How Rare are Non-Shipwreck Gem Type One Double Eagles?

How Rare are Non-Shipwreck Gem Type One Double Eagles?

In the recent Stacks Bowers 2016 ANA Sale, I was fortunate to purchase an amazing 1860 double eagle, graded MS65 by PCGS, which was part of the Bull Run Collection and earlier was sold as Lot 900 in the famous October 1982 Eliasberg Collection auction.

After I bought this coin, I told another dealer that the Eliasberg 1860 “was the finest non-shipwreck Type One double eagle I had ever owned.” This got me to thinking: just how rare are non-shipwreck MS65 and finer double eagles of this type?

 

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Sold by Douglas Winter Numismatics: Condition Census AU58 1860-O Double Eagle

Sold by Douglas Winter Numismatics: Condition Census AU58 1860-O Double Eagle

This regular DWN blog feature looks at some of the rare and interesting coins which we have sold in recent months. Most of these coins never made it to our website, and were quietly sold to collectors who we knew needed specific issues and who we had close personal relationships with.

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CAC and Type One Liberty Head Double Eagles

CAC has had a profound impact on the rare date gold market, and one of the series which has seen significant changes as a result of CAC is Type One Liberty Head double eagles. Auction results and private transactions for coins with CAC stickers, especially rare dates, show a strong price appreciation; sometimes as high as 40-50% for those coins with stickers. But this article isn’t a price analysis. I am more interested in focusing on the number of coins with CAC approval for each date and looking for “surprises” within the context of these numbers.

For the sake of convenience, we can divide the various Type One dates into three groups. The first bunch—or Group A—consists of coins with CAC populations of fewer than 10 in all grades. The second bunch—or Group B—consists of coins with CAC populations between 10 and 25 in all grades. The third and final bunch—Group C—consists of coins with populations of 25 or higher.

Let’s take a look at Group A.

RANK

DATE

TOTAL APPROVED BY CAC

1. 1854-O 1
2. 1860-O 3
3. (tie) 1856-O, 1862 4
5. (tie) 1855-O, 1858-O, 1859 5
8. 1859-O 6
9. 1861-S Paquet 7
10. (tie) 1861-O. 1866-S No Motto 10

1860-O $20.00 PCGS EF40 CAC

This first group contains some surprises. I wouldn’t have expected only three 1860-O double eagles to have been approved by CAC, and I certainly didn’t expect there to be one fewer of this date with CAC approval than for the celebrated 1856-O. I’ve handed two of the three CAC’d 1860-O double eagles and now that I realize how “special” these are, I wish I had asked a greater premium when I sold them!

I am surprised that only five 1858-O double eagles have been approved by CAC  (none of these in higher grade) as I have personally handled some very nice About Uncirculated examples of this date. The rarity of the 1859 and 1862 Philadelphia issues doesn’t surprise me as these two dates tend to come bright and bagmarked; two things which do not score points with the finalizers at CAC. I am very surprised that seven 1861-S Paquets and ten 1866-S With Motto double eagles have been approved. If I had to venture a guess, I’d suggest that these numbers are inflated by resubmissions.

Now let’s look at Group B.

RANK

DATE

TOTAL APPROVED BY CAC

1. (tie) 1854 Lg. Dt., 1857-O 12
3. 1853/2 13
4. 1854-S 16
5. (tie) 1858, 1863 18
6. 1853-O 20
7. 1864 21
8. 1855 22

I am surprised by a few dates on this list, both for how many have been approved and how many have not. In the former category, I find it odd that twelve 1857-O double eagles have been approved by CAC as compared to just five for the 1858-O. These two dates are very similar in rarity, both overall and in high grades. It is possible that this represents some resubmissions to CAC. I am also surprised that as many as twenty 1853-O double eagles have been approved as this is a date which, even in VF and EF grades, doesn’t tend to have the “look” that CAC favors.

1863 $20.00 NGC MS61 CAC

The 1863 and 1864 are a bit less hard to locate with CAC stickers than I would have expected, but this is partially due to there being some nice higher grade examples from the S.S. Republic shipwreck.

The real surprise date in Group B is the 1858 with the same total number of coins approved by CAC as the much more pricey 1863. Only three Uncirculated 1858 double eagles have been approved by CAC and even About Uncirculated pieces are harder to locate than I would have expected.

1854-S $20.00 NGC AU58+ CAC

The one date in Group B which deserves special mention is the 1854-S. Most of the CAC approved examples I have seen are from shipwrecks, and I doubt if more than three or four examples with original surfaces have been approved by CAC.

Let’s close out this article by looking at Group C.

RANK

DATE

TOTAL APPROVED BY CAC

1. 1856 29
2. 1850-O 29
3. 1857 31
4. 1861-S 33
5. 1852-O 34
6. 1860-S 38
7. 1864-S 40
8. 1858-S 41
9. 1863-S 42
10. 1854 Small Date 43
11. 1859-S 47
11. (tie) 1862-S 47
11. (tie) 1851 47
14. 1851-O 49
15. 1860 55
16. 1865-S 62
17. (tie) 1853, 1865 63
18. 1855-S 85
19. 1852 88
20. 1850 91
21. 1856-S 128
22. 1861 163
23. 1857-S 515

In looking at Group C, I almost wonder if the cut-off list shouldn’t have been higher than 25 coins as the first few dates (1856, 1850-O, 1857, 1861-S and 1852-O) instinctively feel “scarcer” with CAC stickers than the other dates included in this group.

As you can see, Group C is populated by common dates and/or shipwreck issues and this is responsible, obviously, for higher CAC populations. The former category is best illustrated by the 1861 while the 1856-S and the 1857-S are the respective poster children for the latter.

1863-S $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

The two shipwreck dates with lower CAC populations than I would have expected are the 1863-S and the 1864-S. Both issues have a number of higher grade survivors from the S.S. Brother Jonathan and the S.S. Republic and it surprises me that there aren’t at least twice as many examples for each date with CAC stickers.

1855-S $20.00 PCGS AU58 CAC

The two dates in Group C that strike me as having higher CAC populations than I would have expected were the 1850-O and the 1855-S. I have handled numerous 1850-O double eagles and I’d say that no more than 10% of the ones I have owned have been CAC quality.  The 1855-S is one of the most frequently seen Type One issues with CAC approval. This is most likely due to shipwreck coins but I can’t recall having seen all that many non-shipwreck pieces with CAC stickers.

One of the many things that CAC has done for the Type One market is to get collectors better focused on choice, original coins. The price premiums for the low population Group A coins have, in some cases, greatly exceeded the levels for “typical” coins and this is the case in nearly all grade ranges. The price premiums for the Group B and Group C are not as profound (yet) but as more collectors seek CAC approved coins, the premiums for these may increase to levels close to those seen on Group A dates.

 

Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.

Finest Known Type One Double Eagles: Part One, 1850-1858

While doing the research for my new online reference about Type One double eagles, I began to look for finest known examples for each specific issue. For some Type One double eagles this is easy as there is a clear finest known coin. For others, this is difficult as there might be a few examples bunched at the top of the Condition Census which are hard to separate.

It is my opinion that the highest graded coin is not always the best coin. That’s why you will see, from time to time, an MS63 on this list which is rated as a “better” coin (in my opinion) than one graded MS64. It should also be pointed out that this list contains the finest known specific coins of which I am aware. I haven’t seen everything and it is entirely possible that there a coin (or even coins) which is nicer than the one listed for a specific date below.

Please note that this list is for business strikes only; Proofs will appear in another article which is planned for 2015.

1850: There are some really outstanding 1850 double eagles known. The best that I have personally seen is an NGC MS65 which was last sold as Lot 3698 in the Heritage 1/07 sale (it realized $161,000). It is earlier ex Bowers and Merena 5/00 (Bass III): 757 ($62,100; as PCGS MS64) and it was obtained by Bass in the New Netherlands April 1972 auction. NGC shows a second coin graded MS65 in their population report but I am inclined to think it is the same piece.

1850-O: This is a difficult issue to definitively state which specific coin is the finest known. The highest graded at PCGS is an MS61 which sold for $111,625 as Heritage 6/14: 4890, but I have seen at least two or three others in lower grade holders which I liked better. Two PCGS AU58’s are real standouts: the example in the Crawford collection (likely ex Dallas Bank collection) and an example in a New England collection which was obtained from me via private treaty.

1851: There are two or three known which grade MS64 but the best of these, in my opinion, is the PCGS coin in the Crawford collection. The other PCGS MS64 is a coin in an Old Green Holder which is ex Bowers and Merena 8/10: 1811 ($34,500) and earlier Heritage 1/04: 3078 ($29,900).

1851-O: There are around four or five properly graded MS62’s known for this issue and a few are choice for the grade. The two which stand out to me are the Crawford coin (probably ex Stack’s 1/84: 835, Amon Carter collection), and a coin I sold to a New England collector which is ex Heritage 2006 ANA: 5576 ($48,875). NGC has graded one coin in MS63 which I haven’t seen in its current holder; it is almost certainly a coin which was upgraded from an MS62 holder.

1852: There are three or four known which grade MS64 but I think these can be ranked in order. The best 1852 double eagle I have seen is the Crawford coin which is in a PCGS MS64 and which has superb color and surfaces. The next best is the Heritage 2012 ANA: 5408 coin ($82,250) which is ex Bowers and Merena 9/08: 822 ($35,650). It is also in a PCGS MS64 and has been approved by CAC. The third best is an NGC MS64 with CAC approval which was sold as Lot 5241 in Heritage’s 2011 sale and it was from the Henry Miller collection. It realized $60,375. NGC has a population of one coin in MS65 and it is likely coin #3 on this list after an upgrade.

1852 Repunched Date: The finest known example of this variety is a PCGS MS63 which was in the Gilded Age collection; it was aggressively reserved and it did not sell at the auction. I sold a PCGS MS62 to a New England collector in September 2014, which is the second finest I have seen.

1852-O: The clear finest known for this date is the Henry Miller coin, graded MS65 by NGC, which was obtained privately from Stack’s in the 1970’s; it later brought $276,000 as Heritage 2011 FUN: 5243. The next best is an NGC MS63 from the Dallas Bank collection. There are four or five graded MS62. These include the Crawford coin (PCGS MS62) obtained from the Norweb sale, a PCGS MS62 which I sold to a New England collector which is ex Heritage 2006 ANA: 5580 ($48,815), and a PCGS MS62 which is ex Stacks Bowers 2014 ANA: 12005 ($94,000), ex Gilded Age collection, Bowers and Merena 5/00: 771 (Bass III), Harry Bass collection.

1853: The unquestionable finest known for this date is an NGC MS65 which last sold as Heritage 8/14: 5683 ($152,750); it was earlier Superior 5/05: 5333 ($66,700; as NGC MS64). The next best is a PCGS MS63 owned by Bill Crawford.

1853/'2': The highest graded coin for this variety is a single NGC MS62 (ex: Heritage 2004 FUN: 3082 at $41,400), but I don’t regard this coin as being any nicer than the three or four different PCGS MS61 examples which I have seen. The specific example which stands out as being slightly better is the CAC-approved PCGS MS61 last sold as Bowers and Merena 2012 ANA: 11752 ($46,000).

1853-O: The finest known 1853-O is, by a large margin, the PCGS MS63 owned by Bill Crawford. It was purchased as Stack’s 5/91: 1674, where it sold for $28,600. An NGC MS62 (pedigree unknown to me) is likely the second finest, but it likely doesn’t remotely compare to the remarkable Crawford example.

1854 Small Date: This is another date where the single finest known is head and shoulders finer than the next best. The William Crawford collection contains a splendid gem graded MS65 by PCGS.

1854 Large Date: The finest known is owned, again, by Bill Crawford and the coin is graded MS64 by PCGS. It was purchased, as an NGC MS64, as Bowers and Merena 9/08: 831 ($96,600) and it was earlier Heritage 8/07: 2010 ($80,500). The second best of which I am aware is an NGC MS62 that I sold to a Rhode Island collector; I bought it directly out of the Pittman I sale in 1997 where I paid $10,450.

1854-O: This is a frustrating date to reach a conclusion about a finest known example as there is no clear-cut “best coin.” The highest graded are four AU58’s at NGC (most likely two distinct coins) and three AU55’s at PCGS (likely two distinct coins). The best I have seen include the NGC AU58 owned by Bill Crawford, the PCGS AU55 in a New England collection (obtained from me as Bowers and Merena 8/07: 1906) and Heritage 10/08: 3012, a PCGS AU55 which set the current auction record for this date at $603,750. Until I have an opportunity to compare the best examples of this date in person, I am not able to conclude which is the finest.

1854-S: This is another date which is challenging when determining which is the finest known. This is due to the fact that many of the highest graded 1854-S double eagles have finely granular surfaces from exposure to seawater. Of these coins, the three best are two PCGS MS65’s (one is in the Crawford collection and the other brought $115,000 as Heritage 10/08: 3013) and a PCGS MS64 from the S.S. Central America (last sold as Stack’s Bowers 2014 ANA: 12010 and sold by me to a New England collector). There are three or four known in Uncirculated with non-seawater surfaces. The two best I know of include an example in a New England collection graded MS61 by PCGS which is ex Heritage 11/07: 61779 ($21,850), Bass III: 781 ($10,925) and an NGC MS61 owned by Connecticut collector. Both were purchased from me.

1855: This date has a clear finest known and it is the PCGS MS64 in the William Crawford collection. It is ex ANR 3/06: 1704 and it sold for $126,550. The next best is a PCGS MS63 which sold for $69,000 as ANR 8/06: 1607. It is an interesting coincidence that the two finest known 1855 double eagles appeared for sale within a few months of each other in 2006 and both were sold by the same firm.

1855-O: The highest graded 1855-O is an NGC MS61 which recently sold for $141,000 as Heritage 2014 FUN: 5517. However, I think that the PCGS AU58 coin in the Crawford collection is a nicer coin and I would rank it as the finest known without much hesitation.

1855-S: The unquestioned finest known 1855-S double eagle is the PCGS MS66 from the S.S. Central America which sold for $120,750 as Christie’s 12/00: 90. Interestingly, this coin has not been sold at auction since its one and only appearance in 2000, and it would be interesting to see what it would bring today.

1856: Two or three exist in MS63 and these are the highest graded 1856 double eagles. The best of these is probably Stacks Bowers 2014 ANA: 12013 ($41,125) which was obtained by the consignor from me in March 2002.

1856-O: The undisputed finest known 1856-O is the famous NGC SP63 which last sold for $1,437,500 as Heritage 5/09: 1989. The second finest known is a PCGS AU58 in the Crawford collection which is ex Eliasberg: 889. The third finest is a PCGS AU55 in a New England collection, which I sold in 2009.

1856-S: The finest known is a PCGS MS66 from the S.S. Central America which was last sold as Christie’s 12/00: 92 where it brought $57,500. The other PCGS MS66, last sold as Heritage 1/12: 5033 at $74,750 is not as appealing, in my opinion.

1857: I haven’t seen this coin in person but the finest known is likely the PCGS MS64 which was last sold as Stacks 10/08: 1464; it realized $40,250 and was then graded MS64 by NGC. The second finest is a coin I sold to a New England collector and it is ex Heritage 2013 ANA: 5899. It realized $47,000 and was graded MS63 by PCGS.

1857-O: The finest known is the PCGS MS63 in the Crawford collection. It is from the Bass III sale and was earlier in the Kaufman collection. The second finest is an NGC MS63 which is ex Heritage 2011 FUN: 5251 where it sold for $172,500 as an NGC MS62.

1857-S: Of the thousands of Uncirculated 1857-S double eagles found in the S.S. Central America treasure, it is virtually impossible to select a coin which is the clear single finest known. PCGS has graded 11 in MS67 with none finer. The only one of these to have been approved by CAC is ex Heritage 2014 ANA: 5692 where it sold for a remarkable $172,500.

In Part Two of this article, which will be published sometime in November 2014, we will look at the 1858-1866 Type One double eagles and list specific finest known pieces.

Do you know about any coins with claims to finest known that might not be known to me? I would appreciate your input, whether in a comment added to this article, or as an email sent directly to me at dwn@ont.com.

 

Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.

How To Collect Type One Double Eagles

Type One double eagles have become the single most popular area of collecting in the rare date United States gold coin market. With the discovery of over 10,000 high grade, formerly rare issues in the S.S. Central America, S.S. Brother Jonathan, and S.S. Republic shipwrecks, Type Ones have received tremendous publicity in both the numismatic and non-numismatic press. This is clearly a design type which is destined to remain popular with a number of future generations of collectors.

The 2002 edition of my book An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles represented ground-breaking research on the series. I had previously written on New Orleans double eagles in my book New Orleans Gold Coins: 1839-1909 (published in 1992 and revised in 2006). Prior to this, collectors had to rely on the Breen Encyclopedia and David Akers’ trailblazing work on Liberty Head double eagles which was published in 1982. The 2002 edition of this book filled a great, need but it soon became outdated and needed to be revised.

After numerous starts and stops, I decided to revise the book in 2014 but with a twist: instead of publishing it in traditional book form, it will be released as a web-based project, and we will announce its availability (and URL!) later this year. (Here is the new site!) This was done for a number of reasons. The first is flexibility in updating. With a traditional book, updating it is a major chore. With the web-based format, it will be easy for me to continually update things like Condition Census, Auction Price Records, certified population figures, hoards, and important new discoveries. A web-based double eagle book will have a far greater reach than a traditional published book, and this might serve to bring more new collectors into the series. It will also enable me to have interactive features such as a comments section where collectors can add their input to each issue, and expanded potential to include more high-quality color photographs than in a traditional printed book. The possibilities are endless.

Type One double eagles appeal to collectors for a variety of reasons. They are the first type of double eagles produced and the highest denomination struck for circulation. They are large and attractive with a high intrinsic value which appeals to the “gold bug.” They were struck during an extraordinary historic era (1850-1866), and have wonderful back stories. Many issues are available in collector grades and a number of issues can found in presentable grades for less than $3,500 per coin. At the same time, there are a number of rare to very rare dates which appeal to advanced collectors.

There is a host of ways in which to collect this series. I’d like to suggest a few that I have found interesting and add some practical suggestions from years of experience with assisting collectors in this series.

1. Collecting Type One Double Eagles as a Type Coin

Type collectors seek to obtain a representative example of a specific type or design. For Type One double eagles, a type collector would most likely focus on an issue such as an 1856-S or 1857-S from the S.S. Central America, or a non-shipwreck date such as the 1861. A nice SSCA coin can be purchased for $7,500-10,000, while a high-quality circulated 1861 currently is valued in the $4,000-5,000 range.

A type set could be made more interesting by expanding it to two coins: including a common date from the 1850’s and the 1860’s, the two decades in which this design was produced. The most common issues from the 1850’s are the 1851 and the 1852 and, thanks to the shipwrecks mentioned above, the 1856-S and the 1857-S. The two Philadelphia issues can be easily located in all circulated grades and a very presentable example will cost the collector $3,000-5,000. The 1861 is the most affordable Type One from the 1860’s, and the collector can either purchase a pleasing circulated example or an Uncirculated coin in the MS60 to MS62 range.

If you are taking the time to read this article (and are looking forward to the new double eagle website I mentioned above) you are likely to have enough interest in this series that you will be more involved with them than as mere type coins. But if you have decided to participate solely as a type collector, I suggest you spend a bit more money and buy a scarcer date. In my opinion, the issues which offer the biggest “bang for the buck” include the 1854 Small Date, 1855, 1856, 1857, and 1858.

2. Collecting Type One Double Eagles by Mint

Type One double eagles were struck at three mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Some collectors focus on issues from one of these three mints and assemble complete sets of dates and major varieties.

The Philadelphia mint produced 17 collectable double eagles (this figure does not include the 1849 and the 1861 Paquet, but it does include the 1853/2 and the 1854 Large Date). This is not an easy set to complete in circulated grades. The five hardest issues to locate are the 1853/2, 1854 Large Date, 1859, 1862, and 1863. All five of the dates are scarce to very scarce in Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated, and all are rare to very rare in Uncirculated.

In Extremely Fine, this set should run at least in the $55,000-65,000 range, and more if the collector is picky and seeks choice EF45 coins with CAC stickers. An About Uncirculated set (with the five keys in the AU50 to AU53 range and the more common dates in the AU55 to AU58 range) should run in the $110,000-130,000 range, and more if the collector is picky and seeks choice coins with CAC stickers. An Uncirculated set is possible but it would require considerable patience and some of these issues (notably the 1853/2, 1854 Large Date, 1859, and 1862) are very rare and seldom offered for sale in Mint State. A collector can figure on spending at least $300,000 on an average quality set and considerably more if he wants the majority of his coins to grade higher than MS60 to MS61. An Uncirculated set with all the coins having CAC stickers is certainly possible but it might take many years—and a deep wallet—to assemble.

The New Orleans mint produced a dozen Type One double eagles between 1850 and 1861. Two of these (the 1851-O and the 1852-O) are common, two are moderately scarce (1850-O and 1853-O, three are very scarce to rare (1857-O, 1858-O and 1861-O), three are rare (1855-O, 1859-O and 1860-O), and two are extremely rare (1854-O and 1856-O). Many collectors are forced to skip the 1854-O and the 1856-O due to their extreme rarity and prohibitive prices. However, for those fortunate collectors with the means to acquire one or both, history has proven their worthiness as performing assets.

An Extremely Fine set of Type One New Orleans double eagles is the most realistic for most collectors. Excluding the 1854-O and 1856-O, this set costs at least $175,000-200,000. An About Uncirculated set of Type One New Orleans double eagles is extremely difficult to assemble but it can be completed with patience and a deep pocketbook in a three to five year window. To keep costs down, the collector might buy AU55 examples of the moderately scarce to scarce dates and AU50 to AU53 examples of the very scarce to rare issues. Such a set would cost at least $250,000-300,000+. AU50 to AU53 examples of the 1854-O and the 1856-O would add another $750,000-1,000,000. An AU set with all 12 coins having CAC stickers might be possible, but it would require working with a world-class expert as many of these dates have very low CAC populations.

Between 1854 and 1866, the San Francisco mint produced 14 Type One double eagles. This includes the 1861-S and the 1861-S Paquet reverse. With the exception of the 1861-S Paquet and the 1866-S No Motto, all are reasonably easy to locate in circulated grades. Before the discovery of the three shipwrecks cited above, assembling a high grade set of Type One San Francisco double eagles would have been nearly impossible. Today, it is far more realistic. It is still theoretically impossible to finish this set in Uncirculated, as no 1861-S Paquet reverse double eagles have been graded MS60 or higher by the two services as of the middle of 2014.

A complete set of Type One San Francisco double eagles in EF40 to AU50 costs at least $125,000, with around half of this amount dedicated to the 1861-S Paquet and the 1866-S No Motto. An AU55 to AU58 set costs at least $250,000; again with a significant amount of the cost focused on the two rarities. A set with all of the coins grading at least MS60 except for the Paquet (which would grade AU55 to AU58) would cost in excess of $600,000.

If I had to rank the popularity of the three mints as of the middle of 2014, I would list them as follows:

  1. New Orleans
  2. San Francisco
  3. Philadelphia

3. Collecting Type One Double Eagles by Year

A popular way to collect this series is to obtain one example from each year in which the Type One design was produced. In this case, such a set would consist of 17 coins.

In a Type One year set, it is advisable to select the most affordable issue produced during a specific year. For example, three mints struck double eagles in 1861: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Most year sets include the 1861 Philadelphia as it is easier to obtain than the other issues and it can be found in comparatively high grades for a reasonable sum.

The most difficult (and least flexible) year is 1866. The Philadelphia mint’s production of double eagles in 1866 consisted exclusively of the new Type Two (or “With Motto”) design, while San Francisco produced a limited number of Type One coins before switching to the new design. The 1866-S Type One is exceedingly rare in Uncirculated and very rare in any grade higher than About Uncirculated-50 to About Uncirculated-53.

A complete year set can be assembled in Extremely Fine grades for around $75,000, with at least one-third of the cost going towards an 1866-S No Motto. A set with all of the coins in About Uncirculated can be assembled for $150,000 and up, with around half of the cost going towards the 1866-S. A set with all of the coins in Uncirculated would be very difficult to complete due to the rarity of the 1866-S. It would cost upwards of $425,000-450,000 to complete with, once again, a significant portion of the cost going towards the 1866-S.

4. Assembling a Complete Set of Type One Double Eagles

For some collectors, Type One double eagles become their primary focus and they seek to assemble a complete set. Such a set consists of every issue struck between 1850 and 1866 (not including the excessively rare 1861 Paquet reverse). Including the 1853/2, 1854 Large Date, and the 1861-S Paquet, there are a total of 44 issues.

Depending on a collector’s budget, the grades for a complete set of Type One double eagles will range from Extremely Fine-40 all the way up to Mint State-65. The more common issues are generally represented by coins in comparably higher grades while the rarities are represented by coins in slightly lower grades. The rarest issues in the set include the 1854-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, 1859-O, 1860-O, and 1861-S Paquet. The rarer issues tend to be very difficult to locate and the most available of these six coins are rarely available at prices lower than $40,000-50,000.

There are some practical guidelines which the collector assembling a complete set should follow. A complete set should be as well-matched as possible. The collector should also attempt to obtain coins with as much visual similarity as possible.

A complete set should not be “all over the map” as far as grades are concerned. It makes no sense to assemble a set which has VF30 coins alongside MS62’s

Many Type One collectors are guilty of “overbuying” the common dates and “underbuying” the rarities in order to save money; I feel this is a mistake. Instead of spending $50,000 on a high-grade example of a mundane date such as an 1851, buy a nice coin one grade lower for $15,000, and use the money you’ve saved to put towards a rarity. Conversely, instead of filling the 1854-O and 1856-O holes with “no grades” or problem coins, try to find the best examples of these you can possibly afford. A set of coins is judged on the quality of the rare issues, not by the common ones.

Don’t assemble a set of Type One double eagles with unrealistic expectations. A collector who has previously worked on more common sets may approach Type Ones with the idea that he can race through set in higher grades. Since a number of Type Ones are unknown in Uncirculated and extremely rare in the higher About Uncirculated grades, certain allowances have to be made. The collector must learn what is realistic for each issue. It isn’t realistic to find an 1856-O in Mint State-60. But it is realistic to find an 1856-S in this range or even higher.

In Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated-50, a complete set of 44 Type One Liberty Head double eagles is going to cost a minimum of $1,000,000, and probably quite a bit more once the collector finishes upgrading coins he isn’t satisfied with. If the collector decides to eliminate the 1854-O and 1856-O, at least half of this expenditure will be eliminated. A set which included all the coins in About Uncirculated-50 to About Uncirculated-58 would cost at least $1,500,000. Eliminating the two ultra-rarities would again remove at least half of the cost. A set in which the majority of the coins grade Mint State-60 and above and the rarities grade at least About Uncirculated-55 is going to cost upwards of $2,000,000-2,500,000, and possibly quite a bit more.

5. A Shipwreck "Mini Set"

A number of shipwrecks containing Type One double eagles have been located since the late 1980’s. These are designated by PCGS and NGC, and they are extremely popular with collectors. A shipwreck mini-set most likely would contain just three coins and would be constructed as follows:

  1. S.S. Central America. This is the most famous of the three shipwrecks discussed here as it contains thousands of very high quality coins. Most collectors seek a nice Uncirculated 1857-S, typically grading MS63 to MS65. I have a few buying tips for such a coin. First, only buy a piece in the original gold foil holder. Second, be patient as there are thousands of potential coins for your set. Wait for a coin which appeals to you and look for one with bright, flashy surfaces which lack haze or cloudiness. Third, buy a coin with all the “bells and whistles.” By this, I mean look for a coin that has all its original packaging and which has been approved by CAC as well. Finally, don’t overpay. There are hundreds of auction price comparables for these coins, so you should be able to figure a smart price to pay with relative ease.
  2. S. S. Brother Jonathan. This shipwreck featured Civil War era San Francisco Type One double eagles. The coins tend to be a little less attractive than the S.S. Central America pieces and are harder to locate in the original packaging. The two dates which seem most plentiful from this shipwreck are the 1863-S and 1865-S. The buying tips I mentioned above mostly apply to these coins as well, except original packaging is non-existent.
  3. S. S. Republic. The third shipwreck in the set is the one which is least interesting to me as the quality of the coins tends to be less nice. That said, there are some interesting coins which come to market from time to time with this pedigree.

6. Collecting by Die Variety

For most Type One double eagles, a number of different obverse and reverse dies were used. As one die became worn or damaged, it was replaced by a new die. The different die combinations created various die varieties which range from significant to very minor.

The field of gold coin die variety collecting is fertile. Little has been written about the varieties of United States gold coins, and almost nothing has been written about the die varieties of Type One Liberty Head issues. A number of interesting and potentially rare die varieties exist. Many are discussed in my book(s) on Type One double eagles. Others wait to be discovered by sharp-eyed collectors.

In order to study double eagle die varieties, the collector should pay careful attention to date and mintmark placement and other more subtle die characteristics such as breaks and die scratches.

Collecting varieties of Type One double eagles has become more popular in the last decade, and part of this is attributable to the fact that some of the major varieties are now recognized by PCGS and NGC. In addition to the widely accepted varieties (1853/2 and 1854 Large Date), the following are often collected alongside “regular” coins:

  • 1852 Double Date
  • 1853 Repunched Date
  • 1854 Small Date, Doubled Date
  • 1855-S Small S mintmark
  • 1857-S Large S mintmark
  • 1859-S Double LIBERTY
  • 1865 Blundered date

7. A Civil War "Mini Set"

One of the most popular theme sets in the Type One series is the 11 or 12 coin Civil War set. This includes the following issues, all made during the Civil War years: 1861, 1861-O, 1861-S, 1861-S Paquet, 1862, 1862-S, 1863, 1863-S, 1864, 1864-S, 1865, and 1865-S.

Due to the fact that this set has multiple levels of demand, many of the double eagles from the Civil War have seen considerable increases in price.

There are some difficult issues in the Civil War set. The 1861-O is the only New Orleans double eagle from this period and it is extremely popular. The 1862 is the rarest Philadelphia double eagle from this period, followed by the 1863 and the 1864. The San Francisco issues are more available with the exception of the rare 1861-S Paquet. The price of this variety might cause some collectors to not include it in the set. This makes sense, given that a “normal reverse” 1861-S can be an acceptable substitute.

An 11 piece set in Extremely Fine grades should cost in the area of $80,000. Adding the Paquet reverse would make the set cost over $100,000.

An 11 piece set in About Uncirculated would be challenging but it is completable. It should cost at least $150,000 and could run quite a bit more if the collector seeks choice, original coins with CAC approval. Adding a nice AU55 Paquet will require around a $150,000 commitment.

This set could not be completed in Uncirculated as the Paquet doesn’t exist in this range. However, the rest of the coins do, and here are my suggestions for the best value grade for each date:

  • 1861: MS62 to MS63
  • 1861-O: MS60 (if available)
  • 1861-S: MS61 to MS62
  • 1862: MS60 to MS62
  • 1863: MS61 to MS62
  • 1863-S: MS62 to MS63
  • 1864: MS61 to MS62
  • 1864-S: MS61 to MS62
  • 1865: MS62 to MS63
  • 1865-S: MS62 to MS63

8. Collecting Proof Type One Double Eagles

A tiny number of Proof double eagles were struck prior to 1859. From 1859 to 1865, very small numbers were made. Fewer than 350 proofs were struck for the entire type, and fewer than 75 are known.

The rarity of these coins makes them very appealing to a small segment of wealthy collectors. It might be possible to assemble a complete date run of Proofs from 1859 to 1865. This would require patience, luck, and a very healthy coin budget.

Most of the Proof Type One double eagles which appear on the market are in the Proof-63 to Proof-64 range. Gems are exceedingly rare, and are generally offered for sale at the rate of maybe once per two or three years.

Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.

The Type One Double Eagle Market, An Update: Part One, Philadelphia

It's been a few years since I've written in depth about the Type One double eagle market. But in double eagle time "a few years" is equal to a considerable amount of time when compared to other less popular series. This is a changing, dynamic market which continues to impress me with its demand for coins and its ability to attract collectors with budgets ranging from medium to jumbo.

Let's take a look at the 18 Philadelphia issues and see what's happened to the market in the last three to five years, where it is headed and what my feelings are about the pros and cons of each issue. I'm going to focus on two grades in this article: AU58, due to the relative affordability of these coins versus Uncirculated examples and MS62, due to the fact that this is usually the "best available grade" for Philadelphia Type One issues.

Type One Double Eagle Book Now Available - Free

1850: This numismatically significant issue is the first double eagle from the Philadelphia mint. Many years ago, I strongly pushed this date and felt it was well undervalued. In 2013, I think it is actually sort of pricey in comparison to other comparable Type One issues, particularly in AU58 and higher grades.

The 1850 has been readily available of late in EF45 to AU55 grades and I wonder if some sort of hoard hasn't hit the market as I don't recall this issue being this easy to locate in the past. Two grades that I find interesting for this date are AU58 and MS62.

1850 $20.00 NGC MS62 CAC

Around three to five years ago, it was possible to buy a decent-looking 1850 double eagle in AU58 for $6,000-7,000. Today, the same coin will cost $8,000-10,000 and I think a really choice PCGS coin with CAC approval could bring $11,000+. To me, this seems like a lot of money for such a coin.

Three to five years ago, an MS62 1850 double eagle would be a $22,000-25,000 coin. Today, if you can even find one, an 1850 in this grade will run $32,500-35,000. Given the relative unavailability of this date in grades higher than this, a nice MS62 actually seems like better value than an AU58 (!)

I continue to buy this date but I am very selective. I avoid any 1850 which is not choice and original and tend to purchase coins which grade EF45 to AU50 (as good introductory pieces for new collectors) or great quality MS62's (for deep-pocketed date or type collectors).

1851: The 1851 is actually a harder coin to find than the 1850 but it doesn't get the recognition that its predecessor does. It remains very easy to find in grades up to AU55 but it has becomes harder to locate in AU58. As with nearly any non-shipwreck Type One, properly graded Mint State coins are rare.

Three to five years ago, it was possible to buy quantities of AU58 1851 double eagles for around $2,500 per coin. Today, so-so AU58's sell in the $4,000-4,250 range and nice CAC-quality piece can run as high as $5,000-5,500. A wholesome, original "slider" at five thousand bucks still seems to me to be comparatively good value and I will buy anyone one I see for my inventory.

1851 $20.00 NGC MS61

MS62 and finer examples of the 1851 have all but disappeared. None have sold at auction since November 2011 and I think a fresh, original PCGS example with CAC approval could bring $16,000 or more if offered today. Given that the market for this coin was in the $11,000-13,000 three to five years ago, I think this remains an excellent value.

1852: The 1852 is now probably the single most available Type One Philadelphia double eagle. It used to be similar in availability to the 1851 but I see it more often.

In Heritage's 8/12 sale, an auction record was set for this date when a PCGS MS64 with CAC approval brought a robust $82,250. What's really impressive about this price is the fact that the exact same coin sold for $35,650 in a Bowers and Merena auction for $35,650 in 9/08. Nice return on investment for a four year hold, no?

1852 $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

AU58 examples of this date have shown the same price growth as described above for the 1851. You are now looking at $4,000-5,000 for an AU58 depending on quality (still a fair number, in my opinion) against a former value of $2,500-3,000 around three to five years ago. I'm still fine with buying these.

1853: While inevitably lumped with the 1851 and 1852, I find this date to be harder to locate than the 1852 but easier to locate than the 1851. It is clearly the rarest of the three in higher grades and it is nearly impossible to find above MS62.

1853 $20.00 NGC AU58

In AU58, the 1853 is currently selling in the $4,000-5,000 range as compared to $2,250-2,750 five years ago. An MS62 would bring $14,000-16,000 if available and this is not much more than what a comparable coin would have sold for five years ago. Given this fact, I'd personally look for a nice Uncirculated example, especially given the fact that this date is all but unknown in MS63 and above.

1853/"2": You'll note that I placed italics around the 2 in the date; PCGS does this as well and this is because many researchers question whether this variety is actually an overdate. I personally do not and here's why: the major diagnostic on this variety (a die dot below the RT in LIBERTY) is seen on at least one other obverse which is clearly not an overdate...or even a recut date for that matter.

1853/'2' $20.00 PCGS AU50 CAC

AU58 examples of this date may been relatively flat over the last three to five years although the last two or three that I have seen have garnered prices around $17,000; three to five years ago the same coins might have sold in the $13,000-15,000 range.

Despite this variety's low population in MS61, prices have stayed flat since 2005. In June 2010, a PCGS MS61 sold at auction for $34,500 while in February 2007, a coin in the same grade/same holder realized $37,950. To me, this is the market basically stating that $35,000 is a lot of money for a coin which might not even be an overdate. And I agree.

1854 Small Date: This is the more common of the two varieties of double eagle made at the Philadelphia mint in 1854. It is significantly scarcer than the 1851, 1852 or 1853.

1854 Small Date $20.00 NGC AU58

Nice AU58's used to be available with some degree of regularity but they have become harder to find, especially if they are CAC-quality. You are looking at a $4,500-5,500 coin, depending on holder and appearance. I think these are great values. Three to five years ago they were 2,500-3,000.

In MS62, this is an extremely scarce date and prices have remained surprisingly static. In the current market, an average quality MS62 is worth $15,000-17,500; not all that much more than the same coin would have sold for three to five years ago.

Time to interject an observation. For the most part, Type Ones from Philadelphia have performed really well over the last three to five years in AU58. They haven't done that well in MS62; a grade that represents true rarity for most of these issues. I think this has to do with the fact that 58 coins have traded with some regularity while 62's are rare enough that they don't trade often. This may continue to be the case in the future but I think the MS62 coins are a great investment for the collector with a large budget.

1854 Large Date: As recently as a decade ago, there was some question as to whether this variety would be accepted by serious collectors but it clearly has and today the 1854 Large Date is ranked as the third rarest Type One from this mint after the 1859 and the 1862.

The 1854 Large Date is virtually unknown in Uncirculated but it is offered for sale from time to time in AU58. An example in this grade now trades in the $20,000-25,000 range. Five years ago, the same coin might have fetched $16,000-18,000.

1854 Large Date $20.00 NGC AU55

I think this variety has a good amount of growth potential in the AU53 to AU55 range. Three to five years ago, a nice quality example might have been available for $7,000-9,000; today this coin is $9,000-11,000. But one must remember that the price spread between a 53 and a 58 is now close to 2.5x which means that the typical collector will shy away from the 58 and seek a nice 53.

1855: The 1855 and the three issues which follow it (1856, 1857 and 1858) are all what I would describe as "slightly scarce" issues. The 1856 is the rarest, followed by the 1855, 1858 and 1857. Of these four, the 1855 is by far the hardest to find in high grades.

Three to five years ago, the 1855 double eagle was not recognized as a scarce issue in AU58 and I can recall buying decent examples for $3,500. Today, an average quality AU58 will cost in excess of $5,000 and a PCGS/CAC example could bring over $6,000. In my opinion, these are still good values and I would buy everyone I could find.

1855 $20.00 PCGS MS61

In MS62, this date is extremely rare and none have sold at auction since early 2005. So, MS61 is about as nice as this date comes. In 2013, a nice quality 1855 in this grade would sell for $16,000-18,000+. Five years ago, this coin might only bring $10,000-12,000.. I would not be surprised to see a similar increase in price for MS61's over the next five years as this date is in strong demand.

1856: I'd sort of like to take credit for "discovering" this date but there were other people looking for nice quality 1856 double eagles as far back as a decade or two ago. It remains a very hard issue to find in the higher AU grades and a rare coin in Uncirculated. The population figure shown by PCGS seem to me to be inflated as there are 14 in MS61 and 8 in MS62 but far fewer auction records than one might assume for a date with a population as high as suggested by PCGS.

1856 $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

A nice quality AU58 will cost in the $5,500-6,000 range and a PCGS coin with CAC approval could bring more. Five years ago, a high end 58 was worth around $4,000-4,500. Given how popular this date has become, it seems to me to be good value at current levels.

No nice Uncirculated 1856-P double eagle has sold at auction since a PCGS MS61 appeared in April 2011. Given the paucity of appearances and given the potentially strong demand for a nice piece if it became available, I'd be ready to pay a record-setting price for any 1856 double eagle graded MS61 or better should one become available.

1857: As I mentioned above, the 1857 is the most available of the 1855-1858 Philadelphia double eagles. It remains fairly affordable, even in higher grades, but it has performed well over the last five years.

1857 $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

I have sold a number of 1857 double eagles in AU58 over the past few months and I can't recall having ever priced a PCGS/CAC example at more than $4,250-4,500. Five years ago, I would have priced a similar quality example for $2,500-3,000. I think this date remains a good value in properly graded AU58.

No 1857-P double eagle graded MS62 has sold at auction since early 2006 and I haven't handled one in close to three years. An MS61 is still worth less than $10,000 and I would personally have no problem recommending a nice MS61 at, say, $8,500 or $9,000 to a collector.

1858: This date seems to have become a bit more available in circulated grades than I recall it being three to five years ago. That said, nice AU58 coins are harder to locate than before and Mint State pieces are rarely offered any more.

The price performance seen for this date has actually been better than that for the 1855 and 1856, despite it being far less scarce. In today's market, a nice AU58 example will sell for $4,750-5,250. Five years ago, it was possible to find AU58's for $2,750-3,000.

1858 $20.00 NGC MS62, from the SS Republic

Remember the comments I made above on the population figures for the 1857 in MS61 and MS62? The same holds true for the 1858. The PCGS figures make this date appear to be somewhat available but it is actually almost never offered. No MS62's have been sold since 2005 and just a handful of MS61's. An average quality MS61, if available, would sell in the $13,000-16,000 range; five years ago it would bring $9,000-11,000. For the money, I'd personally rather have a nice 1855 or 1856.

1859: This is my favorite sleeper date in the Philadelphia Type One series and I have watched demand for this issue soar in the last few years. Despite significant price increases, I still think a nice mid-range AU 1859 is a good value.

In AU55, an 1859 double eagle is a $10,000 coin, give or take a few bucks. This isn't actually that much more than this date was bringing in this grade five years ago. The difference is that I could sell ten of these in AU55 for $10,000 today; five years ago this would have been a big stretch for most collectors.

1859 $20.00 PCGS AU58

I just set a record price for the 1859 in AU58 when I paid $23,500 for a PCGS/CAC AU58 in the March 2013 Stacks Bowers auction. This was by far the best AU58 I'd seen and I though the coin had better eye appeal than most of the MS60 to MS61's of this date. An average quality AU58 would sell for $15,000 or so today; five years ago it might bring $11,000-13,000 to a savvy collector.

I still love this date and I will continue to support it at higher price points.

1860: This date has performed well in AU58. Today, a nice example will sell for $3,750-4,250. Five years ago, you could find similar quality pieces for $2,750-3,000.

1860 $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

In MS62, the 1860 remains a very scarce date although it is more available than the 1855-1858 issues. If you can find one, an MS62 is going to cost $10,000-12,000. Five years ago, this would have been an $8,000-9,000 coin.

1861: Before the SSCA shipwreck made the 1857-S so common, the 1861 was the most available Type One from any mint. It remains available in AU58 but it seems to have come one of those "when you really need one you can't find them" issues.

1861 $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

Five years ago, you could find nice AU58's for $2,000-2,500 and they weren't easy to sell. Today, these coins are sold to a more enthusiastic Type One market and to Civil War date collectors for $3,500-4,000. I don't necessarily love the value of these at $4,000 a pop but hats off to the smart collectors who put these away at $2,250.

This date hasn't done as well in MS62 but it has certainly appreciated in the last three to five years. Today, it is a $7,000-9,000 coin. Five years ago it was a $5,000-6,000 coin. While I don't love the value of an AU58 at $4,000 I really think a properly graded MS61 at, say $8,000 seems like a good deal.

1862: This remains the rarest Type One from this mint and the level of demand for the 1862 has soared. I used to handle one every month or two; now I'm lucky to buy one or two each years.

1862 $20.00 NGC AU58

As you might expect, this date has performed really well over the last few years. If you want to own a nice AU55, you are going to have to step up and pay in the $17,500-20,000 range. Five years ago, I was still buying this date in AU55 for $10,000-12,500. AU58's have risen in price to $25,000; five years ago if I paid $17,500 for one most people would have thought I was crazy.

With no Uncirculated examples having sold at auction since December 2009 (and whoever bought this coin for $32,200 should take a bow because you ripped it...) I shudder to think what a nice, fresh MS62 would bring today. Loved this date ten years ago, love it today.

1863: After some nice 1863 double eagles were found in the SS Republic shipwreck, I though the price of this date would get wrecked. Wrong. The 1863, which remains a scarce, popular Civil war issue, has done very well in the last few years.

1863 $20.00 PCGS AU58

I've handled three nice AU58 1863 double eagles in the last year and my average cost has been around $15,000 each. Five years ago, I was able to buy comparable examples for $11,000-12,000.

Collecting Type 1 Double Eagles

The 1863 has remained strangely unavailable in MS62 and higher grades. For even the most advanced collector, a nice MS61 would be a great find. If one were to become available, I think it would bring at least $32,500-35,000. Five years ago, an 1863 in MS61 was probably a $25,000 coin.

1864: The 1864 is more available than the 1862 and 1863 Philly issues but far more scarce than the 1865. I have some serious questions about the PCGS/NGC population figures for higher grade coins as this date does not seem to appear at auction with the frequency that one might expect. As an example, PCGS shows that 15 have been graded in MS61 but none have appeared since June 2008.

1864 $20.00 PCGS MS61

This date seems a little pricey to me in AU58 at its current value of $7,500-8,500+ but a little research reveals that pieces were bringing $6,000-7,000 at auction as far back as 2006.

Uncirculated examples of this date have no recent records. A small group of nice MS62 from the S.S. Republic sold for $25,000+ in April 2005 and it would be interesting to see what they would fetch today.

1865: This is a date which was clearly affected by the discovery of numerous nice, high grade pieces in the S.S. Republic. Five years ago, high grade 1865 double eagles were virtually unknown; in the last year I have owned at least a half dozen grading MS62 to MS64.

1865 $20.00 NGC MS64

In AU58, the price performance of this date has not been impacted as much as I would have expected. Today, a nice AU58 1865 trades in the $4,500-5,500 range. Five years ago, the same coin was trading for $2,500-3,000.

Before I did some price research for this article, I expected that levels had dropped on MS62's of this date due to the many newly graded pieces which have entered the market. This hasn't been the case. Today, an MS62 sells for $15,000-17,000. Five years ago, a similar coin would have brought in the area of $12,000-14,000.

This is actually one of the few Type One dates I'd caution buyers against in MS62. The current NGC population is 57 in this grade with 211 higher (!) and, for the money, I'd rather have a  date like an 1857 or an 1858 in MS61 to MS62.

The overall state of the market for Philadelphia Type One double eagles is better in early 2013 than at nearly any point which I can recall. Prices have shown a nice amount of appreciation, the number of new collectors has increased and the rosier economic picture means that people are less hesitant to buy expensive coins than they might have been in 2008-2009. Despite this, I think a compelling point can be made for calling many of the Philadelphia issues undervalued in nearly all grades, especially AU58 and MS62.

Do you want more information on Type One double eagles? I would be happy to answer your specific questions, and maybe even sell you a coin or two. Contact me via email at dwn@ont.com.

 

 

Undervalued U.S. Gold Coins in the $1,500-3,500 Range

 An article of mine was recently published by a content partner   and a reader left a comment about how my subject was elitist and  I am only concerned with selling $50,000+ coins. Hey, I LOVE selling $50,000 coins but I probably sell ten times more $1,500-3,500 coins every year than I do big ticket items. So to placate my angry reader, I thought I'd give some brief suggestions. Steven Mlaker, this one's for you!      1.  Type Three San Francisco Gold Dollars, EF45 to AU58

     There are only five San Francisco gold dollars of this type (1857-S, 1858-S, 1859-S, 1860-S and 1870-S) and all are of basically similar rarity. When available, these issues are seen in the EF45 to AU55 range and all can be had for $750 on the low end to $2,500+  for a nice AU58.

     What I like about these issues is that they are all low mintage and all are rare to very rare in Uncirculated. If I had to choose one date as the real "sleeper" it would probably be the 1870-S with a mintage of just 3,000.

     I like the concept of doing an evenly matched set of five coins, all grading AU55 to AU58. It can be done for around $10,000. To make the set a real challenge, make sure every coin is CAC quality with natural color and nice surfaces.

     2.  Properly Graded EF45 Dahlonega Quarter Eagles.

     Of the three main denominations from the Dahlonega mint, the quarter eagle is the hardest to find in choice, original Extremely Fine grades. Despite the rarity of these coins (and they are not easy to find with natural color and surfaces, no matter what the population reports say!) they are still priced in the $2,000-3,000 range.

     There are many dates in this series which are rare and expensive even in EF grades but I can think of at least ten (1843-D, 44-D, 45-D, 46-D, 47-D, 48-D, 49-D, 50-D, 51-D and 57-D) which can be bought for less than $3,000 in presentable grades.

     When buying these coins, look for pieces with deep, rich natural color and surfaces that are not overly abraded. Strike shouldn't be a major concern; if it is try idea #3, below.

    3.  Philadelphia and San Francisco Quarter Eagles, 1865-1876.

     Many of the quarter eagles made from 1865 through 1876 at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mint are scarcer than their southern counterparts at half the price.

     My favorite sleeper dates are the 1867, 1869, 1870, 1870-S, 1872 and 1876. Not a single one of these will cost you more than $2,000-3,000 in nice AU grades and the beauty of these dates is that, when available, they tend to be quite well made and reasonably attractive.

     Are these coins good "investments?" I doubt it, unless you move up the ladder and buy nice Uncirculated pieces (which, as Mr. Mlaker will remind me, is an elitist sentiment...) which seem like very good value to me.

     4.  Nice AU Classic Head Half Eagles.

     With the exception of the 1834 Crosslet 4, none of the Philadelphia half eagles made from 1834 through 1838 are scarce but they are extremely popular and when I have a nice, original AU55 to AU58 on my website, it typically sells within a few hours.

     What's not to like about these coins? They are very old, the design is cool and in the middle to higher AU grades, they look great; if original.

     A five coin 1834-1838 year set in AU55 to AU58 could be assembled for $10,000-15,000. For more of a challenge, you could add some of the major die varieties which are known.

     5.  Philadelphia No Motto Liberty Head Eagles

     After years of neglect, the Liberty Head eagle series became popular in 2008-2009 and, today, it is one of the more in-demand U.S. gold series. But collectors are mainly buying the key low mintage dates or the mintmarked coins and nice AU55 to AU58 Philadelphia coins from the 1840's and 1850's can still be bought in the $1,000-3,000 range.

     If your budget won't go higher than, say, $3,000 per coin, you can still come pretty close to completing a date run from 1840 through 1861.

    Sleepers? How about the 1840,  1842 Small Date, 1845, 1850 Small Date, 1857 and 1859. Collecting suggestions? Stick with coins which grade AU55 or better if possible and look for nice dark green-gold pieces with rich, frosty luster and light, even wear.

     6.  Mid-AU Grade Type One Philadelphia Double Eagles.

     The "play" with these coins is that they contain $1,500+ worth of gold (at current spot) but can be bought, in very presentable grades, for less than double melt. Are they rare? Not really. But they are popular as anything, they are a good "double play" hedge and they don't appear to have been adversely affected by shipwrecks like their San Francisco counterparts.

     I like nearly any 1850's Philadelphia double eagle in AU53 and better as long as it is choice, original and lesss marked thaan usual. The dates I like best are the 1855, 1856, 1857 and 1858 and $3,000 or so will get you a really presentable example of any of these four.

     7.  Early Type Three Double Eagles From San Francisco.

     My logic on these coins is the same as for the Philadelphia double eagles listed above but with one difference. These are "jump grade" coins in which a tiny difference in quality (say MS61 to MS62) can mean thousands of dollars.

     The dates I like are the 1877-S, 1878-S, 1880-S, 1881-S and 1882-S in MS60 to MS61. They aren't tremendously expensive and if you are very patient and very selective you might find an MS61 example of any of these that looks almost identical to an MS62 of the same date; at a greatly reduced price!

     Just so you know I'm not pay lip service to Mr. Mlaker, I have handled numerous examples of nearly every coin on this list during 2012 and will continue to make an active two way market in undervalued sub-$3,500 coins in 2013 and beyond.

     For more information on undervalued U.S. gold coins (in any price range, even over $50,000!) please feel free to call me at 214-675-9897 or email me at dwn@ont.com.

Major Varieties of Type One Liberty Head Double Eagles

     The true test of popularity for a series is when collectors begin to focus on varieties within the series rather than just dates. Some series, like Capped Bust half dollars, are actually more avidly collected by variety than they are by date. As a rule, gold coins are collected by date, not variety. This is due to the fact of the high entry cost per coin for most gold issues and the fact that many series of gold coins do not have interesting varieties.      Even though Type One Liberty Head double eagles are an expensive type with a number of very rare and/or expensive individual issues, there are a decent number of individuals who have begun to either specialize in varieties or who have decided to add certain varieties to their date collections.

     What are the major varieties of Type One Liberty Head double eagle? How rare are they and how significant are they? In this article, I'm going to focus on the varieties that I think should be included in any collection of Type Ones and offer my insights into them.

     1852/1852:  The 1852 is among the most common issues in the entire Type One series with a mintage of over 2 million coins. There are a few minor varieties and one obvious one: the Repunched Date. On this variety, the date was first punched too high and all four of the digits are doubled at the top. What makes this variety fairly easy to recognize even with the naked eye is the fact that this doubling has made the date quite heavy.

    I would say that around one out of every 25-50 1852 double eagles that I see is the 1852/1852. It is obvious enough that it can be seen on comparatively low grade coins. I regard it as being very collectible and it seems to have a current premium of around 25-50% above a common date in circulated grades; in Uncirculated it is very rare.

     Most of the 1852/1852 double eagles that I have seen grade in the EF45-AU53 range. This variety is very scarce in properly graded AU55 and rare in AU58. It is very rare in Uncirculated with probably fewer than ten known; the best I have seen are a pair of MS61's.

     Both NGC and PCGS recognize this variety. The population statistics at both services are very low due to it having been recognized for a comparatively brief amount of time.

     Catalog Numbers:  Breen 7152, FS-301

     Collectability: **** (four stars out of 5)

 

     1853/2:  There are numerous interesting varieties seen on the 1853 double eagle. This include varieties with a repunched 1, a repunched 3 and a blundered date with traces of an erroneous 3 between the 53 . But the variety that is the best known and which is the most sought-after by collectors is the 1853/2 overdate.

     In my opinion, this is a controversial variety. Both PCGS and NGC recognize it but designate it as an 1853/'2' which shows that they are not totally convinxced it is an true overdate. In my opinion, its status remains debatable. The two lines in the lower loop of the 3, ostensibly from an effaced 2, don't convincingly match the former digit. Also, the major diagnostic of this variety, a dot below the R in LIBERTY, is sometimes seen on normal date 1853 double eagles with absolutely no trace of the supposed overdate.

     Whatever the true status of this variety is, it has been collected along with the regular issues since the 1970's and high grade examples have commanded strong prices since the late 1980's/early 1990's. The current  price record for this variety is $48,875 for a PCGS MS61 that was sold by Heritage in their 2005 ANA auction.

     The 1853/2 double eagle is probably overvalued in comparison to the other varieties on this list. It is interesting to note that its price levels did not drop after both NGC and PCGS changed its designation to 1853/'2' a few years ago. My thought at the time was that it would hurt this variety's creditability given the fact that the services were basically implying that they doubted its veracity.

     Catalog Numbers:  Breen 7162, FS-301 (previously FS-008)

     Collectability:  ***1/2* (three and a half stars out of five)

 

     1854/184 Repunched Small Date:  The 1854 double eagle is seen with a Small Date and a Large Date (for more information on this variety, see below). The Small Date is the more common of the two but there is an interesting repunched date variety that is beginning to gain traction with Type One double eagle collectors. On this variety, the tops of the 1 and the 54 are noticeably repunched at their tops while the 8 is not. On early die state examples of this variety, the repunching can be seen with the naked eye.

     When compared with the 1852 Repunched Date, the 1854/154 seems to be the scarcer of the two, especially in higher grades. It is seen most often in the EF40-AU50 range and it is rare in AU55 and above. I have seen just a few Uncirculated examples of which the best was a single NGC MS61. Others probably exist in Uncirculated but these have not yet been designated by NGC. PCGS does not recognize this variety (yet) while NGC does.

     This is a good variety for the sharp-eyed collector to try and cherrypick. It is hard to figure out accurate values for lower grade coins but examples in AU50 and above already command premiums over normal Small Dates and I would expect this premium to increase as this variety becomes better known.

     Catalog Numbers:  Breen 7167,  FS VP-001

     Collectability:  *** (three stars out of five)

 

     1854 Large Date:  No variety of Type One double eagle has increasded in popularity or price more in the last decade than the 1854 Large Date. After being more or less unknown for decades, this variety went on collector's radar screens in the 1980's and since the early 1990's it has at least doubled--if not tripled--in value.

     The Large Date used a silver dollar logotype and it is appreciably bigger than the more often-seen Small Date. My guess is that it is at least six to eight times more scarce than the Large date. As recently as five years ago, I was still able to find undesignated Large Date coins in third-party holders (or raw) but at this point, it has become extremely hard (and lucrative!) to cherrypick examples. This variety is seen most often in EF45 to AU53 grades. It is very scarce in AU55 and rare in properly graded AU58. Interestingly, the few nice AU's I have seen have a "Euro" appearance and likely were found overseas. The finest known is an NGC MS64 that was last sold as B+M 9/08: 831 where it brought a record $96,600.

     The 1854 Large Date is designated by both PCGS and NGC. The population figures at both services are misleading as this has only been attributed for a few years. This is especially true at PCGS where the variety is newer than at NGC.

     The 1854 Large Date is widely accepted and it is an integral part of the Type One set. While I do not think it will continue to show the rise in value that it has seen over the last decade to decade and a half, I d feel that it is a savvy purchase for the advanced collector, particularly in AU50 and above.

     Catalog Numbers:  Breen 7168

     Collectability:  ***** (five stars out of five)

 

     1856-S and 1857-S Varieties:   After the discovery of the S.S. Central America, a number of varieties were discovered for the 1856-S and 1857-S double eagles. These are mostly positional and are very minor in nature. The SSCA coins that are designated by PCGS do not sell for any premium over other 1856-S and 1857-S double eagles from this source.

     There are a few varieties, though, that are worth a short mention.

     The 1856-S is known with a sharply double punched 56 in the date (Breen 7184) that can be seen with light magnification. In my experience, this is a scarce variety in higher grades but it has little collector premium.

     The 1857-S is known with a Medium S mintmark and a Large S mintmark. Before the discovery of the SSCA hoard, the Large S was considered to be very rare in higher grades but it is now available. Ironically, PCGS does not use this designation and instead focused on very minor varieties such as the "spiked shield," etc.

     Catalog Numbers:  1856-S Repunched 56 (Breen 7184), 1857-S Medium S (Breen 7187), 1857-S Large S (Breen 7189).

     Collectability:  ** (two stars out of five)

 

     1859-S Double Die Obverse:  This variety shows clear doubling on the BERTY in LIBERTY. This doubling is mostly on the lower portions of the letters and it is farily easy to see with light magnification.

     I remember having an interesting "debate" with a very savvy double eagle collector a few years ago about this variety. He claimed it was reasonably common while I believed it was very scarce to rare. Sine then, I have examined close to 100 examples of this date and have not seen more than four or five of the Double Liberty variety. This may be because other people are looking for them as well but it is my belief that this is a very hard coin to find.

     NGC recognizes this variety (and has for a few years) while PCGS only just started recognizing it. This means that at both services the number graded are unrealistically low and collectors shouldn't think that this variety has the same level of rarity as an issue like the 1854-O or the 1856-O.

     The 1859-S Double Die Obverse (also known as the Double Liberty) is seen most often in the EF40 to AU50 range. It is rare in AU55 and very rare in AU58. I have only seen two or three in Uncirculated and none better than MS61. NGC has graded just a single coin in Uncirculated (an MS60) which I sold to a specialist collector around three or four years ago.

     My guess is that this variety will become a key addition to the Type One set as the years go forward. Once it is better recognized and people are certain what sort of premium they must pay for it, its popularity will increase.

     Catalog Numbers:  Breen 7199, FS-101.

     Collectability:  *** (three stars out of five)

 

     1861-S Paquet Reverse:   Early in the life of the Type One design, it was determined that it was hard to strike and it did not always wear properly. Nothing was done about this until 1859-1860 when the assistant Mint Engraver Anthony Paquet produced a new reverse with tall, narrow letters. Coins were produced early in 1861 at the Philadelphia mint but it was quickly determined that this design was faulty due to the fact that the inner border was too narrow which allowed the surfaces to easily abrade. Coinage at Philadelphia was quickly stopped but by the time this information reached the San Francisco mint, close to 20,000 1861-S double eagles with the Paquet Reverse had been produced.

     The 1861-S Paquet reverse was mostly unknown until the early 1950's when examples were found in Europe. Today there an estimated 100-125 known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. The best that I have seen are two or three that I grade AU58; most of the coins in AU55 and AU58 holders, in my opinion, are overgraded. The current auction record is $184,000 for an NGC AU58 sold as Lot 5039 in Heritage's 1/12 auction. I know of at least two that have sold for over $200,000 via private treaty.

     Values for this issue increased dramatically during the late 1990's and early 2000's; to the point where the average quality example was probably overvalued. In 2012, I see very few offered for sale and I believe that a nice AU is worth at least what it was during the strong mafrket of 2007-2008, if not even more.

     The 1861-S Paquet reverse double eagle has been accepted as an integral member of the Type One set since the early 1960's and it will continue to be a highly prized issue. It is the rarest double eagle of any date or type from the San Francisco mint and I expect that the current low range of $40,000-50,000 for a presentable example is coming to an end. In the not-so-distant future, expect to pay in the $60,000-80,000+ range for the "right" coin.

     Catalog Numbers:   Breen 7205, Breen 7206

     Collectability:  ***** (five stars out of five)

 

     1863-S Mintmark Varieties:  Other than a minor date repunching variety on the 1862-S, there aren't many other post-Paquet varieties in the Type One series worth a mention. Probably the most interesting are the two mintmark varieties seen on the 1863-S.

     The more common 1863-S double eagle has a Medium mintmark, as on the reverse used in both 1861 and 1862. The more common has a Small mintmark, as seen on the 1864-S and 1865-S reverses.

     While somewhat interesting, I doubt if minor varieties such as these will ever catch on with Type One double eagle collectors.

     Catalog Numbers:  Breen 7126 (Medium S), Breen 7127 (Small S)

     Collectability:  * (one star out of five)

     I expect the varieties listed above that are four stars or higher to have significantly increased demand over the next decade. I don't expect any other varieties to have such widespread appeal but you never know; the blessing of PCGS or NGC would go a long way in creating collector demand.

     For more information about Liberty Head double eagles, please feel free to contact me directly ar dwn@ont.com.

The Eliasberg 1858-O $20.00

I'd like to share a photo and some information about a really interesting coin that I recently bought and sold. It's a lovely 1858-O double eagle, graded AU55 by PCGS. What makes this coin really special, in my opinion, is its fantastic pedigree. To the best of my knowledge it has the oldest continual pedigree of any 1858-O double eagle, and certainly the best. The 1858-O is the 8th rarest of 13 double eagles produced at the New Orleans mint. You'd think this meant it was a common coin, but this is far from the case. There are an estimated 200 or so known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. This date becomes quite rare in the medium to higher AU grades and it is extremely rare in Uncirculated with just six or seven known to me.

The finest known 1858-O double eagle is a PCGS MS62 owned by a prominent Midwestern collector. It came from the Bass III sale (May 2000) where it sold for $50,600. Harry Bass obtained it from the Merkin 10/66 sale.

There were four Uncirculated 1858-O double eagles found in the S.S. Republic treasure and this swelled the number of Uncirculated examples. The best of these four was an MS63 (graded by NGC).

I love the freshness of this coin and I think a quick study of it will prove helpful to rare gold coin collectors. It has wonderful soft, frosty luster, and pleasing natural yellow-gold coloration on the obverse and the reverse. This coloration is exactly "right" for the issue and the few 1858-O double eagles that I have seen that haven't been dipped or processed displayed a similar hue.

The Eliasberg 1858-O $20.00, PCGS MS62

This date is not generally seen with a sharp strike and this example is about as well detailed as any I can recall. Note the full radial lines in the obverse stars and the nearly complete detail on Liberty's hair. In both instances, this is very unusual.

The surfaces of this coin are clean for the grade. There are a few scattered scuffs in the fields, which is to be expected from an AU55. That said, I think this coin is as clean as other Type One double eagles that I have seen in AU58 holders.

This coin last appeared as Lot 1948 in Stack's November 2009 auction where it sold for $27,600. Before this it was in the October 1982 Eliasberg sale where it brought $2,640. It was obtained by Eliasberg in the famous Max Mehl June 1946 sale of the Atwater collector where it realized $105.

The Eliasberg 1858-O double eagle is now owned by a Southern collector who specializes in New Orleans gold coinage. He already owns a number of impressive New Orleans double eagles, but I'm willing to bet that this coin will become one of his favorites.

Are you interested in adding coins like the Eliasberg 1858-O double eagle to your collection? If so, please feel free to speak to me at 214-675-9897 and let me know how I can be of assistance to you and your collection.