As is tradition at DWN, at the end of every year we summarize our experiences buying and selling choice and rare United States gold coins and attempt to predict what will be the “hot” and “not so hot” areas in the market.Read More
A few years ago, when my blog was more of a newsletter, I used to write an annual piece entitled “What’s Hot, What’s Not.” I’ve never had the heart to go back and look at these; analyzing my analysis has never had appeal. But these were popular features and I thought I would bring them back - but with a twist. Instead of pondering about what will be “hot” in 2014 and what won’t, I thought it would be more interesting to speculate on what are some potentially in-demand areas.
1. Coins Priced Below $2,500
As I write this, the market for interesting gold coins priced at $2,500 and below is extremely strong. Case(s) in point: I used to run a weekly e-mail based sale of coins I called E-Specials which were two or three interesting gold coins priced in the $750-1,250 range. I used to be able to go to a major show and buy a dozen coins like this so the E-Specials would be pre-set for a month or more. Now, I can’t find many coins like this anymore, and I’ve punted the E-Specials.
So, what qualifies as an “interesting” gold coin in this price range? From my selling experience with E-Specials, I found that the parameters that always met with selling success were: PCGS graded, CAC approved, and dated prior to 1880. The interest factor for coins in this price range was greatly improved when I offered large sized issues; i.e., eagles and double eagles.
If I had to list a few specific coins in the $1,000-2,500 price range that I feel will be in demand in 2014 and may show some appreciation as a result, I’d include the following:
- Dahlonega half eagles in EF40 and EF45. The level of demand for nice D mint half eagles is very strong now, especially if they are choice, original coins. In the last few years values have crept up from around $1,600-1,800 to around $2,200-2,500+, and I see no price resistance to even higher numbers for the right coins.
- With Motto New Orleans eagles in MS61 and MS62. I’ve written this before but if some clever marketer would quietly assemble a position in common and slightly better date With Motto (1888-1906) eagles from New Orleans, prices could go up 20-40% without anyone batting an eyelash. The possibility exists that set collecting could drive this series as no dates are rare and many are available even in MS63 and MS64.
- Low grade scarce/rare date issues. One of the major changes in the rare date gold market in the last three to five years has been the sudden surge in demand for affordable examples of tough dates. As an example, a coin like an 1861-S eagle is too expensive in higher grades for most collectors. But a nice Fine or Very Fine can be bought for a few thousand dollars and if the coin is worn but cosmetically appealing, it has a strong level of demand that didn’t necessarily exist a few years back.
2. Coins Priced in the $5,000-10,000 Range
Coins in the price range are my “bread and butter” but I would say this middle range (“middle” at least in the sense of rare gold coins) is the weakest part of the coin market going into 2014. Collectors who buy coins in this range are far more selective now than they were a few years ago, and a coin has to have an “it” factor to sell for $5,000, $7,500, or $10,000. I’ve invented a term called Multiple Levels of Demand to define what I regard as coins that have “it.”
As with coins priced below $2,500, coins priced at around $10,000 have to be interesting, and they have to have good visual appeal. Here are a few areas that I think will be in strong demand in 2014.
- Properly grade AU58 branch mint quarter eagles and half eagles. Nice slider examples if southern branch mint gold coins remain one of the best values in all of 19th century numismatics. As I’ve explained before, a properly graded AU58 (not a coin that “looks like an MS64;” these don’t exist) is a coin that is being rewarded for positive eye appeal while a typical MS60, MS61 and even an MS62 is a coin with faults which are being punished. Most collectors would rather have a nice, natural AU58 Dahlonega half eagle at $5,000-6,000 than a “rubby” MS61 at $9,000-$11,000 and it is hard to blame them.
- Better date Three Dollar gold pieces. This is a series that has been out of demand for too long and with a little bit of promoting, I could see some improved level of collector demand in 2014 and beyond. There are some great values in this series right now and, interestingly, there are more nice coins available in the $5,000-7,500 range than in many other comparably priced types.
- MS64+CAC Indian Head gold. From what I’ve seen, the quality of MS64+ Indian Head quarter eagles, half eagles and eagles is pretty nice and the typical example is visually better than MS64. As long as premium aren’t excessive over an average quality MS64, I can see the market expanding even further for these coins in 2014; especially when the price jump to MS65 is at least double or triple.
3. Coins Priced at $20,000 and Over
At this level, the air gets a lot thinner, but the market for nice quality expensive (notice I said “expensive” and not “trophy”) coins is as strong now as I can recall at any time since 2006-2007. Buyers of expensive coins are very discriminating (as they should be), but in my experience, the “right” coins in the $20,000-50,000 range are selling very well and will continue to do so in 2014.
There are a number of areas which fit into this category which I think have good upside in 2014. Here are a few of them.
- Really exceptional branch mint gold coins in MS63 and MS64. If you look at auction prices from 1999-2001 and compare the values of a coin like an 1847-C quarter eagle in PCGS MS64 then versus now, you will typically see a slight overall decline. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that many coins have been graded MS63 or MS64 which are not nice. But in my opinion, a choice, original CAC-quality Dahlonega half eagle in MS63 or a beautiful, naturally toned Charlotte quarter eagle in MS64 is truly rare. These coins may not have date collector demand in these high grades but there are numerous type collectors looking for one or two great coins in all of these series. Watch for demand to increase in 2014 and beyond.
- Rare date Proof gold in PR64 and PR65. Many of the Proof gold coins from the 1860’s, 1870’s and early 1880’s have tiny original mintages and fewer than half are known. Despite the rarity of a coin like an 1874 quarter eagle in Proof, the focus has been more on large denomination coins (eagles and double eagles) or super-grade pieces in the PR66 to PR68 range. While they are not often available, comparably “affordable” Proof gold dollars, quarter eagles, three dollar gold pieces and even half eagles seem to be increasing in demand and I see no reason that this will not continue through 2014 and beyond.
- Truly rare business strikes in Condition Census grades. The level of demand for formerly obscure business strike rarities will increase in 2014 as well. One thing I noticed in 2013 was that when I listed a choice, higher grade example of a truly rare coin on my website, I got multiple inquiries and not just from the “usual suspects.” As an example, I listed two very nice 1863 half eagles on my site in 2013 and I heard from numerous collectors for each of them, including two silver dollar collectors who wanted to buy an 1863 “just because it was cool” and a few dealers who I’ve literally never sold a coin to before.
4. Trophy Coins
In virtually all collectibles areas, the truly great “trophy” items are in huge demand and this will continue in 2014. The NGC MS63 Brasher Doubloon that will be sold by Heritage in a few weeks at the 2014 FUN auction could very well set a record for any coin - and there will be a number of million dollar+ coins in this sale and other auctions immediately afterwards.
A decade ago, the sale of a million dollar United States coin was front-page news; today it is relatively commonplace. As more “big money” discovers the coin market, I look for many exceptional prices realized in 2014, both at auction and via private treaty.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
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It’s been a while since I’ve done an in-depth article on any Carson City gold coins and, as they are the most popular issues from this mint, I thought this would be a good time to write about the double eagles from Carson City. Before we get into date-by-date mode, let’s look at some big picture issues which concern collectors of these coins.
- Popularity levels have clearly risen. CC double eagles have always been popular with collectors. But they have become an investor favorite as well. I am aware of at least three large marketing firms who are selling CC double eagles and not just mundane common dates in VF and EF. This has pushed interest up for all dates in virtually all grades.
- Prices have risen. Without a statistical study, I can say intuitively that prices for most CC double eagles have risen between 10 and 50% in the last five years. I used to be able to buy quantities of nice EF coins for less than $2,000; today, these same coins cost me closer to $3,000. This seems to be even more so with higher grades coins. As an example, an MS61 1875-CC was a $7,500 coin around five years ago and not always an easy sale at that level. Today, I get $12,000 or more for one and they disappear as soon as I list them on my website.
- Fewer coins seem available. My intuition tells me this is true based on what I am able to buy. At a typical big show five years ago I would return with anywhere from five to ten nice CC double eagles. I’d see them in dealer’s cases and I’d see them offered not only by the usual suspects but by smaller mom-n-pop dealers. This is clearly not the case in 2013 and I might come back from a show like Long Beach with no more than one or two CC double eagles in my newps.
- CAC has had an impact. At first, CAC approved examples of CC double eagles didn’t seem to have a big impact on the market. This has changed and even common dates in EF sell for a premium. The coins with potentially big CAC impact are the rare dates which don’t typically come nice. As an example, I have seen virtually no AU50 examples of the 1870-CC which I thought were choice original coins. Currently, CAC has never approved an 1870-CC in grades above EF40 (and just two at that level). If an average quality 1870-CC in AU50 is worth, say, $325,000 what is one worth with CAC sticker? $350,000? $375,000? Maybe even $400,000?
Let's now take a quick look at each date and see what's happening on a coin-by-coin basis.
Between 2005 and 2010, there were two or three examples of this date per year appearing at auction. This has slowed done considerably and in the last three years, only one non-no grade 1870-CC has sold at auction. This doesn’t mean this date has stopped selling; I know of a Nevada-based specialist dealer who owned multiple examples of the 1870-CC at one time and I believe he has sold them all via private treaty in the last year. This date cratered at around $200,000-225,000 for a typical quality EF coin a few years ago and prices have risen, slowly but surely. To own a decent 1870-CC today, you are going to have to write a check for at least $250,000 to $275,000. There are two above average examples in the Heritage 2014 FUN sale and it will be interesting to see what these bring.
For most collectors, this date remains the single most expensive coin in their set, given that they won’t purchase an 1870-CC. I recently sold an NGC AU55 for well over $50,000 which is a record for me. Demand for the 1871-CC continues to increase and a choice PCGS EF45 could bring over $30,000 if available.
The pattern of availability for this date has changed over the last few years. It used to be an issue that I handled regularly in EF45 and these sold well for me. Today, these same coins now grade AU50 or even AU53 and seem more available than before. Properly graded AU55 to AU58 1872-CC double eagles remain rare to very rare and other than the fantastic Battle Born coin, no Mint State pieces have been sold in some time.
The finest known 1873-CC, variously graded MS62 and MS63, sold five different times between 2004 and 2008. Since then, not much in the way of exciting high grade 1873-CC double eagles have sold but Stacks Bowers 1/13: 13337, graded MS61 by NGC, brought a record-breaking $55,813 earlier this year. Prices for this date in all grades have risen as well.
I was recently offered an NGC MS60 example of this date for $20,000 and, gulp!, I almost pulled the trigger. After years of being undervalued, the 1874-CC is a sleeper no more an even nice AU58’s are selling at close to the $10,000 mark. This brings us to a quick rhetorical question: is it is possible for there to be a sleeper in an extremely popular series such as Carson City Liberty Head double eagles? My take…yes there is but only a very few and only in the specific instance where the holder means nothing. In other words, population figures for AU58 1874-CC double eagles would suggest it isn’t rare. But real world experience shows that properly graded CAC-caliber examples are in fact very scarce if not actually rare.
I mentioned in the beginning of this article how MS61 1875-CC double eagles have soared in price in the last few years. This is true with examples of this date in AU grades as well. I think nice 1875-CC double eagles will remain popular and in demand due to this issue being the only quasi-affordable Type Two issue from this mint.
It’s been at least two years since I’ve handled an 1876-CC $20 in a grade higher than MS60 and this is surprising as nice MS61 and MS62 pieces used to be around. This, to me, is another good indication that CC double eagles are truly a collector-oriented series. The nice coins seem to be going off the market into long-term holdings unlike in the past when they would be held for a year or two and then flopped.
The comments I made for the 1872-CC (see above) are pretty much the same for the 1877-CC. AU50s and AU53s seem a touch more available than in the past but that is primarily the result of gradeflation. The Battle Born: 11046 coin, graded MS62 by PCGS, is the only Uncirculated 1877-CC to come on the market for at least two years and I have handled just one Uncirculated piece myself (a PCGS MS61) in this time frame. Just as an FYI, if you can find a nice EF example for anywhere near $4,000, I think this is still a great value.
This was a date that was always appreciated by collectors due to its small mintage but the lack of decent examples in the last few years is, to me, a tribute of the 1878-CC’s true scarcity. I like the value that this date offers in EF grades (still less than $10,000) assuming that you can a) actually find one and b) it isn’t dreadful.
Ditto. Here’s another date which has seen almost no nice pieces sold since Battle Born: 11048. I have privately placed an AU58 and an MS60 and for both coins I had to pay what I believe were record prices.
I’ve never been a huge fan of this date, so what I have to say might show an anti-1882CC bias. But I have noticed a pretty healthy supply of examples this year, including a few decent to choice Uncirculated pieces. I still think the 1882-CC is fairly valued in AU50 to AU55 grades (especially if the coin is CAC quality) but I’m going to officially go on record and state that Mint State 1882-CC double eagles are spendy. I still can’t get over the fact that the PCGS MS63 in Battle Born brought over $80,000.
If I were assembling a CC double eagle set for friends or family, I’d look at a PQ AU58 with CAC approval at around $7,000 or a touch more. That seems like better value, to me, than a so-so MS60 or MS61 at $12,000-14,000.
Along with the 1883-CC, this is one of my favorite CC dates for type purposes. It tends to come well made and if you can find an example with original color and surfaces, the visual appeal for this issue tends to be better than average. Uncirculated 1884-CC double eagles are no longer affordable for most collectors as a nice MS61 will cost you around $12,500 and if you can find an MS62 you are looking at $20,000 or more.
When I first started making a market in CC double eagles, this date seemed to be more of a “key” than it does now. Not to cast aspersions on the 1885-CC and its friends and family but this date just doesn’t feel like a rarity anymore. Sure, it’s a better date in the series but it seems more plentiful than it was back in the day. One quick observation: this date used to be priced in tandem with the 1878-CC and 1879-CC in higher grades but it now lags both of these issues. The last nice coin to sell, ex Stacks Bowers 4/13: 1401 and graded PCGS MS61, at $35,278, actually seems like a good value to me within the context of this series.
I just sold a nice PCGS AU58 example for over $8,000 to a savvy wholesaler and this was sort of a “gulp!” moment for me. I looked at my old records and saw that I was selling the same date in this grade for around $5,000 around three years ago. The gulp wasn’t so much that I thought these were now overvalued at $8,000; I leave that to the market to decide. The gulp was more that I wistfully thought “why didn’t I just put four or five of these away for a few years and sell into a market I knew was going to be strong.” Sigh…
I’m now pretty certain that this is the most available date in the series in lower grades. I still see 1890-CC double eagles coming out of Europe and even some pretty decent EF45 to AU55 examples from these sources. This is one of the few CC double eagles that are still comparably affordable in AU58. I have sold a few nice examples in the last couple of months for around $6,000. Not cheap but not as pricey as some of the other common dates in this series.
This date has proven itself to be scarcer than the 1885-CC and it seems far less available in the current strong CC double eagle market. No Uncirculated examples have sold at auction since the nice MS62 in Battle Born (it sold for a reasonable $48,875) and I don’t think I’ve handled more than two or three nice AU’s this year. Presentable AU’s at less than $20,000 seem like good value to me in the context of this market.
Let’s say you bought a nice PCGS MS62 1892-CC in 2008. You probably paid around $16,000-18,000 for it. Fast forward to today. You send your coin to CAC and since it was nice for the grade, it is approved. If you go to sell the coin, the chances are good you’ll get around $25,000 for it and possibly more if someone like me thinks it has a chance to upgrade to MS63. Not a terrible return, especially given the fact that many non-CC Type Three double eagles have had spotty price performance during this five year period.
The rumor about this date used to be that there was a bag of them and someone was quietly selling them two or three at a time. True? I doubt it but there were certainly a lot of similar looking Uncirculated 1893-CC double eagles on the market a few years back. There are still some nice coins around but they tend to have a bleached-out look as they have been processed to remove the deep peripheral color you used to find on this date.
Do you collect Carson City double eagles? If so, I would be pleased to help you assemble a great set. Feel free to contact Doug Winter by email at email@example.com.