So...You've Decided to Collect Gold Dollars...

So...You've Decided to Collect Gold Dollars...

The gold dollar was made from 1849 through 1889 in three distinct types and was struck at five different mints. This denomination has been popular with many generations of collectors and it lends itself to a host of different collecting methodologies...

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The 36 Major Gold Types: A Collectors Guide

The 36 Major Gold Types: A Collectors Guide

Between 1795 and 1933 a total of 36 major gold types were issued for circulation. I’m going to discuss each type in more detail with suggestions on how and what to buy and some “alternative” dates to spice-up a type set.

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The Duckor Collection of Gold Dollars: A Post-Sale Analysis

The Duckor Collection of Gold Dollars: A Post-Sale Analysis

I had a personal investment in the recent sale of Dr. Steven Duckor’s gold dollar collection at the Heritage 2014 Platinum Night auction session. Steve is a good personal friend of mine (and of my wife Irma) so we wanted to be there to cheer him on. I also helped him assemble the set and, as a dealer, you don’t often get the chance to sit with a client while his world-class collection is being sold at auction.

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What's the "Next Big Thing" in Rare Date Gold? Five Suggestions:

What's the "Next Big Thing" in Rare Date Gold? Five Suggestions:

In the last decade, we have seen a number of Next Big Things in the rare date gold market. We’ve seen New Orleans double eagles and Carson City double eagles. We’ve seen Civil War issues, and we’ve seen No Motto San Francisco eagles. In most cases, we’ve seen big demand spikes and subsequent price increases in these areas. What could be the Next Big Thing and why? Here are five suggestions with explanations.

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Recently Sold by DWN: A Choice PCGS AU53 1855-D $1.00

The 1855-D is one of two gold dollars from the Dahlonega mint with multiple levels of demand. It is popular with type collectors who like it for its one-year status (it is the only Type One gold dollar from this mint) and it is also popular with collectors who appreciate truly rare coins. While the 1861-D is the “sexy” D mint gold dollar, the 1855-D is actually a rarer coin in high grades, especially with choice surfaces, original color and a sharp strike. Of the 100 or which are known, most 1855-D dollars grade in the VF-EF range and are characterized by very flat central detail. There are an estimated two dozen known in properly graded About Uncirculated, as well as another four or five in Uncirculated.

1855-D $1.00 PCGS AU53

A very small number (lower than 10% of the survivors) are known with a full date and collectors appreciate these. Full Date coins typically command strong premium and to qualify as such, an 1855-D needs to be as well defined on the 85 as the present coin; see the photo for more evidence.

This fresh-to-the-market coin is perhaps the nicest circulated 1855-D dollar that I have owned and its eye appeal far exceeds the assigned grade. It is extremely well-struck and is probably one of the very first coins struck from the Winter 7-I die pair. The date shows 100% full detail, and there are only moderate clashmarks at the centers. The surfaces are clean and well made with attractive rich deep russet color seen on both sides. Some dirt in the recesses can be seen as well and it is likely that this is one of only a small number of 1855-D dollars which has not been cleaned or dipped.

This coin was recently sent in for grading by the descendants of an old Southern family, where the coin had resided since the 19th century. I was excited to purchase it, and I sent it to PCGS and later to CAC, hoping it would grade AU55.

Here is an example where a coin in a lower grade holder is clearly worth more than one graded higher. My coin was “competing” with an NGC AU58 which was listed on a West Coast dealer’s website for less money than I was asking for a coin which was “only” an AU53. As I pointed out to the collector who purchased this coin from me, the AU58, based on images, was weakly struck, unnaturally bright, and had rough, processed surfaces.

The new owner of this coin is nearing completion of a set of Dahlonega gold and he has just a few more coins before he is finished. I am pleased that he took a leap of faith and purchased this exceptional 1855-D Full Date dollar as it will make a superb addition to his set.

If you want to purchase Dahlonega gold coins which are choice s this 1855-D dollar, please contact 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.

United States Gold Coins with Multiple Levels of Demand

A trend that I have noted in recent years is that a subset of gold issues which have what I refer to as Multiple Levels of Demand (MLD). These are coins with more than one potential set of buyers competing for them. As an example, a coin such as an 1838-D half eagle is sought not only by Dahlonega specialists but by Classic Head half eagle collectors, first-year-of-issue collectors, one-year type collectors and collectors who just appreciate cool coins.

1838-D $5.00 NGC MS62 CAC

An 1844-D half eagle, in contrast, has a smaller pool of potential buyers which includes Dahlonega specialists and type collectors looking for a single nice half eagle for their set. MLD coins have increased significantly in value in the last five to ten years and this makes sense. Coin values are largely the result of a basic supply and demand relationship: the greater the demand, the more prices increase.

In this blog, let’s take a look at coins which are already stellar MLD’s and also at issues which might be the next wave of multiple level of demand coins.

GOLD DOLLARS:

1861-D $1.00 PCGS MS61

If I had to choose the one single issue in this denomination which had the highest overall level of demand among collectors it would be hands-down the 1861-D. This scarce, low mintage issue is popular for a host of reasons: it is a coin with verifiable provenance from the Confederacy, it is the final issue from this mint (along with the similarly-dated half eagle) and the rarest gold dollar from any source. These facts (and others) have made it extremely popular and prices have soared as a result.

1855-D $1.00 PCGS MS61, Full Date

Other gold dollars which have a high degree of MLD include the Type Two issues: 1855-C, 1855-O, 1855-D and 1856-S. These four coins range from rare (1855-D) to relatively common (1855-O and 1856-S) but they have interesting stories attached to them and, in most cases, they are relatively affordable in circulated grades.

1849-D $1.00 PCGS MS62 CAC

What are the gold dollars which are most likely to become MLD issues in the future? I would suggest that the 1849-C, 1849-D and 1849-O will due to their status as first-year-of-issue from their respective branch mints (side thought: this would make a great three coin set in AU for the collector of average means). I could see the 1870-S becoming an MLD due to it being the final year of issue from the SF mint for gold dollars, its low mintage and the sexiness of this date in general. The 1875, due to its mintage figure of just 400 business strikes, is another possibility as well.

QUARTER EAGLES:

1839-D $2.50 PCGS VF35 CAC

As with many of the multiple level of demand coins, the list is dominated by Classic Head issues. The 1838-C and 1839-C have proven popular with collectors in the last decade as has the 1839-D. Of the three, the 1839-C tends to have the least MLD but this is partly due to the fact that many of the EF and AU examples which appear for sale are grossly overgraded and have problems. The 1838-C and 1839-D are both first year of issue with comparably low mintages and the latter is a one-year type.

A coin which is probably better classified as a Classic Rarity but which is also an MLD issue is the 1854-S. It has a tiny original mintage (246 pieces), very low survival rate and it is the first quarter eagle produced at the San Francisco mint. But this is already a solid six-figure coin and, thus, is not a realistic purchase for most collectors.

1808 $2.50 PCGS AU53 CAC

Other quarter eagles I regard as having a high MLD include the 1796 No Stars and the 1808; both are popular one-year types. The 1848 CAL is another obvious choice due to its status as a Gold Rush issue and as the first American commemorative issue.

1864 $2.50 PCGS EF45 CAC

What are the quarter eagles most likely to become MLD issues in the future?  I’d look at the four 1840 issues (P, C, D and O) as they would make a fun set to assemble, the 1845-O due to its status as the rarest issue of this denomination from New Orleans, and the rare Civil War issues from 1864 and 1865.

THREE DOLLAR GOLD PIECES:

1854-D $3.00 PCGS AU55

I think there are really only two dates in this series right now that have MLD status: the 1854-O and the 1854-D and one of these (the 1854-O) has had a lot of its appeal ruined by blatant overgrading by the services.

The 1854-D is the clear MLD favorite right now. It is scarce in all grades but available enough to be a target for Dahlonega specialists, Three Dollar collectors, low mintage fans, and people who just like great coins with a real story to tell.

1855-S $3.00 PCGS MS61

If I had to choose the dates most likely to have MLD status in the future, they would be the 1855-S (due to its status as the first Three Dollar from the San Francisco mint), the Civil War issues from 1861-1865 (all are collectible and could be turned into interesting subsets) and maybe the 1873 Closed 3 (very low mintage).

HALF EAGLES:

There are more issues of this denomination with high multiple levels of demand than nearly any other and this includes coins from the 18th, 19th and 20th century.

1795 Small Eagle $5.00 PCGS AU58

The first issue I’d place in the MLD category would be the 1795 Small Eagle. It’s available enough to be realistically obtainable by advanced collectors and it has a high “cool factor” as a first-year-of-issue with a great design.

Nearly any sub-$10,000 early half eagle has a high MLD factor, especially if the coin is choice and original. The reasons are obvious: old, gold, semi-affordable and very appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.

1838-D $5.00 PCGS AU53 CAC

The 1838-C and 1838-D have oodles of demand due to their first-year and one-year type status. The 1839-C and 1839-D do as well but to a slightly lesser extent; both have, however, shown nice price increases in collector grades over the last decade.

1861-D $5.00 PCGS AU55

The 1861-D certainly receives consideration as an issue with lots and lots of MLD and its counterpart the 1861-C has suddenly become quite popular as well. Both of these issues have demand that far exceeds the Southern branch mint box which other C and D half eagles are trapped within.

1909-O $5.00 PCGS MS61 CAC

The 1870-CC, desirable as the first half eagle from this mint, is a coin with a high MLD. The same is true for the 1909-O as it is the only half eagle from New Orleans with the Indian Head design and it is a final year of issue. The 1929 Indian Head half eagle has become very popular in recent years due to its being the very last half eagle made.

1813 $5.00 PCGS MS64

Which half eagles have a good shot as showing high MLD in the next few years?  A few of my choices might surprise you. Due to its status as the only semi-affordable date of its type, the 1813 could have MLD. The same goes with the 1834 Crosslet 4 which is the key issue in the Classic Head half eagles; a set which is beginning to see appreciation by date collectors. The 1839-P is a neat, affordable one-year type coin which has lagged the market as has the first-year-of-issue 1840-O. The rare to very rare Civil War era half eagles from Philadelphia and San Francisco have new-found, widespread appeal and increased price levels to match.

EAGLES:

1795 $10.00 NGC MS61

The first-year-of-issue 1795 has to be considered one of the most desirable eagles of any date or design. As with the similarly dated half eagle, it isn’t a really rare coin but it is an issue which “checks the boxes” for a host of collectors and has strong MLD as such. To a lesser extent, this is true with the 1799 as it is an 18th century-dated “big coin” which is still within reach of many advanced collector’s budgets.

1838 $10.00 PCGS EF40

The 1838 eagle has become exceptionally popular in recent years and it has soared in price. It is a first-year-of-issue with a low mintage and a very cool design which appeals to many different collectors. To an extent, the 1839 Head of 1838 has a degree of MLD but not as much as its earlier counterpart.

Many of the rare Civil War Liberty Head eagles have a high degree of appeal might they are probably not quite yet what I would consider MLD coins. An issue that clearly does have multiple levels of demand, though, is the 1870-CC which is desirable for a number of reasons. There are a few Indian Head eagles which have a strong MLD profile. The first is the 1907 Wire Edge, a coin of unparalleled beauty which has a great back story and which is rare but not impossibly so. The second is the rare and high valued 1933 which is the only American gold coin of this date which is legal to own.

1841-O $10.00 PCGS AU58 CAC

I can think of numerous eagles which could have expanded levels of demand in the coming years. The key New Orleans issues, 1841-O, 1859-O, 1879-O and 1883-O, are beginning to show demand which exceeds the specialist community. The ultra-low mintage Philadelphia issues from 1873, 1876 and 1877 are becoming very popular as is the 1879-CC which has the lowest mintage of any Carson City gold coin.

DOUBLE EAGLES:

1861-S $20.00, Paquet Reverse, NGC AU53

You can make a case that many Type One Liberty Head double eagles have some degree of MLD as they are pursued by general collectors, specialists and “double play” investors. If I had to select one specific Type One issue as having the most widespread appeal, my experience would suggest the 1861-S Paquet Reverse. The Philadelphia issues from the Civil War years (1861-1865) are quite popular as well.

1870-CC $20.00 PCGS EF45

The rarest Type Two double eagle is the 1870-CC but this doesn’t have the widespread appeal that the similarly dated half eagle and eagle do because it is very expensive and tends to be found with poor eye appeal.

You can also make a good case that virtually all Carson City doubles eagles, from both the Type Two and Type Three series, have multiple levels of demand. This is especially true with the more common dates in collector grades.

MCMVII (1907) High Relief, Wire Rim, PCGS MS63

An obvious MLD issue is the 1907 High Relief. Yes, it’s probably overvalued but there are few American gold coins which have a higher level of demand from a more varied group of potential buyers.

Which double eagles have the potential to be added to this list in the coming years? Two which come to mind (and some observers might state that they already have MLD) are the 1861-O and 1879-O. The same probably holds true for the low mintage Philadelphia issues from 1881-1887 and 1891.

As coins become more expensive and harder to locate, buyers want an item which is special and which justifies what they are spending money on. Coins which have a nice design, a fascinating back-story, a very low mintage figure or some association with an historic event are the exact sort of piece(s) which people are now seeking and this is likely to continue in the coming years.

Do you want to purchase coins with multiple levels of demand? I specialize in such coins. Please contact me via email at dwn@ont.com and we can discuss how you can become a collector of these coins.

The Vasquez Rocks Collection: Dahlonega Gold Dollars

In the last blog in this multi-part series, I talked about the Philadelphia gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks Collection. In this second installment, I'm going to focus on a group of coins that are near and dear to me: the Dahlonega gold dollars. The Dahlonega mint began production of gold dollars in 1849. They produced six Type One issues (from 1849 to 1854), a single Type Two (in 1855) and six issues that featured the Type Three design (from 1856 to the closing of the mint in 1861). For all three types, the estimated total mintage is fewer than 75,000 coins.

The individual who formed the Vasquez Rocks collection did something amazing: he formed a complete Uncirculated set of gold dollars from this mint. To the best of my knowledge, the only other collections that had a complete set of Dahlonega gold dollars in PCGS/NGC holders were Duke's Creek (sold by Heritage in April 2006) and Green Pond (sold by Heritage in January 2004 and assembled by me). This statement, of course, doesn't take into account older specialized gold dollar collections such as Ullmer, McNally, Miles and Pierce which were also complete in Uncirculated but which were formed before the days or third-party grading.

Before I get into specifics about the gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks collection, here are a few interesting facts to ponder:

  • Of the 13 coins in the set, ten have been graded by PCGS and three have been graded by NGC.
  • The highest graded Dahlonega gold dollar in the set is an NGC MS64 (1853-D) and the lowest grade is a PCGS MS60 (1856-D).
  • Two coins (the 1851-D and the 1858-D) have been awarded "plus" grade designations by PCGS.
  • The average grade of a Dahlonega dollar in this set is 61.92; this figure is arrived at by giving the plus coins an extra half a point (i.e, 63+ is figured as 63.5)
  • Coins in this set have pedigrees from such famous collections as Chestatee, Green Pond, and Pittman.

Now, let's get a bit more specific and discuss the coins, type by type.

I.  Type One

There are some outstanding Type One Dahlonega gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks collection. A complete list is as follows:

  • 1849-D, PCGS MS62
  • 1850-D, NGC MS63
  • 1851-D, PCGS MS63+
  • 1852-D, PCGS MS61
  • 1853-D, NGC MS64
  • 1854-D, PCGS MS62, ex Pittman Collection

It's hard for me to pick a favorite coin from this group, but the piece that I like the best is the 1851-D in PCGS MS63+.

The 1851-D is the second most common Type One gold dollar (after the 1849-D) and there are as many as 20 known in Uncirculated. However, it is very rare in MS63 as evidenced by the PCGS population of four (with only two better). The Vasquez Rocks coin is the only MS63+ currently graded by PCGS and it is a magnificent coin with a bold strike, rich yellow-gold color and delightful frosty luster. It would make a perfect type coin for the collector who is seeking a single higher grade Type One gold dollar from Dahlonega for his collection.

1851-D $1.00 PCGS MS63+

II.  Type Two

The Dahlonega mint produced Type Two gold dollars for just one year. The 1855-D had an original mintage of just 1,811 and there are fewer than 100 known, mostly in lower grades. This is the single rarest gold dollar from this mint in higher grades and there are exactly four known in Uncirculated.

The coin in the Vasquez Rocks collection is graded MS61 by PCGS and it is the fourth finest known 1855-D dollar. It is one of two Uncirculated 1855-D dollars that were once in the Green Pond collection and it has been off the market since early 2004 when it was acquired from the auction by the owner of the Vasquez Rocks collection for $46,000.

Only a small number of 1855-D dollars are known with sharp strikes and an even smaller number have a full date. The Vasquez Rocks coin is exceptionally well struck; so well struck, in fact, that PCGS has designated on the holder that it is a Full Date. Of the four Uncirculated 1855-D dollars, only one other (ex Duke's Creek/Bass) has a Full Date.

In addition to its exceptional strike, this 1855-D has great eye appeal for the issue with a good deal of luster seen on choice surfaces. Both sides have pleasing color and if you have seen many examples of this date, you'll know that it is seldom found with this degree of good looks!

III.  Type Three

The Type Three design was introduced in 1856 and the Dahlonega mint produced six issues before it was closed in 1861.

The Type Three D mint dollars in this collection are as follows:

  • 1856-D, PCGS MS60, ex Chestatee collection
  • 1857-D, PCGS MS61
  • 1858-D, PCGS MS62+
  • 1859-D, NGC MS62
  • 1860-D, PCGS MS62, CAC approved
  • 1861-D, PCGS MS61

Again, it is hard to focus on one coin, given how many outstanding pieces are in this set. I'm sure you expect me to focus on the 1861-D but I'm actually going to discuss the 1860-D, a coin that, to me, is clearly a highlight of this set.

Only 1,566 gold dollars were struck at the Dahlonega mint in 1860 and this is a rare issue in all grades. A dubious distinction held by this date is the fact that it is the worst struck gold dollar from this mint. The coin in the Vasquez Rocks collection, while showing the familiar weak U in UNITED, is among the best made examples of this date that I have seen. It is of just two graded MS62 by PCGS with a single coin better (an MS63 that should be deleted from the population report as it now appears as an NGC MS64). It is nice enough for the grade that it was approved by CAC and it is one of just two examples of this date in MS62 to have received a CAC sticker.

1860-D $1.00 PCGS MS62 CAC

I am hoping that I will be able to keep the Dahlonega dollars from the Vasquez Rocks collection intact and they will be offered, at first, as a set. If no one purchases them intact, the coins will be broken up and, I assume, they will sell quickly.

For more information on the coins in this collection, please feel free to contact me by email at dwn@ont.com. I expect the full Vasquez Rocks collection to be available for sale in a few weeks.

The Vasquez Rocks Collection: Philadelphia Gold Dollars

I am proud to announce that I will soon begin selling the exceptional Vasquez Rocks Collection of gold dollars. This is one of the finest collection of these coins ever formed with virtually every piece grading MS60 or better and many Condition Census examples included. To get you ready for this epic sale, I'm going to produce a series of blogs that deal with the coins on a mint-by-mint basis and which discuss the highlights of the collection. First, let's look at the gold dollars made at the Philadelphia mint. Philadelphia gold dollars were struck without interruption from 1849 through 1889. Three distinct types are known and these are as follows:

  • Type One, 1849-1854
  • Type Two, 1854-1855
  • Type Three, 1856-1889

Let's look take a brief overview of each of these three types and then discuss them relative to the Vasquez Rocks collection.

Type One gold dollars were made at the Philadelphia from the introduction of this denomination in 1849 until the changeover to the Type Two design in 1854 (in 1854, both the Type One and Type Two designs were produced). Type One Philadelphia gold dollars were made in great amounts and they tend to be common, even in higher grades. These issues are popular with type collectors as they tend to come very well struck and nicely produced. Some dates, notably the 1852 and 1853, exist in grades as high as MS68 or MS69(!) and only one, the 1850, is considered to be scarce in Gem.

The highlight of the Philadelphia Type One gold dollars in the Vasquez Rocks collection is a superb PCGS MS66 example of the 1849 Closed Wreath. It has a population of just three in this grade with one finer and the best graded at this service is an MS66+. The Vasquez Rocks coin, shown below, has a razor sharp strike and amazingly clean surfaces with nary a mark visible to the naked eye.

1849 Closed Wreath $1.00 PCGS MS66, Vasquez Rocks Collection

In 1854, the Mint made the decision to change to the Type Two or Small Indian Head design. This proved to be a disaster from a quality standpoint as the design was hard to strike. Many Type Two gold dollars are seen with poor design details at the centers and this is one of the hardest post-1838 United States gold types to locate in MS65 and above.

1854 and 1855 Type Two dollars from the Philadelphia mint are known. These are very common in circulated grades and available without much of a problem in the lower Uncirculated grades.

The 1854-P Type Two dollar in the Vasquez Rocks Collection grades MS61 while the 1855-P Type Two grades MS62. Both have been encapsulated by PCGS.

The Type Three coins begin in 1856 and extend through the end of this denomination in 1889. The Type Three dollars are a fascinating series to collect. While there are no real rarities, many dates are very scarce to rare in higher grades. The key dates are the 1863 and the 1875.

There are a number of highlights among the Philadelphia Type Three dollars in the Vasquez Rocks Collection. A few of the coins that I especially like are as follows:

  • 1856 Slanting 5 PCGS MS66+. One of six graded in MS66 (with two in MS66+) and only four finer.
  • 1857 PCGS MS67.  One of six graded in MS67 with just a single coin finer.
  • 1859 PCGS MS66+. One of seven graded in MS66 (and the only one in 66+) with five finer.
  • 1863 PCGS MS65. One of five graded as such with just two finer. The rarest gold dollar from this mint.
  • 1867 PCGS MS66.  One of three graded as such with one better.
  • 1868 PCGS MS68.  One of two graded as such with one better.
  • 1875 PCGS MS65. One of seven graded with three finer. Only 400 business strikes produced.
  • 1886 PCGS MS67.  One of five graded as such with none finer.

The Type Three coin I'd like to focus on for a minute is the 1875, graded MS65 by PCGS. This is a legendary date for US gold collectors with many of the Philadelphia issues having absurdly low mintages. The 1875-P gold dollar has a tiny mintage of just 400 business strikes and it has been recognized as a key issue for well over a century.

The Vasquez Rocks coin is housed in an old green label PCGS holder and it has dazzling fully Prooflike fields on the obverse and reverse that make it resemble a Proof. It shows the diagnostic thorn-like projection extending down from Liberty's chin that is seen only on business strikes. The coin in this set, which is shown below, is one of the few true Gems that I have seen and it is clearly the nicest that has come onto the market since the  Heritage 2/10: 1427 coin, graded MS66 by PCGS, that brought  $109,250 in furious bidding.

1875 $1.00 PCGS MS65, Vasquez Rocks Collection

The Vasquez Rocks Collection includes many coins that are fresh to the market and it was begun back in the 1980's when superb quality Philadelphia gold dollars were more available than they are today. There are numerous wonderful Gems included and the selection of Type One, Type two and Type Three Philadelphia issues should prove very tempting for the date or type collector.

For more information on the Vasquez Rocks Collection, please contact me via email at dwn@ont.com. I will be sending out notices by email to preferred DWN clients by email, and I anticipate that the collection will become available in around three weeks.

2011 Heat Index: What's Hot and What's Not

A popular feature of the www.raregoldcoins.com blog is the "what's hot and what's not" article that I write at the end of every year. As its the very end of what's been an interesting and active year, let's take a look at what was in demand in 2011 and what you, literally, couldn't give away. We'll look at a number of areas in the market and determine a "heat index" based on my personal experience in the 2011 coin market. 1. Gold Dollars. This was a mixed market area but overall it was fairly strong and in some cases it was very strong. The segments of the gold dollar market that were strongest were superb, one-of-a-kind Type One and Type Three issues (especially "wonder coins" graded MS68 and MS69) and very high quality Dahlonega issues (especially better dates such as the 1855-D, 1856-D, 1860-D and 1861-D). Areas that remained flat or trended downwards in 2011 include mid-level Uncirculated New Orleans pieces and San Francisco issues. The weakest segments of the gold dollar market included Gem common date Type Two issues and MS65 through MS67 common dates from the 1880's.

2. Quarter Eagles. Early quarter eagles were a strong area in the market. This was especially true for attractive, original coins in the EF40 to MS63 range that were priced at $50,000 and below. A few nice 1796 No Stars quarter eagles sold in 2011 and these generally saw prices that were higher than in the previous couple of years. Early quarter eagles priced at $100,000 and up remained hard to sell, unless they were either very rare or very nice or, ideally, a combination of the two.

The Liberty Head series saw mixed results in 2011. Nice circulated Dahlonega pieces were good sellers and even Charlotte coins, at least those in the $2,000-5,000 range, sold well if they possessed good eye appeal. The very high end of the market was strong. Ultra rare issues such as the 1841, 1854-S and 1863 all saw strong price increases in 2011. The surprise "trendy date" of the year was the 1864 which, in a short period of time, saw explosive price growth as collectors realized how rare it was.

Most quarter eagles dated 1870 and later remained hard to sell, even those with low mintages. There were a few exceptions (the low mintage 1875 became popular in 2011) but this seems like an area in the market that offers good growth potential for collectors with a budget of $1,000-5,000 per coin.

3. Three Dollars. After a rough patch of five or so years, the Three Dollar market showed more strength than I can remember. Buyers were fussy and coins that were not high end were hard to sell. The most popular dates included the 1854-D, 1855-S, 1861-1864 and the low mintage issues from the 1880's. Dates that were hard to sell included the 1854-O, 1865 and 1877. The rare Proof-only 1875 was a good seller while the not-as-rare Proof 1876 was harder to sell.

Prices on better dates in MS63 to MS65 have dropped to levels that make them prime for a promotion in the coming years. There are enough nice to very nice coins available (not factoring in common issues such as the 1854, 1874, 1878 and 1889) that I would not be surprised to see prices for nice coins rise.

4. Half Eagles. The market for early half eagles was very quality conscious in 2011. As an example, a common date early five such as an 1803/2 in AU55 to AU58 was worth 5-10% more if it were CAC-quality as opposed to the typical washed-out, unappealing example. The grade range that really began to see price separation due to quality was MS63 to MS64. There are early half eagles in MS63 holders that are hard to sell at $25,000; the exact same issue in the same grade with a CAC sticker and real eye appeal can be an easy sale at $30,000+.

The market for very rare early half eagles was hard to gauge in 2011 due to so few pieces trading. But in the Heritage 2012 FUN sale there is a superb date run of rare half eagles including an 1819, 1821, 1825/1, 1826, 1828, 1828/7 and both varieties of 1829. I expect these coins to bring record prices and the "heat" that they generate is likely to spread to the rare but more more obtainable dates of this era.

The Liberty Head half eagle market was generally good in 2011. The areas that were strongest include collector quality Dahlonega pieces, rare Civil War dates and high quality New Orleans issues. Areas that began to show some tentative strength included No Motto Philadelphia issues in AU and Mint State grades and rare but formerly unpopular low-mintage dates from the 1860's and 1870's. The market for Carson City half eagles in 2011 was mixed. There were not many nice coins on the market and the better dates that did sell only brought solid prices if they were very choice.

5. Eagles. While not everyone realizes this, eagles were probably the strongest denomination in the gold coin market in 2011. Nearly all areas were as stronger or stronger than in 2010 with the exception of early eagles (1795-1804) which remained off their market highs of a few years ago. But this statement needs to be clarified. Most of the early eagles that are offered for sale are very low end for the grade. Nice early eagles sell for 10-20% premiums over their low-end counterparts.

The Liberty Head eagle series came into its own in 2009 and since then, prices have been strong for choice examples of rare and low mintage dates. In my opinion, prices of rare, low mintages issues such as the 1863, 1864, 1865, 1872, 1873, 1876 and 1877 are still very low in comparison to less rare but more popular double eagles from this era.

The Carson City eagle market was similar to that described above for the half eagles. If a coin was choice and rare, it sold for a strong price. If it were just so-so, the price ranged from decent to slightly above average. But if a real "pig" was offered (and some of the CC eagles in holders are grossly overgraded) it might bring a distortingly low price. Collectors are urged to work closely with an informed specialist and to learn how to distinguish a choice, original piece from an overgraded low-end example.

6. Double Eagles. For the last five years, the Liberty Head double eagle market has seen an inexorable march upwards in price. In the second half of 2011, this area of the market seemed to weaken a bit, probably due as much to the steep rise in bullion prices as a natural correction.

The always-popular Type One market softened a bit but remained strong. CAC approved coins brought good premiums, especially for issues like the rarer New Orleans mint coins where eye appeal was a real concern. Premiums for rare shipwreck coins remained very strong in 2011. If an S.S. Central America, Brother Jonathan or S.S. Republic coin that had a population of just a few coins was available at auction it brought many multiples of a non-shipwreck coin's price.

The Type Two market was a bit stronger than in the last past few years. The market for common dates in MS62 through MS64 dropped rather significantly but scarcer dates (such as the 1868, 1869, 1870 and 1871) rose in AU and Uncirculated.

The bullion-related Type Three issues and the condition rarity market declined in 2011 but the market for truly rare issues (1881-1886 and 1891 Philadelphia) was strong.

7. Proof Gold. This was a strong area of the market in 2011 and part of the reason was a greater supply of choice coins than in recent memory. Strong prices were seen at the Heritage 2011 FUN sale where the Henry Miller collection, which contained dozens of superb rare date Proofs, brought very strong prices. Coins that were in demand include very low mintage issues and virtually all pre-1880 half eagles, eagles and, especially double eagles.

8. 20th Century Gold. The various 20th century series saw a mixed year in 2011. Common date generic issues saw significant shrinking in premiums over spot and in some series, coins were trading for tiny premiums.

A series that was stagnant in 2011 but which is primed for attention is the St. Gaudens double eagle. The upcoming sale of the Dr. Steve Duckor collection, to be sold by Heritage next week in their FUN auction, includes many very choice, very rare issues which are likely to bring record prices. This may not necessarily impact lower quality examples of these dates but it will clearly bring a lot of attention to a series that has been flat since the Morse Collection sale of 2005.

A series that seemed to be quietly attracting collector and investor attention in 2011 was the Indian Head eagle. I only handled a few interesting Indian Head eagles in 2011 but the coins I did own sold quickly and generally to smart dealers.

All in all, I look at 2011 as being a good year for the rare gold coin market. Not a great year but certainly a stronger one than 2009 or 2010. It was a year that rarity and originality became more in vogue. It was a year that soaring bullion prices were a big story during the first three-quarters. My firm DWN had an excellent year in 2011 and I am personally excited about the coming year and what it will bring.