coins graded the same by NGC to bring such a gigantic difference? The coin that sold for $20,700 was gorgeous. It was in an old “fatty holder,” had lovely original color and I thought it was a very solid AU58. As nice as the coin was, I was pretty surprised it sold for essentially MS60 to MS61 money. The other AU53 in the sale? It wasn’t very nice and the fact that it had to compete against the Lovely Lot 3812 couldn’t have helped.

No less than four NGC AU58’s were in the sale and every one of them brought $12,650. With Trends at $18,000, this seems a little bit cheap, no? Well actually I think the numbers were pretty right on when you consider that all four of the coins were not exactly high end for the grade. I was a bit surprised that Lot 3085 sold for the same as Lot 3082-3084. Lot 3085 was what I call on “OOG” coin. This acronym stands for “original overgraded.” Which means that although I didn’t think the coin passed the Winter Test as an AU58, it did at least have natural color and a decent overall appearance for the issue. Had this been the only 1839-C in AU58 in the sale perhaps it might have brought an extra 5-10%.

Neither the MS60 or MS61 examples in the auction sold. I didn’t think either one was very nice and both were reserved too high; never a great combination.

Remember earlier in this blog when I mentioned that despite there being twelve examples in the sale, a certain type of 1839-C quarter eagle was still rare? I think the fact that only one of these twelve coins had original coloration and was high end for the issue says something important. Most 1839-C quarter eagles have been cleaned or processed at one time and the one-in-twelve ratio for originality seems accurate in my experience.

So what did I learn about this issue as the result of The Attack of the 1839-C Quarter Eagles? Well, for one I learned that NGC AU58 examples are worth $12,650. I also learned that nice, original coins still bring great prices even when “lost” in huge sales and when competing against multiples examples of the same date. And I learned that if I had a nice 1839-C quarter eagle in an old holder, I would resist temptation and sell it “as is.”

Undervalued Areas in the Rare Coin Market

While I don’t claim to have a crystal ball, I usually have a pretty good sense of which areas in the field of rare gold coin collecting are poised to show an increase in interest in the coming years. Here are some areas which I feel are undervalued and which have the potential of becoming the Next Big Thing. 1. Classic Head Gold Coinage: If you are a regular reader of my blogs you know that I am a big fan of Classic Head gold coinage. I think the design of these coins is attractive and I like the fact that they neatly bridge the gap between “old gold” and the more familiar Liberty Head design that was employed for nearly 70 years.

One reason why Classic Head gold has not become very actively collected by specialists is the lack of a good Winter-esque style guide book. What I find very interesting about this series (in addition to the fact that it is short-lived and thus very completable) is that there are a number of fascinating varieties in both the quarter eagle and half eagle series. Many of these are touched on in the Breen Encyclopedia while others are described in detail and illustrated in the Bass catalogs. While I’m not a variety guy, per se, I do find a number of the varieties in these series very interesting and if someone were to better catalog and illustrate them clearly showing the differences, I think they would become very widely collected.

Another reason I like Classic Head gold is the interesting branch mint issues contained in both the quarter eagle and half eagle series. Clearly I am not a lone voice in the wilderness when it comes to issues such as the 1839-O quarter eagle or the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles as these have seen considerable price increases in the last few years. Despite these increases, I still think the branch mint Classic Head gold issues are comparatively undervalued and if the Classic Head series becomes more widely collected by date then these issues will show even further appreciation in the coming years.

You need to remember that many of these varieties are quite rare to begin with and this is not a collecting specialty which could support more than a few serious collectors at any given time. I think the area which is likely to see the greatest number of specialists is the Capped Bust Large Eagle half eagles struck between 1795 and 1807; particularly the issues produced between 1800 and 1807. Dates like the 1804 and 1806, of which there are seven and six different varieties, respectively, are not prohibitively expensive on a per-coin basis as long as the collector is content to purchase nice EF and AU coins.

2. High Grade New Orleans Eagles: I base this prediction on how well coins like this sell for me when I list them on my website. I am referring primarily to common date New Orleans eagles (such as the 1901-O, 1903-O, 1904-O and 1906-O) in MS63 and higher grades.

Here’s why I love a coin like the 1901-O eagle in MS63. The current PCGS population for this date in this grade is forty-two with just nine graded better. Trends is currently $3,500 and when I have these available I generally ask in the area of $3,250-3,350. Now look at a common date like the 1901-S which has a PCGS population of 3,920 with 3,209 graded better. These routinely sell for $1,100 in MS63 and you can literally buy them by the wheelbarrowfull at any major show. In my opinion, the 1901-O at a three times premium above the 1901-S is great value.

A coin like a 1901-O eagle in MS63 traded for around $2,500 a year or two ago so the market has clearly started to rise. But at the same point in time, a 1901-S traded for around $1,250. This means that the premium factor has only risen from 2x to 3x. It would not surprise me if in the next year or two, the premium factor grew to at least 4x and possibly as high as 5x.

3. Civil War gold: It’s just a matter of time before someone starts promoting date runs of Civil War gold issues. It’s been done before and it seems like such a no-brainer promotion I’m sure it will be done again.

The only problem with doing a comprehensive promotion of Civil War era gold is, of course, finding enough quantity to make such a promotion worthwhile. As an example, the gold dollars from 1861 to 1865 seem easy enough to promote but just try to find a quantity of 1863’s in any grade. You can forget promoting quarter eagles from this era due to the extreme rarity of the 1863 and the 1864 issues - and the 1865 Three Dollar is rare enough to put the kibosh on this series. I guess if I had the answer I would be running the promotion myself right now. But I can just see that beautiful full-color brochure with the battlefield scene and the 1862 three dollar gold piece imposed on top of it….

Short, Completable Sets of United States Gold Coinage

When completing a set, many gold coin collectors reach a point where they are waiting on extremely expensive and/or difficult-to-locate issues. A good solution for the collector who wants to remain active in the market is to start on a short, completable set that can be worked on while waiting on the big ticket items for their #1 set. There are numerous short, completable sets of United States gold coins that they can pursue in addition to their major interest. Listed below are some examples, along with pertinent comments.

NOTE: The values listed below are for average quality coins. Very high-end or premium quality coins can add a considerable amount of cost to any of these sets. The "completability factor" is based on a scale of 1 to 5 with one being easy and five being very hard. In the comments listed below, "2/5" would mean two out of five which equates to being "relatively easy" to complete.

Obverse Mintmark Issues, 1838-1839: During these two years, an interesting group of coins were struck. These are notable for being the very first gold branch mint issues and they are readily distinguishable by the use of mintmarks on the obverse. This set includes the following:

Quarter Eagles: 1838-C, 1839-C, 1839-D, 1839-O Half Eagles: 1838-C, 1838-D, 1839-C, 1839-D

Comments: These eight coins include a number of issues that are found in set #3 below. This is an extremely popular group. The dual popularity of these with type and date collectors mean that they are somewhat fully valued in relation to other branch mint issues. However, their extreme popularity makes them relatively "safe" places to park your numismatic dollars.

Cost: In Extremely Fine grades this set would cost in the area of $30,000-35,000. In About Uncirculated, this set would cost $75,000-100,000. The rarity of the 1838-C half eagle in Uncirculated (there are only two known) make this set essentially impossible to complete in Uncirculated.

Completability: 2/5. This is a fairly easy set to assemble, especially in Extremely Fine grades. In About Uncirculated it will prove to be more of a challenge given the rarity of the half eagles and the popularity of each issue.

First Year of Issue Set: For the sake convenience (and cost), it is best to focus this set on Classic Head and Liberty Head issues. This is a collecting theme that is already very popular in other areas of the market. As an example, first year of issue sets in 18th century coinage have been avidly sought by many generations of collectors. As it relates to gold coinage, this set contains one example each of the various United States gold types produced between 1834 and 1907.

This set includes the following:

Gold Dollars: 1849 (Type One), 1854 (Type Two), 1856 (Type Three) Quarter Eagles: 1834 (Classic Head), 1840 (Liberty Head) Three Dollars: 1854 Half Eagles: 1834 (Classic Head), 1839 (First Liberty Head), 1840 (Modified Liberty Head, No Motto), 1866 (With Motto) Double Eagles: 1850 (type One), 1866 (Type Two), 1877 (Type Three)

Comments: There are sixteen coins in this set. None are really rare but the 1866 issues and the 1838 and 1839 eagles will prove to be elusive, particularly in higher grades. The grade range of this set is hard to formulate as their are some very common issues (such as the Type One and Type Three gold dollars) and others that are nearly impossible to locate above About Uncirculated-55. A good average grade range for this set is About Uncirculated-50 to About Uncirculated-55.

Cost: An About Uncirculated set will cost $50,000-60,000. An Uncirculated set is possible but it will take deep pockets and a good deal of patience as a number of the coins are very rare.

Completability: 2/5. In About Uncirculated this is a fairly easy set to complete.

One Year Varities: There are numerous gold coin varieties that were produced for one year only. For this collection we are specifically referring to, as an example, an issue that was made at a certain mint for just one year. A coin that qualifies is the 1855-C gold dollar as it is the only Type Two gold dollar made at the Charlotte mint. A list of coins that qualify as such include the following:

Gold Dollars: 1855-C, 1855-D, 1855-O, 1856-S Quarter Eagles: 1839-D, 1839-O Three Dollars: 1854-O, 1854-D Half Eagles: 1838-C, 1839, 1839-C, 1839-D, 1909-O Double Eagles: 1879-O

Comments: All of these issues are very popular and relatively scarce but all are available without a huge degree of difficulty. Probably the hardest issue of the dozen listed is the 1855-D, especially with a sharp strike.

Cost: In Extremely Fine grades, this set would cost in the area of $55,000 to $65,000. In About Uncirculated, this set would cost in the area of $135,000 to $160,000+.

Completability: 2/5. The hardest issues to locate are the 1855-D gold dollar and the 1879-O double eagle, especially in higher grades.

New Orleans Quarter Eagles: The New Orleans mint produced thirteen quarter eagles between 1839 and 1857. If both varieties of 1843-O are included, this number is increased to fourteen. This is a great set for collectors as each issue has interesting peculiarities of strike and appearance. As an example, the 1840-O and 1842-O typically look completely different, despite the fact that they were produced within two years of each other. A complete set of New Orleans quarter eagles contains the following:

1839-O, 1840-O, 1842-O, 1843-O Small Date, 1843-O Large Date, 1845-O, 1846-O, 1847-O, 1850-O, 1851-O, 1852-O, 1854-O, 1856-O, 1857-O.

Comments: If a collector is not very particular about quality, this set could be assembled relatively quickly. If he is sensitive to quality of strike and originality, this will be a much harder set to complete. The key issue is the 1845-O. The other tough coins are the 1840-O, 1842-O, 1843-O Large Date and 1856-O.

Cost: In Extremely Fine grades, this set would cost between $15,000 and $20,000. In About Uncirculated it would cost $55,000-65,000. In Uncirculated it would be extremely hard to complete due to the rarity of the 1845-O (only two or three Uncirculated examples are currently known).

Completability: Completability: 1/5. An easy and interesting set to assemble.

Seven Mint Set of Liberty Head Half Eagles: Liberty Head half eagles are the only type of United States coin that were produced at seven mints. Back in the 1970's and 1980's, the so-called seven-mint set was very popular with collectors. It seems likely that it is poised for a comeback, especially now that NGC (and probably PCGS in the near future) are making holders that house multiple coins.

This set includes one coin from the Carson City, Charlotte, Dahlonega, Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. Generally speaking, most collectors purchase the common coins in Uncirculated and the rarer issues in About Uncirculated.

Comments: This is the most conventional of the sets discussed in this article and probably the most popular. I would suggest purchasing the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco coins in Mint State-64 (each should cost under $1,000), the Carson City coin in Mint State-62 to Mint State-63 (look for an 1891-CC in this grade range and expect to spend $1,000-2,500), a New Orleans coin in Mint State-61 or Mint State-62 (look for an 1893-O or 1894-O and expect to spend $1,000-2,000) and the Charlotte and Dahlonega issues in About Uncirculated-55 to About Uncirculated-58 (expect to spend $3,000-5,000+ per coin).

Cost: A really nice set as described above could be assembled for around $20,000. A slightly lower grade set could be assembled for slightly less than $10,000.

Completability: 5/5. An easy set to complete.

Transitional Issues: A Transitional issue is defined as one in which two distinct varieties were produced in the same year. As an example, in 1866 there are No Motto and With Motto issues.

The following gold coins are included in a Transitional Set:

Dollars: 1854 Type One and Type Two (Total: 2 coins) Quarter Eagles: 1796 No Stars and With Stars; 1834 With Motto and No Motto (Total: 4 coins) Half Eagles: 1795 Small Eagle and Heraldic Eagle; 1797 Small Eagle and Heraldic Eagle; 1807 Bust Right and Bust Left; 1834 No Motto and With Motto; 1866-S No Motto and With Motto; 1908 Liberty Head and Indian Head (Total: 12 coins) Eagles: 1797 Small Eagle and Large Eagle; 1839 Large Letters and Small Letters; 1866-S No Motto and With Motto; 1907 Liberty Head and Indian Head; 1908 Philadelphia and Denver No Motto and With Motto (Total: 12 coins)

Comments: If the 18th century coins are included, then this set is very expensive and hard to complete. If these eight coins are removed, the cost is significantly reduced. However, there are still a number of very tough coins including the 1834 No Motto quarter eagle and half eagle and the 1866-S No Motto double eagle.

This is unquestionably the most complex of the six sets listed and it may be a bit too esoteric for the beginning collector. However, it does include some very interesting issues and would be a great accomplishment if completed.

Cost: If all thirty-six coins listed above are included, this set will cost well into six figures and if high grade pieces are included then it could easily eclipse $1 million. If the 18th century issues are not included, the price becomes more realistic but it is still not "cheap." You can count of spending at least $150,000-250,000+ for a set with coins in the Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated-50 range.

Completability: With all the coins listed above included, this set is a 5/5. With just the 19th and 20th century coins it is a 4/5.

These are just a few of the completable short sets of United States gold coins that come to mind. There are certainly many others that are possible which range from very basic to extremely exotic.

Classic Head Gold Coinage, 1834-1838 Part One

For the first quarter of the 19th century, production of gold coinage was sporadic. Quarter eagles were produced intermittently and in very small numbers during this era. Half eagles saw the bulk of production but they were primarily storehouses of value and traveled from bank to bank. The eagle denomination was discontinued in 1804 and would not be resurrected until 1838. Many of the reasons for this lack of gold coin production were economically related. After the War of 1812, the economy of the United States was in shambles. Things became so bad by 1815 that, for the first and only year in the history of the U.S. mint, production of the Cent was suspended. In addition, the price of gold was very low in relation to silver and demand for high denomination gold coinage was non-existent.

A number of events converged to change this scenario. The Industrial Revolution, which overtook Western Europe during the early 1820's, was quickly transported to America, where it, too, revolutionized the economy and means of production. The discovery of large amounts of gold in Western North Carolina and North Georgia in the late 1820's and the early 1830's made gold more plentiful and made its price rise on the open market. By the middle part of the 1830's, there was clearly a need for circulating gold coins in the United States.

Chief Engraver William Kneass was ordered to produce a new design for the quarter eagle and half eagle. His design, known to collectors as the Classic Head, was to last until 1839 when it was replaced by the more familiar Liberty Head design of Christian Gobrecht.

Classic Head gold coinage represents an interesting transition between the old and the new types of United States gold coinage. These were the first United States gold coins to be produced in large quantities using technological breakthroughs such as the steam press and they were the first gold coins to be struck at the new branch mints which were authorized in 1835 and opened in 1838.

Despite the inherent collectability of these coins, they tend to be overshadowed by their earlier and later counterparts. It is my opinion that the Classic Head gold coins offer the collector an excellent value and a very fertile area in which to specialize.

A number of very interesting varieties exist for many of these dates. These are not currently popular with collectors but the affordability of most Classic Head issues (especially those produced at the Philadelphia mint) make them a good candidate to develop a strong die variety collector following in the future.

Classic Head Quarter Eagles

1834: More quarter eagles were struck in this year (112,234) using the Classic Head design than in the previous twenty years combined. The 1834 is, along with the 1836, the most common issue of this denomination and it is plentiful in all circulated grades. In Uncirculated, it is relatively available in the Mint State-60 to Mint State-63 range and is even available, from time to time, in Mint State-64. Gems are very scarce but are seen more often than any other Classic Head quarter eagle. The strike is usually sharp except for the hair curl around the ear of Liberty and on the corresponding reverse. The surfaces are often semi-prooflike or even fully prooflike and the natural color is often a very pleasing deep green-gold hue. Many show mint-made planchet problems. A small number of Proofs exist including the Pittman II: 1718 coin that realized $176,000 in May 1998.

A number of varieties exist. The most important are the Small Head (identifiable by the curl below star seven being somewhat distant and the curls at the back of the head being in a straight line) and the Large Head (identifiable by the curl below star seven being close, a much larger 4 in the date than on the Small Head and uneven curls at the back of Liberty's head).

1835: Despite a mintage similar to the 1834, this is a much scarcer date. It is typically seen in Very Fine to About Uncirculated grades. When available in Uncirculated, specimens tend to grade Mint State-60 to Mint State-62 and coins grading Mint State-63 and above are rare. I have only seen one or two real gems. The strike is not as sharp as on the 1834 with most showing considerable weakness at the central obverse. The luster ranges from frosty to semi-prooflike and the natural color is most often a medium to deep green-gold. The only Proof to be sold in recent memory was the Pittman II: 1719 coin that realized $176,000 in May 1998.

There are three minor die varieties with one obverse and three reverses employed.

1836: An incredible 547,986 quarter eagles were produced in 1836; a mintage figure that would not be exceeded in the quarter eagle denomination until 1851. This date is comparable to the 1834 in terms of its overall rarity and is also readily available in the lower Uncirculated grades. It is considerably scarcer than the 1834 in Mint State-63 and Mint State-64 and it is extremely rare in Gem condition. The strike is better than on the 1834-35 issues although most show weakness at the central obverse. The luster is typically a blend between satiny frost and prooflike reflectiveness while the coloration ranges from medium orange-gold to green-gold. A Proof was sold as Lot 1720 in the Pittman II sale and it brought $110,000.

A number of interesting varieties exist. This includes two distinct styles of 8 in the date: the Script or "Fancy" 8 and the Block 8. In addition, varieties exist with the Head of 1834 (the second curl on the top of Liberty's head lies directly the seventh star), the Head of 1835 (the second curl lies below the far left side of the seventh star) and the Head of 1837 (the second curl lies below the far right side of the seventh star). There are currently eight die varieties known and this is a very fertile issue for the die variety collector.

1837: The mintage figure for quarter eagles dropped to 45,080 in 1837. This issue is far more rare than the 1834-1836 and is exceeded in rarity only by the 1839 among the Philadelphia Classic Head quarter eagles. The 1837 is usually seen in Very Fine to extremely Fine grades and it is scarce in About Uncirculated. It is rare in any Uncirculated grade and very rare above Mint State-62. The only gem I have ever seen was the Bass II: 305 coin which was graded MS-65 by PCGS and which sold for $37,950 in 1999. This date is always found weak at the centers but usually has nice satiny luster and medium to deep green-gold color. In my opinion, it is a substantially undervalued issue.

There are a total of three die varieties but, unlike the 1836, none are significant.

1838: The 1838 has a mintage figure that is similar to the 1837 (47,030 were produced) but it is much more readily available. It is typically seen in slightly higher grades than the 1837 and locating a piece in any circulated grade is not hard. In high grades, the 1838 is moderately scarce in Mint State-60 to Mint State-62, rare in Mint State-63 and very rare above this. A few really superb pieces exist with the finest of these the incredible PCGS MS-67 that sold for $69,000 in the Bass II auction conducted by Bowers and Merena in October 1999. The 1838 is usually better struck than other Classic Head issues and has nice frosty luster, medium to deep orange-gold color and a very distinctive thick border on the obverse.

Only one die variety is known.

1838-C: This is the first branch mint quarter eagle and, obviously, the first Charlotte quarter eagle. Only 7,880 were struck and around 100-125 exist. Circulated examples tend to be well worn with most in the Very Fine to Extremely Fine range. While fairly hard to locate in the middle About Uncirculated grades, choice AU and Uncirculated 1838-C quarter eagles are actually a bit more easily located than generally believed; this is probably due to a small number being saved as souvenirs. There are as many as ten-twelve known in Uncirculated with the nicest of these being the North Georgia collection/Melish coin that sold for $40,250 in the 1999 FUN sale conducted by Heritage. Most show weak strikes at the centers, heavily abraded surfaces and low quality satiny luster. The original coloration tends to be a deep coppery-gold or green-gold.

Only one die variety is known. There are a number of Die States in which varying cracks are seen on the reverse.

1839: While almost never viewed as an important issue, the 1839 is actually the single scarcest Classic Head quarter eagle. I have personally owned more Uncirculated examples of the 1838-C, 1839-C and 1839-O than I have of this supposedly common date. The 1839 is most often seen in Extremely Fine and lower end About Uncirculated grades. It is very scarce in the higher AU grades and it is very rare in Uncirculated with fewer than ten known. The best I've personally seen are a pair of MS-62's including the Bass II: 309 coin that sold for $10,925. This is generally a well struck date that shows numerous surface abrasions and inferior luster. The natural coloration seen most often is light to medium greenish-yellow gold.

The 1839 is often described as an overdate but, in my opinion, it is a repunched date. There is only a single die variety known.

1839-C: The 1839-C is a much more available issue than the 1838-C. There are as many as 200-250 known and it is not hard to locate an example in Very Fine to Extremely Fine. There are more known in About Uncirculated than generally realized but many of these are enthusiastically graded. Uncirculated 1839-C quarter eagles are extremely rare and I have seen fewer than I have of the 1838-C. The finest known is the Miller/Bareford/Boyd coin, currently in an NGC MS-63 holder, that was last offered as Lot 6137 in Heritage's February 1999 sale. Most 1839-C quarter eagles are better struck than the 1838-C but tend to show weakness at the centers. The luster is usually not especially good and the natural color ranges from orange-gold to a medium green-gold hue.

There are three varieties known. An 1839-C recut date exists as does an 1839/8-C overdate. The overdate is found with two reverse varieties (one uses the reverse of 1838-C while the other is a reverse seen only on 1839-C quarter eagles).

1839-D: The 1839-D is the first quarter eagle produced at the Dahlonega mint and the only issue that has the Classic Head design. It is, in addition, the only quarter eagle from this mint with the mintmark on the obverse. It is quite comparable to the 1839-C in terms of its overall rarity and, like its Charlotte counterpart, it can be located in the lower to middle About Uncirculated grades without a great deal of effort. In Uncirculated it is more comparable in rarity to the 1838-C and less rare than the 1839-C but far rarer than the 1839-O. Some examples are very softly struck at the centers although a few exist that are reasonably well detailed. The surfaces are often abraded and the luster is better than average with a frosty texture most often seen. The natural color is a medium to deep orange-gold. The best piece I have ever seen is the James Stack coin, sold by Stack's in October 1994 for $55,000. It is now in a PCGS MS-64 holder.

1839-O: The 1839-O is the first gold coin produced at the New Orleans mint, the only quarter eagle that employs the Classic Head design and the only New Orleans gold coin with the mintmark on the obverse. These factors combine to make it extremely popular. More survive than the original mintage figure of 17,781 suggests and this is actually not a hard coin to locate in any grade up to and including About Uncirculated-58. There are a few dozen Uncirculated pieces known including a number in the Mint State-63 to Mint State-64 range. I have seen three or four accurately graded MS-64's and one that I consider a Gem by today's standards. Some show a good strike while others are weak at the centers; the luster is typically frosty and the natural coloration is often a pleasing orange-gold or deep green-gold hue. Many have been cleaned or dipped and original, problem-free pieces are desirable.

There are two varieties known. The more common has a high date with the 3 lower than the 89 and a widely spaced fraction; the scarcer has a lower date with the 839 more closely in line and a closely spaced fraction. These varieties are significant enough that I believe they will be collected side-by-side some day.

NOTE: Part Two will feature an analysis of Classic Head half eagles and will appear next month.