The Third Annual RYK/DWN "Mashup"

Are you ready for a third RYK/DWN Mashup? Sure you are. Let’s get the background information out of the way and then get to the meat of the matter. This is, I believe, the third time collector Robert Kanterman and I have exchanged questions and answers about a variety of topics (the first was a two-part article). We’ve covered a lot of ground in the past; some of it warm and fuzzy, some of it, controversial, but all of it interesting and relevant. (Previous "installments" can be found here, here, and here.)

The format for this year is a bit different than in the past. I asked RYK five questions which he answered, and he did the same for me. After each of our respective answers, we each add some pithy comments. Simple, right?

Just remember the code: DW = Douglas Winter, head of Douglas Winter Numismatics, and gold coin specialist, while RYK = Robert Kanterman, collector extraordinaire, and popularizer of the DOG, or Dirty Original Gold coin.

Questions that DW asked RYK:

  1. What is the most undervalued series of us gold and what is the most overvalued? Why?

  2. If you had unlimited funds, what would you collect?

  3. What are three books on us gold you'd like to see written?

  4. Has grading gotten more conservative or looser in the last two years?

  5. Originality is finally in vogue. How much more are original coins worth versus commercial quality coins?

RYK’s answers with DW’s comments:

1. To be honest, I do not see anything that is truly undervalued at this point in time. If I had to pick one area, I would suggest that the most undervalued series of US gold to be No Motto Philly $5's and $10's. Some of these dates are really tough, and even the more common dates are tough to find in better grades and original condition.

The most overvalued areas to me are New Orleans and Carson City $20's. They are far more common than their valuations would suggest, especially the more prevalent dates (1851-O, 1852-O, 1875-CC, 1890-CC, etc.). I see 1851-O $20's in ugly XF going for $4500—which seems outrageous for an easy date/MM.

DW: Wow, what radiologist got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? I disagree about the “what’s undervalued” comment. I think there are dozens of good values to be had in the Liberty Head gold series. As an example, Philadelphia quarter eagles from the 1840’s and from the 1867-1877 date range are really good deals right now. There are many San Francisco quarter eagles and half eagles that can be bought for less than $5,000, which are rare both in terms of absolute and condition rarity. I think a case could be made for calling nearly any C or D mint coin in truly original EF and AU grades a relatively good value given how hard they’ve become to find. Even seemingly mundane coins like nice AU No Motto eagles from Philadelphia at $1,000-1,500 are great values for collectors. And I can think of many more examples!

I see RYK’s point about calling O mint and CC double eagles “overvalued,” but you have to remember that the demand for these coins is huge. When you could buy CC double eagles in EF for $1,500 these were just flat-out undervalued coins. At today’s levels they are clearly not cheap anymore. But always remember these coins are big, have a great story, and are promotable. To a new collector, a nice CC $20 at $3,000-5,000 still seems like a fair value.

2. My first stab at this was to pick proof $20 Libs—a big, beautiful trophy coin, if ever there were one. However, as infrequently as these appear on the market, and if you add some criteria for quality and originality, despite the unlimited funds, you might not be buying many coins.

More realistically, I think that I would rebuild a series like Dahlonega $5's in MS-62/3/4 and model it after the original Duke's Creek and Green Pond collections.

If I am allowed to stray outside US Mint gold coins, I would probably do something in territorials, perhaps a high-end type set.

Finally, outside US coins completely, and not requiring a huge budget, a Pillar dollar date set in original XF/AU is something that would be really cool and interesting to me.

DW: I’m a little surprised that RYK mentioned Proof $20 Libs as this doesn’t strike me as a very RYK-esque series. I would have actually guessed he’d have picked a date run of early gold; possibly Fat Head half eagles.

Love the idea about re-building the Duke’s Creek and Green Pond collections. Just let me say that if you decide to do so, I’m here to help!

Like the idea on Territorials, but I’d caution that buying these coins requires extreme knowledge of the series and a good working relationship with an informed, savvy dealer.

And I’m crazy about the Pillar Dollar date set. That would be something that I would actually like to do for myself. Or maybe a date run of Mexican 8 Escudos gold coinage.

3. A Collectors Guide to San Francisco Gold Coins (1854-1880) — notice the date range.

An Encyclopedia of Original XF Branch Mint Gold Coins, 1838-1861.

Gold Coin Collectors and Dealers of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

DW: I’ve been kicking around a SF gold coin book for years. I’d need help to do it and, unfortunately, the two dealers I asked to help have contributed a collective sum of zero pages. I agree with RYK that the post-1880 coins tend to be easily over-lookable and the real interest lies in the earlier issues.

The second book seems a little self-serving (bad RYK, bad!), but it gives me an idea. It would be neat to do a web-based photographic record of totally crusty individual coins filed by date. A photographic record, if you will, of DOG gold. I probably have enough photos already available to partially complete this project and, in fact, if you go to my "Coinapedia," you can get an idea of how many of these photos I already have. Anyone with web savvy care to help…?

The third project is kind of interesting as well; I’m assuming RYK would want biographic sketches of collectors and dealers who specialized in US gold coins. Pete Smith did a project along these lines around a decade ago that was outstanding.

4. To be honest, I submit very rarely, and only to PCGS. I think that there is a psychology to grading that leads to grading decisions that are greatly affected by the other coins that the grader has seen on a given day, in a given session, immediately before and after your coins, the mood, the last phone call with the spouse, the time of day, etc. That said, I will have to say that when grading my coins, the grading service seems more conservative than when they grade the next person's coins. ;)

On a more serious note, I have seen some overenthusiastic grading of special collections when they get evaluated as a group. I am not going to call anyone out, but most people will know what I am talking about.

I would say that grading has become more conservative over the last five to seven years, and I am not sure that I have noticed much change specifically in the last two. I do see fewer obvious problem coins in newer holders. Maybe we should say that the grading services are getting better (and maybe Don Willis and Scott Schechter will remember I said so next time I submit some coins).

DW: That is an excellent answer and there isn’t much I can add to it. I like RYK’s point about special collections being graded “specially,” but if I had a $5 million deal of, say, fresh Dahlonega half eagles, you are darn tootin’ that I’d expect the grading to be “enthusiastic.”

5. Originality is indeed in vogue, and I am going to take some credit for spreading the gospel. DOGs (Dirty Original Gold coins) rule!

That said, the premium is complicated but certainly exists in ways that are difficult to characterize or articulate. I will attempt to make my point:

  1. Original gold coins will sell much faster than non-original gold coins of the same grade. This is indisputable.
  2. The premium for the original coin can range from zero (if purchased from a seller who does not appreciate originality) to 100% or more. I think an average would be around 20-25%.
  3. Sometimes the obviously unoriginal coin lingers on the market for a very long time, and it is hard to ascribe a value to it.
  4. There are an increasing number of collectors, like myself, that are buying the right look, irrespective of the grade, and it is very hard to say what the premium for doing so is.

DW: Wow, this guy RYK, he’s a confident fellow, no? Taking credit for spreading the Gospel of Crust…wonder where he learned that from?

I couldn’t agree more with answer #1. If you look at what sells on my website, the crustiest coins are the best received. Duh.

What sort of premium do these coins sell for? Let’s take a random example. A decent, but not really nice, common date C mint half eagle in PCGS EF40 is worth around $2,000. The same date in EF40 but with a deserved CAC sticker (dark, mellow surfaces and few appreciable marks) is easily worth $2,300; maybe even $2,500. For a coin like an 1861-D gold dollar or an 1864-S half eagle, a completely crusty example could sell for a much bigger premium than this.

As a rule, I’d say that True Crust certainly adds 10-20% and in certain exceptional cases, the premium could easily be 50% or more.

Questions that RYK asked DW:

  1. Four gold coins that have risen dramatically in value over the last ten years are the 1861 branch mints. If you had to pick four to hold for the next ten years, and could not pick these, which four coins would you pick? Which group of four would you rather have?

  2. Many people say that today's modern coins are tomorrow’s classics. Do you see any future classics among today's moderns (post-1986)? If I made you choose one…

  3. Pocket change is becoming less and less a part of daily life. What impact, if any, will this have on specifically gold coin collecting, in your opinion?

  4. The current high-end coin marketplace is strongly influenced by the duopoly of PCGS and NGC (with some nudging from the CAC). 80 years ago, Ford and GM dominated the car marketplace. Under what circumstances do PCGS and NGC become lesser players, or even inconsequential? Same question for Heritage and Stacks-Bowers.

  5. What is the most expensive-liquid (high demand) gold coin and least expensive-illiquid (low demand) gold coin that surprised you among coins that you have owned, bought, or sold in the last couple years?

And a special “mulligan” question to be named later…you’ll have to read on to see the question and the answer!

DW’s Answers with RYK’s Comments:

1. It’s hard to narrow this down to four coins, but the following four were chosen for one or more of the following reasons: popularity, “uniqueness,” multiple levels of demand, standalone qualities. The four coins that I would pick, and some reasons why, are as follows:

  • 1854-S quarter eagle: This date has finally been recognized as a Classic Rarity but it is still wildly undervalued when compared to a coin like an 1894-S dime. I just bought the fifth finest known of 12-14 known for under $300,000 and, in the rarified air of Classic Rarities, this seems cheap to me.
  • 1870-CC eagle: Here is a coin with so much going for it: rare in all grades, first-year-of-issue and history out the wazoo. A lovely EF40 just sold for less than $50,000 and I think this is cheap, especially when compared to the only slightly rarer 1870-CC double eagle.
  • 1854-D three dollar: This is another issue that has everything going for it: low mintage, odd denomination, one year status, etc. It’s not as rare as you think it might be but most of the “AU” examples are stripped-n-dipped and a really nice, wholesome example at its current market value seems like good value.
  • 1875 eagle: This is not a cheap issue but I don’t think many people know how rare it is (well under 10 known business strikes) and how scuzzy most of the survivors are. Given how wildly popular Ten Libs have become, this is a coin I could expect selling for $500,000 or more in the near future with just a wee bit of promotion.

RYK: Those are all excellent choices, but in the spirit of one of my favorite Thanksgiving activities, I am going to throw the yellow flag for roughing the collector by including coins that are as scarce as 94-S dimes! I like the 70-CC $10 as a choice—I wish I purchased the XF-45 example one you had on your website when I first started coming around 11+ years ago. I am less enthusiastic about the 1854-D $3, in part because my enthusiasm for $3's has waned over the years. I might include such coins that are more available like the 1795 $5 (which seems to have backed off from recent highs), the 1838-D $5 (which continues to lose ground to the 1838-C $5), the 1838 $10, and the 1861-O $20.

2. Oh, great, you would have to ask me a question about moderns…a subject I know absolutely nothing about. So, how about those Blazers…

I’m sure there are future scarcities among the post-1986 coins, it’s just that I have no idea which these are.

And please make sure to take a breath mint on your way out the door….

After taking the Modern Coin Walk of Shame, the ever generous RYK asked me a question about a subject I actually know something about.


2a RYK: If you could have the entire series of Dahlonega $5's except, the 1861 (1838-1860), in circulated condition OR own only the 1861-D $5 in MS-62 from the series, which would you prefer? Assume the sum of the value of the 25 coins is roughly the same as the value of the 1861-D.

2a DWN: Hmmm…that’s a great question. My answer would depend on the quality of the coins themselves. If the 1861-D was just a so-so coin, I’d probably go for the quantity option. If the majority of the other coins were nice, I’d select that option. As an “investment” option, I’m pretty sure I’d want the 1861-D but from the standpoint of being a collector, I’s want the virtually-complete set of D mint fives.

RYK: In my question, I am assuming that all coins are quality for the grade and the sum of the value of the first 25 was about equal in value to the higher grade 1861-D...and I would select the One Coin (to rule them all...).

3. I don’t think that the direction we are taking to becoming cashless will impact collecting. I am not that old, but I can’t remember finding cool coins in change, and I still fell in love with coins at an early age.

Here in Portland, I am seeing a renaissance of old things. Young adults in their 20’s here love vinyl, they dig typewriters, and they go gaga for books and ‘zines. I can see this happening with coins as well. No more change makes these little round discs a lot more interesting.

RYK: I am going to agree with my friend from Oregon. Things that are obsolete become collectibles, and despite the fact that gold coins have not truly circulated for generations this has not limited their popularity. Just in case, I am going to buy my own smelter...

4. I could see something happening in the next decade to shatter the PCGS/NGC duopoly. What if exceptionally good counterfeits pass through the graders undetected? How would PCGS or NGC explain their inability to detect these coins? What if an insider trading/insider grading scandal rocked one of the services? It isn’t likely but it could possibly happen.

Or what if a better mousetrap is invented? Say someone patents really effective computer grading with the ability to interpret eye appeal?

Heritage and Stacks Bowers certainly control a good share of the market but they aren’t infallible. Say a hedge fund saw opportunity in the coin market and threw a lot of money at creating a firm to directly compete with the Big Two. It would be expensive but there is enough talent out there to topple them. And don’t forget about good old fashioned hubris. As you pointed out in your example above, Ford and GM seemed infallible but they never considered that the Japanese would make a better, cheaper product.

RYK: I am usually the last person to see the end of the line for a company, a fad, species, etc. That said, counterfeit holders (containing counterfeit or misrepresented coins) seem to be more likely to be a threat than counterfeit coins, at least in the near future. While on the surface, business seems to be booming at the Big Two, business conditions could change on a dime (no pun intended!), possibly leaving one of the other - or both - flatfooted. Perhaps if a consortium of very well respected numismatists came up with a better mousetrap, they could give some competitions, especially in the wake of a scandal or public controversy.

As for the auction environment, the Legend-Morphy entry, at the high end, and Great Collections, as a soup-to-nuts entry, both seem to have legs and are clearly taking away business from the Big Two. Neither of the new entrants currently seems to be a major threat to the dominance, but they are certainly chipping away.

Bottom line: ten years from now, Heritage and the latest iteration of Stacks-Bowers will still remain the Big Two, as will PCGS and NGC.

5. The most expensive ultra-liquid gold coin, in my opinion, is probably a Stella. They are worth $200,000+ for a nice one, but I could sell a bunch of them right now for a fair price and get paid within 72 hours. The least liquid would have to be in a very thinly traded area like patterns. If you had a High R-7 pattern (around 3-4 known) is might be a surprisingly hard sell if the one or two major collectors already had one.

RYK: I do not know much about Stellas (other than the fact that I once held five in one hand at lot viewing), but I probably should throw a penalty flag for illegal use of the pattern in a numismatic conversation, not once, but twice, in the same paragraph. My first thought was that the High Relief Saint was the most expensive and liquid gold coin, but coins like 70-CC $5 and $10, and 1861-D $1 and $5 sell very quickly when offered for a fixed price—almost no matter the price! I also continue to be surprised by the shipwreck coins, especially from the SS Central America, that sell for higher and higher prices as time goes by.

As far inexpensive but illiquid, in the context of gold coins, I would say that there seems to be a cadre of ugly, puttied, and/or otherwise abused gold coins from the southern branch mints that is perpetually available for sale.

So, there you have it. Another installment of the RYK/DWN Mashup!


Do you buy rare gold coins? Do you have gold coins you care to sell? Would you like to have the world’s leading expert work with you in assembling a set of coins? Contact Doug Winter via phone at (214) 675-9897 or email him at

The PCGS Set Registry for 19th Century Gold Collectors: Part One

This week the DWN Blog welcomes guest blogger Robert Kanterman.

I'd like to thank long-time DWN client and personal friend Robert "RYK" Kanterman for writing this excellent study on some of the potential avenues for the PCGS Set Registry which are available to collectors of 19th (and early 20th century) gold coinage. Robert's suggestions are followed by some of my own observations/comments. Please note that my comments appear in italics throughout this blog.

As a collector, I am always look for new ways to enjoy coin collecting, new directions to explore, and ideas to share with others who are similarly searching for collecting themes, especially when they are interested in collecting gold coins. In this two-part blog, I will discuss some gold coin collecting ideas offered by PCGS's very successful registry program, some of which are probably unknown to many gold coin collectors.

I will not be discussing the Indian gold series or Saint Gaudens double eagles, but will instead focus on 19th century gold and especially Liberty head series, 1838 through 1908. I am also going to focus on sets that do NOT require the purchase of coins that cost more than my first car (a 1984 Honda Accord - $9,700 in 1984; no 70-CC $20, or even 70-CC $10 or the like).

I will disclose that I have no financial affiliation with DWN or PCGS and that I have active registry sets in some of those that I will be discussing.

I.  Charlotte Basic Type Set: a gold dollar, quarter eagle, and half eagle. This trio can be completed in XF condition, with nice original coins, for much less than the price of my 1984 Honda. If you have deeper pockets or want to go further, expand to the three gold dollar types, two quarter eagle types, and three (or four) half eagle types.

I agree with RYK and think that the simple three coin denominational set from Charlotte is a great place to begin with branch mint gold collecting. For less than $10,000 you can purchase nice AU examples of the three denominations. To "spice up" the set, look for scarcer dates. As an example, instead of the 1851-C for your gold dollar, choose a scarcer but still affordable issue such as the 1853-C.

II. Liberty Head $5 Gold Date Set, Circulation Strikes (1839-1908). The set includes one half eagle from each date (any mint) of this very long series, none of which are real stoppers, unlike the $10 and $20 series. That said, there are a total of 70 coins, and this can take a long time to assemble and significant resources, especially if you demand AU or higher condition examples for the better dates. The 1862-65 and 1875 dates are going to be the toughest.

I'm a huge fan of Liberty Head half eagles and I especially like the pre-1880 dates. To me, the one flaw with RYK's choice of this set is the fact that while the earlier dates of this denomination are interesting, the later dates are sort of monotonous.  You can get around this, to a degree, by focusing on the CC or O mints in the 1880's and 1890's slots but this still leaves you with the task of buying a lot of generic issues for your set. If it existed, I'd rather work on a No Motto date set of half eagles with one from each year, 1839-1866.

III. Liberty Head $5 Gold Mintmark Type Set (1839-1908). Sticking with the popular Liberty $5 series, the Liberty $5 gold coin is the only coin in the US series that was struck at all seven operating US Mints (Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charlotte, Dahlonega, San Francisco, Carson City, and Denver). This set therefore requires inclusion of one coin from each of these seven mints and was a popular collecting challenge in the pre-certification era. It was a stock product for Capital holders, long before anyone heard of PCGS.

I do not completely agree with the weighting (for example why is Philadelphia worth twice Denver?), but it is an enjoyable collecting challenge that can be completed in a variety of grade and price points. To maximize your resources, pick the 1893-O $5, the ubiquitous 1891-CC $5, 1899 and 1901-S $5's, and the 1907-D $5. To make it more interesting and challenging, pick No Motto San Francisco, Philadelphia and New Orleans $5's, a Carson City $5 pre-1879, and the 1906-D $5.

Ah...the seven mint set of Liberty Head half eagles. This may be dating myself but I used to assemble a lot of these in the pre-PCGS/NGC days and sell them, in Capital plastic holders, to marketers. I agree with RYK's suggestions regarding "spicing up" your seven coin set with more interesting dates. You might not be able to afford a nice pre-1880 CC half eagle but don't settle for an 1891-CC; buy a coin like a nice AU55 1882-CC or an 1890-CC in MS61 to MS62

IV. Classic Head $5 Gold (1834-1838). This popular series has a significant following, with some choosing to pursue the minor McCloskey varieties. The basic set, however, has 8 coins - 5 reasonably easy to find and three that are more difficult: 1834 Crosslet 4, 1838-C, and 1838-D. If you stick to EF coins, you can stay under our budgetary requirements. If you wish to compete, you will have to go AU and higher. What I like about this set is that you get a popular Redbook variety (the Crosslet 4) and two great first year southern mint coins.

I'm a huge fan of Classic Head half eagles (and quarter eagles as well). To me, these coins bridge the gap between early gold and the more modern Liberty Head issues and they have a "handmade" charm which the latter issues don't show. As RYK pointed out, the 1834 Crosslet 4 and the 1838-C/1838-D issues can be stoppers for the collector on a tight budget but affordable examples do exist so they are not an unrealistic goal. If you are strict about not buying any coins which are more expensive than RYK's Honda Accord, you might have a problem with the 1838-C and the 1838-D in higher grades as properly graded AU and better coins are probably going to exceed Accord Value.

I can also see collecting Classic Head gold by die variety. A list of all the varieties can be downloaded from the Heritage website and many of these can be cherrypicked from dealers (including myself) who don't take the time to identify the scarce and rare varieties. Collecting gold by die variety has never been popular but if any series were to become the standard for gold coins, it would likely become the Classic Head half eagles.

V. Complete Liberty Head Gold Type Set (1838-1907). I am not sure who came up with this idea, but I really like it! This set requires one coin of each type of the Liberty head gold era. As someone who is prejudiced against smaller coins (sorry, SD!), only requiring two mini coins (Type 1 gold dollar and any Liberty quarter eagle) allows the collector to focus on the bigger coins (three $10's and three $20's). The stopper is the "Type 1" or "Covered Ear" No Motto $10 from 1838 and 1839. I recommend having some fun and sprinkling the set with branch mint gold, if you can. With the exception of the stopper, every coin can be purchased in XF or better condition for under $2,500.

This set seems a little gimmicky to me but, that said, I'm in favor of any sort of set that turns "accumulators" of coins into "collectors."  The stopper which RYK refers to (the 1838-1839 $10) isn't hard to locate and a nice EF40 to EF45 1839 Head of 1838 eagle is affordable and available. And I really like the idea of sprinkling some branch mint coins in this set.

VI. 20th Century Gold Liberty Head sets (1900-1907/8, quarter eagles through double eagles). I am not sure if Doug is going to like this one, and that is why I placed it at the end. Let's tackle each one individually. The quarter eagle set (1900-1907) contains eight coins, all Philadelphia Mint, and probably will not keep the interest long of anyone who has read this far into the blog.

  • The half eagle set (1900-1908) contains 18 coins,  including many common coins, some surprisingly uncommon, and one relative stopper (1904-S). The set could be completed with AU and/or lower MS coins for around $12,000 or less, though better coins will certainly cost more.
  • The eagle set (1900-1907) includes 21 coins with three relative stoppers (1900-S "the silent stopper"--if you don't believe me, I challenge you to find one, 1906-O and 1907-S). This set affords you the opportunity to buy coins from four mints (Philly, Denver, New Orleans, and San Francisco), and even the more common coins can be expensive in higher grades.
  • Last, but not least, is the $20 Lib 20th century set (1900-1907), a total of 18 coins, that range in difficulty, from the most ubiquitous Liberty head gold coin of all, the 1904 $20 to the challenging about AU 1902 and 1905 $20's. Because each coin contains nearly an ounce of gold, the basal value of even the most common coins will approach $2000.

RYK was right about me not really being a fan of these sets. For every interesting issue like the 1900-S eagle (yes, it is a tough coin in Uncirculated,  by the way) there are five which are little more than generics and I think your money is spent better on really scarce or rare issues. For the price of, say, a 1905 double eagle in AU, you could buy a much more interesting (and rare) coin which will perform better and give you more pleasure in the long run (at least in my opinion...)

There you have it, six (or nine) collecting ideas for those interested in starting a US gold collection or those already collecting who wish to move in a new direction.

Part Two will discuss some collecting ideas not in the PCGS registry that I would like to see taken up by PCGS and some collecting ideas offered by the NGC registry. As always, contact Doug at, if you would like to talk coins and add some of the coins discussed here to your collections (new or old). Contact me at if you just want to talk coins.


The Great RYK/DWN Mashup Redux: Two Numismatists, Nine Questions, Eighteen Answers

One of the most popular blogs that has appeared on this website was entitled "The Great RYK/DWN Mashup" and it appeared around two years ago. In it, I volleyed back and forth with collector Robert "RYK" Kanterman and discussed gold coins, the coin market and more. After much pleading from our respective fan clubs (OK, actually from me pleading with him to help me come up with another popular blog...) we've decided to agree to disagree, 2012 style. And away we go!

Note: For each answer, "RYK" represents Robert Kantertman while "DWN" represents Douglas Winter Numismatics.

1. If you could own any shipwreck gold coin, which would it be?

RYK: I have a strong preference for the SS Central America coins. In my opinion, they were the best preserved and best conserved. Even though I am a "dirty gold" guy, I would choose the nicest 57-S $20 I could afford, and these are available in a range of price points. I would be tempted to find one of the branch mint gold specimens, a territorial piece, or even a 55-S or 56-S $20, if I wanted to get a little more exotic.

DW: Agreed. I've become a fan of nice, natural-appearing 1857-S SSCA double eagles in the MS64 and MS65 grades. But, and this is a big but, I caution buyers to be highly selective and stick with PCGS coins in original gold foil holders that haven't changed. The coins were conserved; some very successfully and some not so successfully. Take a look at any Heritage sale and you'll see coins caked with white gunk from conservation gone awry. Yuck....

2. Should established US gold coin collectors consider territorial gold?

RYK: I would say a resounding "Yes!" A nice Bechtler piece or set complements a southern gold collection nicely, and some of the California private mint or assay gold pieces go well with any set that includes early San Francisco gold. The Colorado, Oregon, and Utah gold pieces are also a good fit for 19th century gold enthusiasts. One drawback is that they are generally fairly expensive, and might burn coin money required for the big hole in the set.

DW: I like Territorials but am not sure that I share RYK's enthusiasm for them in a rare date gold set. Now, if you are collecting Charlotte gold dollars than a C. Bechtler and A. Bechlter dollar makes sense. Or, if you collect Liberty Head double eagles from the No Motto era a Moffat double eagle makes sense. But I'm not sure how an Oregon or a Mormon piece fits into a regular issue set. And as RYK said, the big bucks that such a coin costs might take away needed funds from a regular issue that is more integral to your set.

3. What is your favorite Dahlonega coin for someone wanting just one for their collection?

RYK: In the sub-$2500, an original, choice VF or XF quarter eagle or half eagle from the mid-1840's would be my choice. They are generally well-produced, nearly 170 years old, and made from gold mined in the southeast.

At the next price level, there are two choices that I see: going up in grade from my lower price point selection or choosing a more interesting coin. I would do the latter, like an 1839-D $2.50, 1838-D $5 or 1839-D $5 in original XF-45.

If money is unlimited, I would wait for on of the super high-grade pieces that come on the market once a year or so. The most recent was the 1855-D quarter eagle in 63.

Overall, unless I was a half dime or trime collector, I would avoid the gold dollars as a consideration.

DW: For a first purchase in the $1,750-3,000 range its hard to argue with a nice EF half eagle. Look for an original coin with nice surfaces and color. They still only command a 15% premium over the junky coins I see daily.

For a "tier two" coin, I like Robert's idea of buying something snazzy like a one-year type or a first-year issue. Coins like this have become very popular and the value isn't quite as good as it used to be but the liquidity of, say, a nice EF45 1838-D half eagle is better than ever.

If you are lucky enough to have the budget for a five figure "exotic" issue, I'd look for a high grade example of something really rare, not a high grade example of a common date. I like coins like 1856-D quarter eagles, 1854-D threes, 1842-D Large Date half eagles, etc because they are so seldom seen in high grades.

I disagree with RYK about gold dollars. Don't hate on the little guys, RYK. Gold Dollars are a great series to collect and the 1849-D is a wonderful first coin for the collector. Plus its hard to not like rare dates such as the 1855-D, 1856-D, 1860-D and, most of all, the coveted 1861-D.

4. Is New Orleans gold more popular than Charlotte gold?

RYK: Ten years ago, I would have said that Charlotte gold is more popular, but today, I would say the opposite. One thing that favors New Orleans gold over Charlotte including is that more denominations are available, including the immensely popular $20 Liberty gold and the increasingly popular $10 Liberty gold. I think that the desirability of the New Orleans quarter and half eagles has increased and the scarcity of some of these issues is now more widely appreciated. In Charlotte, there is just not much new, and there appears to be a relatively steady march of coins on the market.

DW: RYK, you ignorant slut...Oh wait....

I'm afraid Robert is correct. As someone who has really helped to "create" the New Orleans market, I'm wowed at how popular these coins have become and much they have appreciated price-wise since, say, the late 1990's. And how Charlotte hasn't.

Charlotte gold is somewhat in the dregs although collector-quality coins are strong. I put an 1841-C half eagle in nice PCGS EF45 on my website the other day and got seven orders for it in less than a five or six hours. But, that's the exception and not the rule. There are alot of good Charlotte coins available right now and if a few heavy hitters decided to get serious, they could put together great sets over the course of a few years.

5. What gold coin or coins is/are currently in greatest demand from rare date gold collectors?

RYK: I think that the single coin that is in greatest demand among rare date gold coin collectors is the 1861-D $5. I recently told Doug that if he had a dozen XF-45s, he could quickly sell them all and for strong money. Honorable mention would go to the 1861-D $1, better date $5's and $10's from the 1860's, 1870-CC $10, and the 1861-O and 1879-O $20's.

DW: Ah, Grasshopper, you have learned well. Oh and where are those dozen 1861-D half eagles?

The market is very rarity-oriented right now and people are looking to buy sexy, low mintage coins with alot of "oomph." Other coins I would add to RYK's list include the 1855-D dollar, 1854-S quarter eagle, 1864 quarter eagle, nearly any pre-1800 half eagle, 1864-S half eagle, 1875 half eagle and eagle, 1841-O eagle, 1883-O eagle, etc.

6. Is collecting San Francisco gold on the rise/falling/stable?

RYK: San Francisco gold is, in my opinion, gaining in popularity. The market demand for the better date coins was evident in th e recent Littlejohn sale, and there was a very interesting San Francisco gold collection in the Heritage FUN sale that did very well, too. It would be great if a rare date gold specialist (ahem) or Western gold specialist would publish a book on SF gold (1854-1880) as I think that this could give these coins some much-needed publicity among potential collectors.

DW: Hey, thanks RYK. Make me do another book, huh?

Actually I have thought about doing a book on SF gold for many years and if I could get a partner to assist me I would (ahem, potential partner, you know who you are...). I think this would help the market for these coins. For years and years, this was a dead area. The popularity of SF double eagles, brought on by the shipwreck discoveries of the last two decades, has spurred demand for smaller denomination coins as well.

I think you have to look at SF coins as two distinct markets: the 1854-1879 coins and the post-1880 cons. The first group is suddenly doing pretty well and I personally am selling alot more interesting SF coinage today than I was two or three years ago. The second group seems dead but I can see the potential for coins like an 1888-S eagle in MS63 (to pick a random date in a random grade) with premiums so low over generic issues.

7. Should coin collectors bother with coin shows?

RYK: Absolutely! Aside from seeing lots of coins, the ability to view auction lots in person, view exhibits at the bigger shows, meet other collectors, and network with dealers makes any coin show worthwhile. I have often said that even if I were broke and had no coins to sell, I could have a great time at a coin show.

DW: To me, coins shows are somewhat of a necessary evil. With the exception of FUN and Summer ANA, most coin shows are too long and aren't always productive. But I'm jaded and have been going to 15-20 shows a year for nearly three decades.

For the collector, shows are great. You can't beat the ability to look at coins, to view auction lots, to look at exhibits, etc. I'd say you have to fine-tune your BS detector as you are going to hear alot of Newspeak.

8. Are auctions good venues to buy in?

RYK: Yes, with an asterisk. It depends a lot on factors including specifically which auction venues, have you viewed the coins, are you using an agent, are you bidding live or by proxy, etc. If you are playing sight-unseen with proxy bids over the internet, you are going to get burned a lot. If you are bidding in person or with a specialty dealer, there may be some opportunities.

I would add is that some coins that are purchased at auctions could be bought outside the auction venue for less money, less risk, and less hassle. If you are considering a 1901-S $10 in 64 in an auction, it makes no sense to bid sight-unseen and compete with others for the coin. If it is lovely and undergraded, someone smarter who has seen the coin will know that and outbid you. If the coin is a pig, you will win it. It's a classic "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" situation.

DWN: The whole auction market has changed so much in the last five years. The simple way to put this is that they have transitioned from wholesale environments to retail environments.

Many new collectors feel safe buying at auction as they figure that "if there was an underbidder, I'm safe having paid just 5 or 10% more." This is wrong on many levels. And it is even more wrong when you consider that most collectors are bidding at auction on a sight-unseen basis and relying on images.

It's just a matter of time before buyer's premiums at sales rise to 17.5% or even 20% and at that point, I'd say that auctions might not be the best venue to buy in. You have to take this with a grain of salt coming from a dealer who is essentially competing against the auction firms both for product and for buyers but I know that I am now much less reliant on auctions both as a buyer and and a seller than I was a few years ago.

9. What makes a coin desirable?

RYK: This is a very personal thing, and if you ask ten collectors, you will get eleven different answers (because at least one collector will change his mind). The factors that go into desirability include, but are not limited to, design, condition, value, metallic composition, age, scarcity, history, provenance, originality, and market demand. I tend to rank scarcity, numismatic history potential for price appreciation and originality in the more important category, and design, condition, and value in the less important group.

DWN: As a dealer, my answer is bound to be different from RYK's. I am looking for coins that I think will sell well and that I will be excited about handling again and again down the road.

To me, the factors that make a coin desirable include: its level of value (is it a good deal or a bad deal?), its degree of absolute rarity (is its price predicated solely on its grade?), its degree of originality (has it been cleaned, processed or dipped in recent years?), its eye appeal (is it pretty?) and its level of liquidlity (if the market pulled another 2008 contraction, could I sell this coin in 30 days or less?).

Robert and I will be taking our show on the road and expect to see us at a Holiday Inn near your town sometime soon.

Do you more questions that you would like to see answered by the RYK/DWN mashup team? If I can persuade RYK to take some time away from his busy Fantasy Baseball schedule, perhaps we can have a Round Three of the Great Debate sometime soon. Email your questions to me at