Better Date Type Two Liberty Head Double Eagles: A Re-Evaluation

As recently as a few years ago, collecting Type Two Liberty Head double eagles was very popular. A marketing firm located in the Southwest had actively promoted this series, other firms had jumped on the Type Two bandwagon and the series had caught on with collectors. Then, with little warning, the aforementioned marketing firm shifted their focus onto other series and suddenly the Type Two double eagles were out of favor. This has left the savvy collector with an opportunity that I find very interesting. Before I get specific about the Type Two double eagles that I feel are overlooked and undervalued, let me give you a little bit of background about this series. The Type Two double eagles were produced from 1866 until 1876 and they are so named due to having the second major design of the Liberty Head type; in this case the addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the reverse. These coins were produced at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City mints. The CC issues are well-known and avidly collected. The San Francisco issues tend to be condition rarities (i.e., they are obtainable in lower grades but scarce in higher grades). It is the Philadelphia issues that, I believe, offer the best value to collectors.

Many of the Philadelphia issues of this design type are extremely common. Dates that fall into this category include the 1873, 1875 and 1876. But there are a few that are scarce in all grades and are priced within the price parameters of many collectors. With the value levels of even common dates double eagles soaring in the recent months, these Philadelphia issues seem like a particularly good value right now.

My first sleeper date is the 1866. It is a numismatically interesting issue as it is the first year-of-issue for the Type Two design. The 1866 is usually seen in lower grades and I consider it to be moderately scarce in the middle to higher AU grades. It is still possible to purchase a very presentable About Uncirculated 1866 double eagle for less than $3,000. Given the fact that prices for this date jump up two to three times in the lowest Uncirculated grade(s), I think nice original AU55 to AU58 coins are very good values.

For many years, the 1868 was THE sleeper date in the entire Type Two series. It is now well-publicized and no longer an especially affordable coin. That said, it is still quite scarce in even EF45 to AU50 and it is a coin that is especially difficult to find with original color and nice surfaces. Trends has risen appreciably for the 1868 douible eagle in the last three years but nice examples still bring full Trends or above. As an example, Heritage 12/09: 1939, graded AU58 by PCGS and verified by CAC (and extremely choice in my opinion) brought $8,625 against a Trends of $8,500.

The 1869 is an issue that I don't see very often and I think it is very undervalued. Nice mid-range to upper-range AU coins are still priced at the $2,500-3,500 level which seems extremely reasonable for a coin that is scarce and which becomes quite rare in higher grades.

While the 1868 is the rarest Philadelphia Type Two double eagle from the standpoint of overall rarity, the 1870 is not far behind. And the beauty of this issue is that it is currently priced at about half the market rate of the 1868. The 1870 is hard to locate even in the lower AU grades and choice, original AU55 to AU58 pieces are great value at current levels. Expect to spend around $4,000-5,000 for a nice AU55 and $5,000-6,000 for an AU58.

One final undervalued Type Two is the 1871. This date has a slightly different rarity profile than the others mentioned. It is comparable to the 1869 and 1870 in terms of overall rarity (in fact it might even be a bit rarer) but it is slightly more available in Uncirculated due the presence of a small hoard which hit the market many years ago. In AU55, PCGS has graded just twenty pieces (with another twenty higher) but the price level remains affordable. The last few 1871 double eagles I have seen in AU55 have traded in the $3,500-4,500 range while AU58's are worth $5,000-6,000.

As with all double eagles, I'd recommend that buyers be patient when seeking these coins. Look for examples with minimal obtrusive marks, non-processed surfaces, and nice natural color. When the right coin does appear for sale, I'd recommend immediate and decisive action as these pieces are becoming more popular with collectors.

Despite the fact that double eagles are easily the most popular denomination of United States gold coin with collectors and investors, there are definite "pockets of value" that the informed individual can locate with a little basic research. In the Type Two series the five Philadelphia issues that I mentioned above offer the collector alot of rarity for the money; not too mention an attractive large-sized coin with nearly an ounce of gold.

The Philadelphia Gold Coinage of 1870

The 1873 and 1875 gold issues from this mint have received considerable fanfare over the years but I think the Philadelphia gold coinage from 1870 is pretty interesting as well. Having recently sold a number of high quality 1870 Philadelphia gold pieces, I thought it would be interesting to present an in-depth study of these, going from the dollar all the way up to the double eagle. Gold Dollars: A total of 6,300 business strikes were produced along with 35 Proofs. This is a reasonably common date in most grades with an estimated 250-300 known. Probably half of (if not more) are in Uncirculated grades and the 1870 gold dollar is almost never seen below About Uncirculated grades, indicating that it did not circulate widely. There are at least two dozen Gems known and a few incredible Superb Gems including a PCGS MS68 and a group of four to six MS67’s. The finest known is Heritage 3/06: 1714 ($18,400), ex Superior 2/05: 3424 ($14,375), Superior 11/03: 1166 ($15,525). Some of the PCGS MS67 pieces include Bass II: 175 and Childs: 567.

The 1870 gold dollar is typically a well produced issue with attractive color and rich soft frosty luster. The natural coloration tends to a medium to deep golden hue. Many are a bit softly struck at the centers and the 87 in the date may not be fully formed.

This is an affordable issue that is good value with decent quality Uncirculated pieces still available for around $1,000. Gems trade in the $4,000-5,000 range and seem like good value.

Proof 1870 gold dollars are extremely rare and much undervalued. Of the 35 struck there are probably no more than ten to twelve known including a few impaired examples. Since 2000 there have been only five auction records and this includes one duplication (the Pittman coin) and an impaired example (ex Bass IV: 75).

Quarter Eagles: There were 4,520 business strikes produced along with 35 Proofs. This issue is a bit more available in terms of overall rarity than one might expect with an estimated 100-125 known. Most 1870 quarter eagles are seen in the EF45 to AU55 range. Unlike the gold dollar from this year, there are only a handful known in Uncirculated; maybe five to seven at most. The undisputed finest is Bass II: 568 (later sold as Goldberg 2/03: 1924) which is a lovely PCGS MS65. None of the other Uncirculated coins grades higher than MS62.

This tends to be a well-made issue that has luster than ranges from frosty to prooflike. Most are very heavily abraded and I have not seen more than a handful with natural coloration.

Nice AU 1870 quarter eagles remain affordable and undervalued with examples trading in the $1,000-1,500 range. The few decent quality Uncirculated pieces I have seen have brought in the $3,000-5,000 which seems like extremely good value for such a scarce coin.

Proof 1870 quarter eagles are extremely rare. While the mintage is a reported 35, I believe that many were melted and today as few as seven to nine exist. Only two have been auctioned since 1996 and the finest that I have seen is Bass III: 224, graded PR65 by PCGS.

Three Dollars: There were 3,500 business strikes made as well as an additional 35 Proofs. An estimated 150-200 are known with most in the EF45 to AU55 range. In Uncirculated there are around two dozen known. There are no Gems and just two or three properly graded MS64’s. The finest that I have seen is ex Bass II: 685 and this PCGS MS64 sold for $16,100 in 1999. A decade later (in March 2009 to be exact), an NGC MS64 brought $18,400 in a Heritage auction.

The typical 1870 three dollar gold piece business strike is semi-prooflike and there are some that are so fully prooflike that that can resemble Proofs. Business strikes always show die striae in the fields and some have clashmarks at the centers. The natural coloration is a medium orange-gold and undipped pieces tend to show coppery hues towards the borders.

This is another affordable issue. A nice quality About Uncirculated 1870 Three Dollar gold piece will run in the area of $2,500-4,000 while presentable lower grade Mint State pieces run around $5,000 to 9,000.

Proofs are extremely rare. There are an estimated dozen known and only four auction appearances have occurred since 2000. Nearly every known Proof is in the PR63 to PR64 range and Gems are exceedingly rare with perhaps one or two accounted for.

Half Eagles: The mintage for business strike half eagles from 1870 is just 4,000 while an additional 35 Proofs were produced. I believe that there are 65-75 known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. Properly graded AU coins are extremely scarce with twelve to eighteen accounted for and there is just a single Uncirculated 1870 half eagle, ex Bass II: 1169 (graded MS61 by PCGS) where it sold for a reasonable $14,375 back in 1999.

The luster on 1870 half eagles tends to be satiny but it also tends to be impaired due to heavily abraded surfaces. Most examples have been cleaned or dipped at one time and original pieces with nice color and surfaces are very rare.

Prices for this date remain very reasonable, given its scarcity. An Extremely Fine piece will cost in the $1,500-2,000 range while AU’s run in the $3,500-7,000 range depending on the quality.

Proof 1870 half eagles are extremely rare and it is likely that a number of the 35 struck were melted later in the year after they went unsold. Based on the fact that only four auction appearances have been recorded since 2000 (one of which is a duplicate), I would not be surprised if only seven or eight are known. The finest known by a large margin is the wonderful NGC PR66Cam that is ex Goldberg 5/08: 4437 ($92,000) and Goldberg 2/07: 2325.

Eagles: The mintage for 1870 eagles is 3,990 business strikes along with another 35 Proofs. The certified population figures for this date are higher than one would expect with a total of 147 graded between the two services as of December 2009. However, I believe that this is the product of numerous resubmissions and the actual number of 1870 eagles known is fewer than 100. The typical example grades in the EF40 to AU50 range and choice, properly graded pieces in AU55 to AU58 are extremely scarce. I do not know of a single Uncirculated 1870 eagle although NGC has graded a solitary coin in MS60.

This date is typically seen with very heavily abraded semi-prooflike surfaces. It is probably the most difficult gold denomination from this year and mint to locate with good eye appeal. I can’t recall having seen more than a very small number of 1870 eagles which had good overall eye appeal and attractive natural coloration.

Lower grade 1870 eagles are very reasonably priced and the last Extremely Fine I had brought in the area of $1,500. AU pieces range from $2,000 to close to $10,000 based on quality.

Proofs are exceedingly rare. As with the other denominations of this year, it seems likely that a number were melted. Today it is likely that as few as seven or eight are known and only three have sold at auction since 2000. PCGS has graded just one Proof 1870 eagle (a PR64) while NGC shows five including two each in PR65 Cameo and PR65 Ultra Cameo.

Double Eagles: The mintage figure for business strike 1870 double eagles is considerably more than for all the other denominations from this date and mint combined. There were 155,150 business strikes made along with another 35 Proofs. This date is much scarcer than generally believed and it is likely that only 400-500 business strikes are known with most in the EF45 to AU55 range. Uncirculated pieces are scarce and I believe around three dozen exist with nearly all grading MS60 to MS61. Properly graded MS62 examples are rare and there are no pieces currently graded higher than MS63. The best I have personally seen is Heritage 1/07: 3718, graded MS63 by PCGS, which sold for a record $48,875. There are five graded MS63 between the two services including two at PCGS and three at NGC.

The vast majority of business strike 1870 double eagles have very heavily abraded surfaces and show a moderate amount of frosty luster. The few higher grade pieces known tend to exhibit rich frosty luster and nice orange-gold coloration. The strike is better than average for a Type Two issue of this era with some definition noted on the hair strands and shaper radial lines than on the 1868 or 1869 double eagles.

A decent quality Extremely Fine 1870 double eagle remains reasonably priced at around $2,000 while a nicer AU coin will set you back $3,000 to $5,000+.

Proofs are extremely rare although there appear to be more around than the eagles of this date. An estimated ten to twelve are known including a few very nice survivors. The finest known is the incredible Stack’s 1/09: 1410 that sold for $368,000 in a PCGS PR66 holder. This coin now appears to be graded PR67 Ultra Cameo by NGC and it is one of the very finest Proof Type Two double eagles of any date.

The Philadelphia gold coinage of 1870 is scarce and interesting but unlike other dates from this era, the set is completable and not expensive in medium grades. In fact, the collector of average means can put together a very nice set of these issues in Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated grades for well under $20,000.

Philadelphia Type One Double Eagles

Since the publication of my book “The Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type 1 Double Eagles” in 2002, this has been one of the strongest and most avidly collected areas in the entire U.S. coin market. I think this is the case for three reasons:

1. Size: New collectors can relate to big, attractive coins and Type One double eagles are exactly the sort of coins that are easy for dealers to sell (and for collectors to buy).

2. Shipwrecks: The discovery of the S.S. Central America and S.S. Republic shipwrecks added a tremendous shot in the arm to this market. Many collectors were first attracted to Type One double eagles by the shipwreck coins but found the series interesting enough that they decided to collect more extensively.

3. Story: There is an incredible amount of history inherent in the Type One series. The 1850-1865 era is pivotal in the story of the United States and this has also attracted many collectors to the Type One series.

I am personally very attracted to the Philadelphia Type One issues. These issues do not get the publicity that the branch mint coins do and, as a result, they remain undervalued. Here is a date-by-date analysis for beginning collectors that, hopefully, will be useful.

1850: This issue is in heavy demand due to its status as a first-year-of-issue. I used to think it was undervalued but now I think it is fully priced, especially in the AU55 to MS62 range. There are as many as 3,000+ known with 50-100 in Uncirculated. There are actually two Gems graded MS65 and another half dozen or so that I grade MS63 to MS64. The current record price was set by Heritage 1/07: 3698, graded MS65 by NGC, which brought a healthy $161,000. Collectors should be patient when looking for an 1850 as there are some very pleasing pieces available.

1851: Over two million were struck but this date is a bit more difficult to locate than most people realize, especially in higher grades. There are an estimated 100-150 known in Uncirculated. I have never seen or heard of a Gem but have known of two or three that grade MS64. Most 1851 double eagles are grainy in appearance with very “choppy” surfaces. However, there are a number of frosty, lightly abraded coins known and the collector would do well to wait for such a piece to appear.

1852: The 1852 is similar in rarity to the 1851 except that it is a bit more available in Uncirculated. Nearly every known example is very heavily abraded and many have inferior grainy luster. Some lightly abraded, frosty pieces are known and I feel that these are desirable and worth a premium. There is a single example in MS65 (graded by NGC) but I have never seen an 1852 that I regarded as a Gem. I have, however, seen at least four or five very nice MS64’s. This date is an excellent choice for novice collectors as it tends to be well-made and affordable.

1853: The 1853 is similar in rarity to the 1851 and 1852 even though it has a lower mintage. I estimate that there are 1750-2250 known but most are in circulated grades and the 1853 is much scarcer in Uncirculated than the 1851 and 1852. I think there are around 30-40 known in Uncirculated and most are in the MS60 to MS62 range. The best I have seen is the NGC MS64 (which I now believe is in an MS65 holder) that was sold in the Superior 5/05 auction for $66,700.

There is also an 1853/2 overdate that is controversial but accepted as such by both PCGS and NGC. It is clearly identifiable by a small raised die dot below the R in LIBERTY. This variety is generally seen in EF and AU grades and from the standpoint of availability it is the rarest Philadelphia double eagle of this type. It is the second rarest in Uncirculated, trailing only the 1859. I am aware of less than a half dozen in Uncirculated and all are in the MS60 to MS62 range.

1854: The 1854 is not a really scarce date in lower grades but it remains scarce and undervalued in AU58 and above. There are an estimated 25-50 in Uncirculated including an MS64 and MS65 at PCGS. The record price for an 1854 is $96,600 which was set by Bowers and Merena 9/08: 831, graded MS64 by NGC. Finding examples with good luster and decent surfaces is very difficult as most are somewhat dull and very heavily abraded.

There are a number of interesting varieties for the year but the most widely collected is the 1854 Large Date. This issue is rare in all grades and it is very rare in Uncirculated. For more information about this variety, refer to the blog I wrote about Type One varieties dated March 30, 2009.

1855: I am a big fan of this date and it is an issue that I have always believed was rarer than its original mintage would suggest. There are around 1,000 known but just 15-20 qualify as Uncirculated. The best I have seen was a PCGS MS63 (later upgraded to MS64) that was ex: ANR 8/06: 1607. It brought $69,000 and was purchased by a well-known Midwestern collector. The 1855 is really hard to find with good eye appeal as most have been cleaned or dipped and exhibit severe abrasions. Pieces that show good luster, original color and minimal marks are very scarce and typically bring strong premiums over the usual “schlock” offered for sale.

1856: This is another sleeper date that I have been writing about for many years. There are an estimated 500-600+ known with most in the VF to EF range. Any 1856 double eagle that grades AU55 or better is very scarce and this date is quite rare in Uncirculated with just 15-25 accounted for. I have only seen one or two that I graded MS63 and another half dozen or so that I thought graded MS62. An auction record was set by Bowers and Merena 1/08: 584, an NGC MS63 example that was bid up to $27,600. Most 1856 double eagles are very heavily scuffed and the vast majority have unoriginal coloration. Finding an example with good eye appeal is quite a challenge and even though price levels have risen quite a bit for the 1856 in the last few years, I think nice pieces are still vastly underpriced.

1857: For many years, the 1857 was regarded as a common date and lumped with the 1851-1853 issues. We now know that this is not true and my best estimate is that only 900-1200+ are known. The 1857 is more available in higher grades than the 1855 and 1856 with as many as 30-50 known. I have seen two that grade MS64 and another two or three in MS63. Many 1857 double eagles show a below average strike and most have poor luster and very heavily bagmarked surfaces. It has become very hard to locate a piece with original color as well. In my opinion, the 1857 remains undervalued, especially in AU55 and higher grades.

1858: With a mintage figure that is less than half that of the 1857, one would expect the 1858 to be a much scarcer date. These two issues are similar in terms of overall rarity but the 1858 is scarcer in high grades. There are just twenty to thirty known in Uncirculated and I have never seen a piece that graded higher than MS63. Eye appeal is a real problem for the 1858 double eagle and the typical example is somewhat softly struck, subdued in appearance and heavily bagmarked. The price of this date in AU and above has risen in the last few years but I feel the 1858 double eagle is still an excellent value as it possible to purchase a very presentable example for less than $5,000.

1859: When my Type One book was published, I stated that the 1859 was the fourth rarest Type One double eagle from the Philadelphia mint. Because of the aforementioned shipwrecks and other hoards, I now think that the 1859 could well be the rarest Type One from this mint. And if it isn’t the rarest, it is certainly the hardest issue to locate with good eye appeal in higher grades. Virtually every 1859 double eagle I have seen is very heavily abraded and these marks are often in prime focal points such as the left obverse field or on the face of Liberty. While the strike tends to be good, the level of eye appeal is nearly always well below average. I believe that there are around 200-250 known including five to seven in Uncirculated. I have only seen one in MS62 and another three in MS61.

1860: The 1860 is a date that is actually a bit more available than one might expect considering its mintage of 577,670. There are an estimated 2,000 known including as many as 100 in Uncirculated. PCGS has graded one in MS65 and NGC graded the finest of the S.S. Republic coins MS65 as well. This is generally a well-produced year and there are still some examples around that have nice color and good luster. The 1860 tends to come with fewer bagmarks than some of the issues from the mid-to-late 1850’s and the collector should be able to find a pleasing piece if he is patient.

1861: Until the discovery of the S.S. Central America treasure, the 1861 was easily the most common Type One double eagle. Today, it is the second most available after the 1857-S. There are at least 4,000-5,000 known and the actual number could be even higher. This is an easy issue to locate in higher grades with coins in MS61, MS62 and even MS63 sometimes available. As such, it makes a good type coin for the collector who prefers a Type One double eagle that is not from a shipwreck. The finest known is an amazing PCGS MS67 that brought $181,500 all the way back in October 1989 when it was sold at auction. I still regard that coin as the single best business strike regular issue Type One double eagle that I have seen.

1862: For many years, the 1862 was a sleeper date that had attained virtual cult status among the small number of people who collected Type One double eagles. Today, its rarity is better known and its value has increased accordingly. I regard it, along with the 1859, as one of the two hardest Philadelphia issues of this type to find although it is more available in higher grades than its counterpart. This is another date for which eye appeal is a problem. Many 1862 double eagles have very heavily abraded surfaces and the luster is sometimes impaired as a result. There are around a dozen or so known in Uncirculated. This includes a solitary NGC MS64 and a combined four in MS63 between PCGS and NGC. The 1862 remains an extremely challenging issue to locate in all grades and it should prove to be one of the tougher holes to fill in any Type One set.

1863: Until the discovery of a number of higher grade examples in the S.S. Republic treasure, high grade examples of the 1863 were extremely rare. Today there are around three dozen known in Uncirculated including one in MS64 and four in MS63. The eye appeal of this date tends to be significantly better than that seen on the 1862. The 1863 is reasonably well struck and original examples show very nice coloration. Many have been cleaned at one time and I have seen more “no grade” examples of this date than nearly any other Type One double eagle from the Civil War era. The coins from the shipwreck have a very unique (and cosmetically appealing) appearance that makes them easy to distinguish from non-shipwreck coins. They tend to have somewhat grainy luster and lack the extensive marks found on most 1863 double eagles.

1864: There are many more 1864 double eagles known today than back when I produced my Type One book. The majority of the new high grade 1864’s are from the S.S. Republic shipwreck which contained at least seventeen Uncirculated examples. Most were in the MS60 to MS62 range and the 1864 remains extremely rare in MS63 or better. Non-shipwreck examples tend to be a bit scuffy in appearance and have frosty luster. From time to time, original pieces are offered for sale and they tend to show attractive deep green-gold or orange hues. In my opinion, the 1864 remains a scarce and undervalued date that does not receive the attention that the (now) better known 1862 and 1863 are showered with.

1865: Close to three hundred Uncirculated 1865 double eagles were found on the S.S. Republic. Obviously, the rarity profile of this date has changed dramatically in recent years and the 1865 has gone from being very rare in higher grade to reasonably common. Some of the coins from the shipwreck were quite spectacular and the best pieces include one in MS66 and no less than two dozen in MS65.

What exactly is it about the Philadelphia Type One issues that appeals most to me? I would have to say that it is value. Unlike smaller denomination coins from this era, there is enough demand for double eagles that there are not many absurdly undervalued issues. But that said, there are a number of Philadelphia double eagles from the 1850’s that can be obtained in decidedly above average condition (in most cases AU55 to AU58) for well under $5,000. I also like the fact that the Philadelphia issues are completable by the collector of average means (unlike the New Orleans coins of this era which have become the playground of wealthy collectors). If I were going to focus on Type Ones, I would work on a set of nicely-matched AU55 to AU58 coins with choice original color and surfaces.

For more information about Type One double eagles, please feel free to contact me via email at

Philadelphia No Motto Half Eagles & Eagles

I’m beginning to gain a new-found appreciation for --gasp!-- No Motto half eagles and eagles from the Philadelphia mint. Read on for some thoughts about these coins and why I’m beginning to see them in a new light. As I’ve mentioned more than once, No Motto half eagles and eagles from Philadelphia have never ranked high on the list of popular coins in the world of DWN. I’ve found these coins to be somewhat mundane and boring and haven’t really bothered all that much with them. So what’s happening to change my mind?

I love originality. It saddens me to see that such a large percentage of branch mint gold issues have been scrubbed and processed and now look like Frankencoins. Ironically, because of their lack of popularity, the major coin doctors have (temporarily) ignored No Motto Philadelphia half eagles and eagles. In essence, the connoisseur of truly original mid-19th century coins has almost nowhere to turn other than Philadelphia.

This was really clear to me when I was viewing the recent auctions in Milwaukee as part of the ANA festivities. I disliked most of the branch mint coins. But I saw a decent number of No Motto Philadelphia half eagles and eagles in the AU50 to MS63 range that were choice, original and quite attractive. Had my anti-Philadelphia gold prejudice begun to fall by the wayside?

Now, before you drop your jaw on the table and think that I’ve committed numisheresy, let me expand on what I just stated. I’m certainly not abandoning my strong interest in branch mint coins and starting to focus on Philadelphia coins; that’s far from the case. What I am realizing, though, is that these Philly issues may be more interesting than I thought.

Here’s a few reasons why I like these coins:

    The collector of average means can put together nice date runs from the 1840’s and the 1850’s. As an example, there are really no rare Philadelphia half eagles struck between 1839 and 1861. Nearly every date can be found in nice AU55 to AU58 for well under $2,000 (in some cases under $1,000). If you can’t afford a nice collection of Charlotte, Carson City, Dahlonega or New Orleans gold, you can still participate in the Philadelphia gold market.

    The coins are well made and are found with original surfaces with greater frequency than their branch mint counterparts. For the collector who insists on originality, you will find many more attractive pieces than in the branch mint series.

    This is a virtually uncollected area. Good news: you have very little competition. Bad news: when you go to sell your collection, no one may care.

    If you like varieties, this is a very fertile area. Other than Harry Bass, almost no one has ever searched through these issues for major varieties and I’m willing to bet some very interesting coins are awaiting discovery.

    No Motto Philadelphia half eagles and eagles are close to a century older than Indian head half eagles and eagles yet they offer the gold coin collector a lot more bang for the buck. $2,500 won’t buy you very much in the way of an interesting or rare Indian Head half eagle. But it will buy you a pretty scarce Liberty Head half eagle from the 1840’s.

    Unlike some of the 20th century gold series, No Motto Philadelphia gold has never really been promoted or heavily marketed. Price levels have stayed flat for many years and there are some real sleepers in both the half eagle and eagle series awaiting discovery by the student of the series. As I stated above, I’m not planning on abandoning my focus on branch mint gold coins any time soon. But after some careful thinking, I’ve decided that maybe No Motto Philadelphia gold coins aren’t the Numismatic Pariah that I thought they were for many years.

Low Mintage Philadelphia Double Eagles

One of my favorite groups of coins are the low mintage Philadelphia double eagles produced in 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886 and 1891. During this five year period, only 5,911 business strikes were produced; an average of just 1,182 pieces per year. Despite the obvious rarity of these coins, they are still overlooked by many collectors. A total of 2,199 business strike 1881 double eagles were produced. Estimates of the surviving population range from a low of 25-35 to a high of 35-40. This date is usually seen in the EF40 to AU50 grade range and it becomes extremely rare in AU55 and above. To the best of my knowledge there are just two examples known in Uncirculated. One of these, ex: Heritage 1/07: 3203 (graded MS61 by PCGS) sold for a record $138,000. The other, ex: Goldberg 5/05: 1086 ($69,000), Heritage 6/04: 349 ($57,500), ANR 3/04: 1067 ($39,100; as PCGS MS60) is now graded MS61 by PCGS.

Price levels for this date in Uncirculated have, obviously, increased dramatically in recent years. But this date seems like very good value in EF and AU grades. Trends is $18,000 in EF45, $25,000 in AU50 and $30,000 in AU55. Given the fact that the last Uncirculated 1881 to trade brought more than double Trends (which is $60,000 in MS60), my feeling is that EF and AU Trends are considerably out of date.

In 1882, the mintage figure for business strike double eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint dropped to a record low 571 coins. I regard this as the single rarest Type Three double eagle in business strike form and the number known is probably in the range of 20-25 coins. I am aware of two or three in Uncirculated. The finest is owned by a prominent Midwestern collector and is ex: Dallas Bank Collection (Stack’s/Sotheby’s 10/01: 88) where it brought $86,250. It is now in a PCGS MS61 holder. In January 2007, Heritage sold a PCGS MS60 for a whopping $138,000. This coin had first appeared in their 2000 ANA auction where it went unsold.

While far less underappreciated than the 1881, the 1882 is still an excellent value when compared to the rare date Type One double eagles from New Orleans. The 1882 is just a bit less rare than the celebrated 1854-O and 1856-O double eagles yet it sells for about a fifth of the price of these two issues in AU grades.

In 1883 and 1884, only Proof double eagles were produced in Philadelphia. Business strikes resumed in 1885 but only 751 pieces were struck.

When I first became interested in double eagles (back in the early to mid 1980’s), this date was almost impossible to find and it was considered a major rarity on par with the 1881 and 1882. It seems that a small hoard reached the market in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s and today the 1885 is a bit more available in circulated grades than one might assume given its incredibly low mintage figure. I think around four to five dozen are known with most in the AU50 to AU55 range. There may be as many as eight or nine known in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS62 range.

There are two known in MS63. The first, which was graded by PCGS, is owned by a prominent Midwestern collector and it is the finest known. The second, also in a PCGS MS63 holder, is ex: Bowers and Merena 2003 ANA: 4291 ($50,600), Kingswood 2/00: 882 ($39,100).

The 1885 is the most affordable of these five issues. I recently sold a nice EF45 example in the mid-$10’s and have handled two attractive AU58’s within the last two years in the $25,000-30,000 range.

Production of business strike double eagles in Philadelphia shot up to a “whopping” 1,000 coins in 1886. This date has a much lower survival rate than the 1885 and it is actually close to the 1881 and 1882 in terms of overall rarity. At one time, it was believed that as few as 15-18 pieces were known. I feel that the correct number is more in the 25-30 range. This includes a greater number of lower grade coins than the 1881, 1882 and 1885; the 1886 is sometimes seen in the VF-EF range.

There are at least three 1886 double eagles known in Uncirculated. The finest by a vast margin is the PCGS MS63 owned by a Midwestern collector. There is also a PCGS MS61 that was last sold as Lot 7845 in the Heritage March 1998 auction (where it brought $35,075) and a PCGS MS60 which I have not seen or been able to trace its pedigree.

The price appreciation for this date has been pretty amazing in the last few years. As an example, in January 2004, Heritage sold a PCGS AU55 example for $24,150. In January 2007, another PCGS AU55 brought $69,575. It is also interesting to note that Trends for this date in AU55 is still just $40,000.

After a year in which only Proof double eagles were struck at the Philadelphia mint (1887), production of business strikes increased dramatically from 1888 to 1890. But in 1891, production was severely curtailed and only 1,390 business strikes were made.

For many years, the 1891 was regarded as the major sleeper in the Type Three series by gold coin experts. Only 35-45 coins are known but this issue traded in the $12,500-17,500 range in AU grades until recently. The 1891 is, curiously, as rare as the more celebrated 1882 and 1886 in Uncirculated. I am aware of just two that qualify as such. The best is the amazing NGC MS64 from the Dallas Bank Collection that is owned by the same Midwestern collector who is mentioned frequently throughout this blog. This coin realized $80,500 when it was first offered in 2001. It brought $155,200 five years later when Heritage offered it in their January 2005 auction.

This group of five Type Three Liberty Head double eagles is not as well known as The Fab Five St. Gaudens double eagles or as popular as the rare Type One issues from New Orleans but it is a remarkable and highly challenging group that is clearly worth careful examination by the serious, deep-pocketed collector.

First-Year-of-Issue Gold Coins

In this strong market one of the areas that has performed best are first-year-of-issue gold pieces. Coins like the 1839-O quarter eagle, the 1854-D and 1854-O Three Dollar gold, the 1838 eagle and the 1850 double eagle have appreciated greatly in price. But there are a few first-year-of-issue gold coins that have fallen through the cracks. Three of these are the 1840 quarter eagle, the 1839 half eagle and the 1839 Type of 1840 eagle. All three are scarce and important issues that I feel are undervalued. The 1840 quarter eagle is the first Philadelphia mint Liberty quarter eagle. There were a total of 18,859 examples produced of which an estimated 70 to 80 coins exist. This date is typically seen with a considerable degree of wear and probably 75% of the known examples are in the Fine to EF45 range. In AU, the 1840 quarter eagle is scarce and it is quite rare in Uncirculated. Until a few years ago, this date was essentially unknown above AU but a small group of nice Uncirculated coins were found around 1993-94 and were subsequently sold in a Superior auction a few years later. The 1840 quarter eagle can sometimes be found in nice AU for under $5,000. I recently purchased a lovely NGC MS64 example, which is among the finest known, for a touch over $17,000 and this seemed to me to be a great deal. Interestingly, PCGS has only graded 51 examples of this date in all grades compared to 88 examples of the 1840-C and 63 of the 1840-O. The very highly regarded 1840-D, with a tiny original mintage of 3,532, has a total population of 47 and it is generally priced at two to three times more than the 1840 quarter eagle in EF and AU grades.

I’ve always really liked the 1839 half eagle. It’s not a really rare coin given that the original mintage is 118,143. But it has a great design and it is historically significant as the only Liberty Head half eagle from this mint struck in the 1830’s. It is generally very well made and can be found with nice color, luster and surfaces. There are probably 200-300 pieces known and they can be found without a great deal of effort in VF and EF grades. Nice AU’s are moderately scarce and I would estimate that somewhere in the area of 15 or so are known in Uncirculated including four or five in MS63 and better. You can sometimes find nice AU pieces for sale for under $4,000 and I think this is a very attractive price for a coin that is as scarce and historically significant as the 1839 half eagle.

Two types of eagle were struck in 1839. The first (and more common) shows the same obverse as the 1838 eagle. The second has the same design as the 1840. The so-called 1839 Type Of 1840 eagle is an extremely scarce coin and one of my favorite sleepers in the entire Liberty Head eagle series. Of the 12,447 produced, only 45-55 are known and most grade EF40 and below. This coin is extremely scarce in AU and I can not recall having seen more than five or six properly graded AU pieces in the last two decades of specializing in 19th century gold. In Uncirculated this is an excessively rare coin with perhaps three known, the finest of which is the incredible Pittman coin which is now in an NGC MS64 holder. Of the three coins mentioned in this article, the 1839 Type of 1840 eagle is the most expensive but it probably has the most upside potential for the future.

I could easily have chosen another three (or more) examples of first-year-of-issue dates that are much undervalued. You’ll note that the ones I selected are all from the Philadelphia mint but I can think of a number from San Francisco (the 1854-S eagle comes to mind) and New Orleans (the 1841-O eagle is an obvious selection). With a little research, the collector should be able to figure out some pieces that offer excellent future potential and which will be nice additions to a collection of 19th and 20th century United States gold coinage.

Fifteen Philly Faves: Underrated 19th Century Gold Coinage From The Philadelphia Mint

To older generations of gold coin collectors, the Philadelphia mint was the prime area of focus. Very few collectors had an interest in items from the branch mints. This can be seen when looking back at the auction sales conducted by such hall-of-fame names as the Chapman Brothers, B. Max Mehl and Wayte Raymond. This situation changed in the 1950's when collectors were first alerted to the rarity and great value of the branch mint issues. Today, it is interesting note that the coins from Charlotte, Carson City, New Orleans and Dahlonega are very popular while the rare issues from the "mother mint" of Philadelphia lack a strong collector base. There are a number of Philadelphia gold coins that are, in my opinion, extremely undervalued in comparison to their branch mint counterparts. For the sake of convenience (and space limitations) I am going to focus on fifteen of my favorite Philadelphia gold issues. I could have easily added fifteen more coins to this list and would still, no doubt, be reminded of more by readers.

1. 1863 Gold Dollar

Despite comparatively low original mintage figures, most post-Civil War gold dollars are relatively common due to hoarding. The 1863 is the second rarest gold dollar from the Philadelphia mint (trailing only the ultra low mintage 1875) and I feel it is an underappreciated issue. It is almost never seen in grades below About Uncirculated-55, which suggests that most pieces did not reach general circulation. The overall survival rate is quite low with an estimated 60-80 known from the original of 6,200 business strikes. There are some really superb pieces known including a PCGS MS-68 but this is a truly hard issue to find and, like all Philadelphia gold coinage dated 1863, it is undervalued in all grades.

2. 1865 Gold Dollar

The 1865 gold dollar has a lower original mintage figure than the 1863 (only 3,700 business strikes were produced) but is more available in all grades. I still regard it as an undervalued date as current price levels for a nice Mint State-60 to Mint State-62 are in the $1,250-2,500 range, which is very reasonable for a coin which is as scarce as this. The 1865 gold dollar has a grade distribution pattern which is similar to 1863. It is almost never seen in circulated grades and over half of the known survivors are gems. I have seen a superb PCGS MS-68 and a few others that were nearly as choice, including a PCGS MS-67 that sold for $15,238 in the Heritage March 1999 auction.

3. 1839 Quarter Eagle

In the Classic Head quarter eagle series, it's the mintmarked issues that get all of the attention. Ironically, it's the humble 1839 Philadelphia quarter eagle that is probably the rarest single issue. This date is seen from time to time in low grades. Properly graded About Uncirculated pieces, especially those with original color, are very rare. I've only seen two or three Uncirculated examples with the best of these being the PCGS MS-62 that realized $10,925 in the Bass II sale in October 1999. When available, About Uncirculated 1839 quarter eagles trade for $2,000-4,000. When you compare the rarity of this issue to the 1839-C and the 1839-D, it is easy to see just how significantly undervalued the 1839 quarter eagle truly is.

4. 1843 Quarter Eagle This date has always been a complete mystery to me. The original mintage figure is reported to be over 100,000 coins, meaning that it should be very common. In fact, the 1843 quarter eagle is very scarce in all grades and very rare in full Mint State. Nice circulated examples, when available, trade for below $1,000 which seems incredibly low for a coin with this degree of overall scarcity. The finest piece I have seen was Lot 345 in the October 1999 Bass II sale. This coin, which was graded Mint State-64 by PCGS, sold for $12,650 and is now in a prominent midwestern collection.

5. 1844 Quarter Eagle

A number of Philadelphia quarter eagles from the mid to late 1840's are very scarce and undervalued. I chose the 1844 from this group but could have just as easily selected the 1846, 1847 or 1848. Only 6,784 examples of the 1844 were produced and an estimated 50-60 are known today. Most are in the Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated-50 range. This date becomes very rare in About Uncirculated-55 and it is extremely rare in About Uncirculated-58. I have seen two pieces in Mint State-61 holders but am not aware of a single 1844 quarter eagle that is unequivocally Uncirculated. At current price levels ($3,000-4,000 for an AU-55), high end examples of this date are grossly undervalued.

6. 1865 Three Dollar Gold

The enigmatic Three Dollar series contains a number of rare and desirable issues. The 1865 is one of my absolute favorites and it is an issue that I feel is very undervalued. There were just 1,140 pieces struck and an estimated 50-75 are known today. The majority grade About Uncirculated-50 to About Uncirculated-58 and are characterized by fully reflective prooflike fields. In Uncirculated, the 1865 is very rare with around a dozen known. There are two or three in Mint State-66 and another two or three gem MS-65's. None has been available for a number of years and the best I can recall having seen was a very high end NGC MS-65 (now in an MS-66 holder) that David Akers sold for $44,000 in his May 1998 auction.

7. 1877 Three Dollar Gold

The mid to late 1870's is an extremely interesting era for the three dollar gold piece. The 1874 and the 1878 are the two most common dates of this entire type while the 1875 and the 1876 are extremely rare Proof-only issues. The 1877 is an issue that is similar in rarity to a number of the popular issues from the 1860's but it tends to be overlooked by many collectors. There were only 1,468 business strikes produced of which an estimated four to five dozen are known today. Unlike some of the issues from the 1860's, there are no gems and with the exception of the PCGS MS-64 that was sold in October 1999 by Bowers and Merena as part of the Bass collection, none have surfaced in many years that I felt were unquestionably Mint State. Nice About Uncirculated coins are quite rare and, in my opinion, excellent values in the $6,000-9,000 range.

8. 1842 Large Letters Half Eagle

There were two varieties of half eagle produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1842: the Small Letters and the Large Letters. The Large Letters is far and away the scarcer of the two and it is among the rarest No Motto half eagles. The population data from PCGS and NGC is inaccurate for this variety as it was only recognized a few years ago. In my opinion, there are around 35-45 pieces known with most in the Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated-50 range. Nice AU's are quite rare and very undervalued with a few certified About Uncirculated-55 to 58 coins having sold at auction in recent years in the $4,000-8,000 range. The best 1842 Large Letters half eagle I have seen by a huge margin was the Pittman I coin which sold for $17,6000 in October 1997. This coin is now in a PCGS Mint State-63 holder.

9. 1850 Half Eagle

The Philadelphia No Motto half eagles from 1843 to 1857 are considerably more available in all grades that their counterparts from 1858 through the end of the Civil War. These dates have comparatively high original mintages figures and some very choice pieces are sometimes available. The one exception is the 1850, which has proven to be elusive in all grades and very rare in Mint State. This issue is actually harder to locate than either the 1850-C or 1850-D half eagle but is priced at a fraction of the two branch mint issues. I recently sold a very nice PCGS AU-58 for under $2,000 and have seen Mint State-61 to Mint State-62 examples bring in the $3,500-4,500 range. I am aware of only one gem 1850 half eagle, an NGC MS-65 which brought an incredible $63,250 when Stack's auctioned it in the May 1995 Milas sale.

10. 1863 Half Eagle

The Philadelphia half eagles produced from 1862 to 1872 are all very rare, low mintage issues. The 1865 is probably the best known of these but it is already an expensive coin in higher grades. In my experience, the ultra low mintage 1863 is nearly as rare and its current price level is significantly lower than the 1865. There were only 2,442 1863 half eagles struck and many were melted or otherwise lost. Today, just 25-35 pieces are known with most in the Very Fine-30 to Extremely Fine-40 range. In About Uncirculated, this is an extremely rare coin with six to eight accounted for. I have never seen or heard of an Uncirculated 1863 half eagle and the finest I know of is the PCGS AU-58 Bass II coin that brought a very reasonable $13,800 in October 1999.

11. 1843 Eagle

The 1843 eagle is an issue that receives almost no attention from non-specialists. It has a relatively high original mintage figure and is not especially scarce in the Very Fine and Extremely Fine grade range. But this date is far from common in the lower About Uncirculated grades and it is very rare in About Uncirculated-55. I have only seen two pieces that I would grade About Uncirculated-58 and have never seen or heard of a fully Mint State example. There are a number of interesting varieties known including a noticeably doubled date and a triple punched date which is very rare. If available, a nice AU would trade for $3,000-5,000. There are not many other No Motto eagle issue which still offer Condition Census opportunities in this price range.

12. 1864 Eagle

All of the Civil War and Reconstruction era Philadelphia eagles are very rare, low mintage coins. I chose the 1864 due to its overall rarity and the fact that a very presentable example is currently priced in the $2,500-5,000 range; considerably less than other rare eagles of this era. Of the 3,530 1864 eagles originally made, an estimated 35-45 are known today. This includes seven to nine that grade About Uncirculated plus another two or three Mint State examples. I recently sold a very nice PCGS About Uncirculated-50 example in the $5,000 range. The collector who purchased the coin stated that in comparison to the overheated modern coin market, this 1864 eagle seemed like great value. I was quick to agree.

13. 1856 Double Eagle

The 1856 double eagle is usually lumped with the 1851-1855 Philadelphia issue when discussing the rarity of Type One issues from this mint. It is actually a much scarcer date than these others, especially in About Uncirculated-58 and higher grades. The typical 1856 is very heavily abraded with poor color and inferior luster. I have actively searched for high grade 1856 double eagles for a number of years and have generally paid well over published price level for the few coins that I have been offered. But I am convinced that this is a truly hard coin to find with good eye appeal and that it is due for a sharp price correction upwards. I am aware of just one Uncirculated coin, a PCGS Mint State-62, that has traded hands in recent years. It was sold as Lot 787 in the May 2000 Bass III auction and it brought $10,350.

14. 1862 Double Eagle

The 1862 is the rarest Type One double eagle from this mint. It is quite scarce in all grades and it becomes rare in About Uncirculated. While the demand for this issue has risen dramatically in recent years (the same can be said for all Type One double eagles), published price levels have not changed. This means that knowledgeable collectors and dealers will readily pay considerable more than Coin Dealer Newsletter levels for nearly any 1862 double eagle. As an example, I recently sold a PCGS Mint State-62 (formerly Lot 809 from the Bass III sale) for more than the current CDN Quarterly Bid for a Mint State-63. This is one of the most popular mid-19th century gold coins as indicated by the fact that most dealers who specialize in rare gold have multiple want lists for 1862 double eagles.

15. 1863 Double Eagle

If the 1862 is the most undervalued Type One double eagle, the 1863 is a close second. This is another date that had most of its mintage lost to melting and there are now just a few hundred pieces remaining out of the original 142,790 that were struck. The 1863 is more available in About Uncirculated than the 1862 but it is still very scarce. In Uncirculated, it is extremely rare with just five to seven pieces known. The Dallas Bank and Bass collections did not contain an 1863 double eagle that graded higher than Extremely Fine; the Eagle collection had an NGC About Uncirculated-58 that was very enthusiastically graded. I have not personally seen a coin that I graded better than About Uncirculated-53 in a number of years.

Runners Up

Gold Dollars: 1856 Upright 5, 1873 Closed 3 Quarter Eagles: 1842, 1846, 1847, 1848, 1849, 1867, 1872, 1883, 1884 Three Dollars: 1858, 1881, 1884 Half Eagles: 1858, 1860, 1869 Eagles: 1839 Head of 1840, 1844, 1845, 1846, 1889 Double Eagles: 1854 Large Date, 1859

Type One Philadelphia Double Eagles: A Date By Date Analysis

The Philadelphia mint struck Type One double eagles between 1850 and 1865. This is an extremely interesting group of sixteen dates (plus varieties), which run the gamut from common to rare. In my opinion, they are the best value among Type One double eagles. They are much more affordable than their New Orleans counterparts and far scarcer than the issues from San Francisco. This is a set that can be completed in reasonably high grades by the collector of average means but it will prove challenging to find nice, original examples of most of these dates. 1850: A very popular issue due to its status as a first-year-of issue date. The 1850 is known for having a very good strike and nice luster. Original pieces exhibit attractive orange-gold or deep rose-gold coloration. This date has risen considerably in price in the past three years but is still a good value in the mid-level AU grades and above. It is sometimes seen in MS-60 to MS-62 but it becomes quite rare in MS-63 and is extremely rare above this.

1851: The most available date from this decade along with the 1852 but still not a common coin in higher grades. There are a number of decent AU's around but properly graded Uncirculated 1851 double eagles are quite scarce and any that grades MS-62 or better is rare. Higher grade examples often have nice color and good luster but exhibit numerous wispy hairlines. Circulated pieces are prone to show bagmarks or deep abrasions. This is an issue that the collector would do well to be patient and wait for the right piece for his collection.

1852: The 1852 is similar in rarity to the 1851. It is common in lower grades and only moderately scarce in AU-55 to AU-58. In Uncirculated it is quite scarce and rare in MS-62 or better. Most are well struck and have good luster but are prone to display heavy bagmarks. As with the 1851's, a number of higher grade 1852 double eagles have great color and luster but show fine hairlines on the surfaces. An interesting variety in known that shows strong doubling on the date. If you want a single "type coin" from the 1850's, this is probably the best choice.

1853: The 1853 is not a rare date but it is much harder to locate than the 1851 or 1852. In the higher AU grades, it is scarcer than most people realize and it is rare and very underrated in Uncirculated. I have not seen more than a handful that grade MS-62 and just one or two that were better than this. As a rule, the 1853 is found with minor weakness of strike at the centers and heavily marked surfaces. The natural coloration is medium to deep orange-gold. There are varieties known with repunching on the 3 in the date (common) and with noticeable repunching on the entire date (rare).

1853/2: The only unquestioned overdate in the entire Liberty Head double eagle and one of the key issues in higher grades. Easily identifiable by the presence of a raised die dot below the RT in LIBERTY. Usually found in Extremely Fine grades and very scarce in the lower range of AU; very rare in AU-55 to AU-58 and extremely rare in Mint State. I have only seen three Uncirculated pieces, all of which graded MS-61. Every 1853/2 double eagle I am aware of is extensively abraded and very few have not been cleaned or dipped. If you have a chance to buy a piece that grades AU-50 or better and is clean for the grade, I would highly suggest you "go for it."

1854: The 1854 is one of the more common Philadelphia type one issues in terms of its overall rarity but it is much harder to find in high grades than the 1851 or the 1852. In AU-58, the 1854 is very scarce and it is quite rare in Uncirculated. I have only seen one or two that I graded MS-63 and none better. As a rule, the 1854 is very heavily abraded and is characterized by dull grainy luster. A number of pieces have mint-made planchet problems. Most show a small date. A rare and undervalued variety has a large date punch. The large date is extremely rare in Uncirculated and is grossly undervalued in AU-50 and above.

1855: The 1855 ushers in a quintet of scarce, underrated double eagles from this mint. While available in lower grades, this date is very scarce in properly graded AU-55 to AU-58 and very rare in Uncirculated. Most of the few available Mint State coins are low-end and have extensive deep abrasions. The typical 1855 is relatively wells truck with deep green-gold color. Many have been dipped or cleaned and most are riddled with bagmarks. Attractive, original pieces are undervalued at current levels.

1856: My favorite "sleeper" issue from the 1850's. While fairly common in lower grades, the 1856 is very scarce in the higher AU grades and very rare in Uncirculated. In the past five years, I have only seen three Uncirculated examples of this date and not all that many nice AU-58's. Most 1856 double eagles have heavily marked surfaces and grainy, dull surfaces. A number have mint-made planchet problems. At current price levels, this date is very good value.

1857: The 1857 is not as scarce as the 1854-1856 issues, especially in higher grades. However, this is still far from being a common date and most are seen in lower grades. Nice AU-55 to AU-58 examples are scarce and Uncirculated pieces are rare. This is generally a well struck and lustrous date but many higher grade pieces have serious mint-made planchet problems. A number have been cleaned and the few that show original color are worth a substantial premium over the typical example.

1858: Generally regarded as a fairly common issue but actually quite scarce in any grade above AU-50. This is a very rare coin in Uncirculated and most of the higher grade pieces have mint-made planchet problems or noticeable marks. Often found with heavy abrasions and unappealing deep coloration or very bright from overzealous cleanings and/or dippings. I think the 1858 double eagle is a great value at current price levels, especially in the AU-55 to MS-62 grade range.

1859: This is the rarest Philadelphia double eagle from the 1850's and it is one of the rarest of all the Type One issues in high grade. Nearly every one I have seen has extensively abraded surfaces and most have been cleaned at one time. Any piece with minimal detracting marks and original color is extremely desirable. The 1859 is very rare in the higher AU grades and it is an extreme rarity in Uncirculated. I have only seen three or four Uncirculated coins and none were better than MS-61.

1860: The 1860 is among the more available Type One issues from this mint, although it is considerably more scarce than the 1861. It is often seen with a good strike and nice luster. The natural coloration is often an attractive rose-gold shade. There are some very high grade examples known (MS-63 to MS-65) and these are similar enough in appearance to suggest a small hoard many have existed at one time. Nice MS-60 to MS-62 1860 double eagles remain an excellent value at current levels.

1861: In anticipation of the approaching Civil War, the mintage figure for double eagles skyrocketed in 1861. This is the most common Type One double eagle and before the discovery of the S.S. Central America, it was the most available date in higher grades. The 1861 is fairly easy to find in MS-60 to MS-62 grades but it remains rare in MS-63 and very rare in any grade higher. There are some extremely nice pieces available with great luster and color but most offered for sale have been cleaned and are extensively abraded.

1862: The 1862 has long been one of my favorite double eagles of any type. This is a scarce date in all grades and it is the rarest Type One issue in higher grades (AU-50 and better). I feel it is extremely undervalued and it generally trades and substantial premiums above current published price guides. Most have inferior luster and are "baggy." A few very nice higher grade coins are known and these have good color and luster. They trade for very strong premiums among knowledgeable collectors.

1863: The 1863 is a bit less rare than the 1862 and it is slightly more available in premium quality grades. It is still a very scarce and undervalued coin that appears on many collector's want list. It is generally a well-made issue with good overall detail and attractive satiny to semi-prooflike luster. The natural coloration is medium to deep green-gold or orange-gold. Nearly every known example shows significant marks on the surfaces. The few nice 1863 double eagles I have seen in recent years have sold at levels exceeding "Trends" and "Quarterly Bid" so the collector should be willing to "step up" if the right coin becomes available.

1864: The 1864 is another very scarce Civil War date although not as much so as the 1862 and the 1863. It is generally seen in Extremely Fine and it is quite scarce in the lower to mid AU grades. The 1864 is quite rare in properly graded AU-58 and very rare in Uncirculated. Many show dark, unappealing coloration and most have poor eye appeal due to heavy surface marks. At current price levels ($4500-5000 for a nice AU-58) this date is a wonderful value, especially given the fact that it is essentially unobtainable in any Uncirculated grade.

1865: This is the final Type One double eagle from the Philadelphia mint. It is scarce, although not nearly as much as the 1862-64 issues. The 1865 is usually seen in EF-40 to AU-50 and it is very scarce in the higher AU grades. It is very rare in Uncirculated and the few that are known in this range are generally in the MS-60 to MS-61 range. This date tends to have better eye appeal than the 1862-64 and there are some nice, original 1865's available from time to time. An interesting variety is known with a noticeably repunched date. This is another issue that is a great value at current levels ($3000-3500 for a nice AU-58).

Type One Double Eagle Buying Tips

    Look for coins that are as original as possible. It is my opinion that, in the coming years, nice original examples of Type One Philadelphia double eagles will bring strong premiums over dipped, "typical" quality examples.

    Stretch on the rarities. The perfect Type One set would have very high end examples of dates such as the 1853/2, 1859, 1862 and 1863 and average to above-average examples of the 1851, 1852, 1853, and 1861.

    Don't pay a premium for varieties that are not yet recognized. The only Type One varieties that are widely recognized are the 1853/2 and the 1854 Large Date. Other varieties may become recognized in the future but they do not currently requite a premium to buy them. Become familiar with these and learn how to "cherrypick" them.

    Buy the coin and not the holder. There are PCGS and NGC Type One double eagles that are outstanding for the grade and there are those that are very low end.

Rarity Charts Overall Rarity

This chart ranks the Philadelphia Type One double eagles in terms of their overall rarity; i.e. the total number known to exist in all grades combined.

1. 1853/2

2. 1862

3. 1859

4. 1863

5. 1864

6. 1856

6 (tie). 1865

8. 1855

8 (tie). 1858

10. 1857

11. 1851

12. 1860

13. 1850

13 (tie). 1852

13 (tie). 1853

13 (tie). 1854

17. 1861

Premium Quality Rarity

This chart ranks the Philadelphia Type One double eagles in terms of their overall rarity; i.e. the total number known to exist in all grades combined.

1. 1862

2. 1853/2

3. 1863

4. 1859

5. 1856

6. 1864

7. 1855

8. 1858

9. 1857

10. 1865

11. 1854

12. 1850

13. 1853

14. 1851

15. 1852

16. 1860

17. 1861