Trophy Coins for the Rest of Us

The last article I wrote was about Trophy Coins. It generated a lot of buzz among my readers, not all of it positive. The negative comments I heard, not all underserved, typically went something like this: “You are an elitist, writing about coins which are $50,000, $100,000 and more.” I can understand these comments, although I would counter with the argument that a true Trophy Coin is by its very nature meant to be exclusive.

Is it possible to own a true Trophy Coin at a more realistic price point? I would resoundingly say that yes it is, although I would still place the minimum amount required to attain Trophyness, at least in the arena of United States gold coinage, to be in the $5,000-10,000+ range.

Here is a list of ten Trophy Coins for the 99%, plus “pitches” which quickly explain what makes each coin so clearly identifiable as being “special.”  I’ve also listed some “runners-up” which can be considered Trophy Coins in their own right.

1875  $1.00 PCGS MS65 CAC

1. 1875 Gold Dollar

The Pitch: Only 400 business strikes were made, giving this the lowest reported mintage of any gold dollar.

The 1875 gold dollar is a coin which was famous soon after it was made but whose popularity has diminished over the years. Most non-specialists are aware that it has an absurdly low original mintage, but they have little knowledge of this coin’s special attributes above and beyond its mintage. Interestingly, for some collectors the 1863 has replaced the 1875 as the “go to” Philadelphia issue of this denomination as a result of its status as “rarest Civil War gold dollar.”

The appearance of this issue is unusual for a gold dollar of this era. Many of the 100-150 which exist show fully reflective mirror surfaces which carefully resemble those seen on Proofs of this year. The typical example grades AU50 to low end Uncirculated and a very presentable 1875 gold dollar can be obtained, with patience, for around $7,500. In the higher grade range, there are at least five or six gems known including a PCGS MS66+ owned by collector Bob Simpson and Steve Duckor’s PCGS MS66; these are the two finest I have seen and am aware of.

While not as rare as its low mintage would suggest (clearly, examples were saved at the time of issue by dealers and collectors), the 1875 gold dollar is a significant scarcity whose value would quickly increase were it better known.

Runners Up: 1855-D gold dollar (rarest collectible branch mint issue), 1863 (rarest Civil War issue).

1864 $2.50 PCGS EF45 CAC

2. 1864 Quarter Eagle

Pitch: The rarest collectible business strike Liberty Head quarter eagle and a key Civil War issue.

For many years, the 1864 quarter eagle was a “sleeper” within a series (Liberty Head quarter eagles) replete with undervalued issues. But with the increased interest in Civil War issues, the true rarity of the 1864 quarter eagle became better known and, quickly, values escalated.

It is likely that no more than two dozen examples exist from an original mintage of 2,824 with most in the EF45 to AU55 range. The finest known is a superb Gem, graded MS67 by NGC and ex Byron Reed. The last few examples which have appeared at auction have brought in the $40,000-60,000 range; a level which is out of keeping with the spirit of these Trophy Coins but which, in my opinion, still represents fair value for an elite rarity.

With the exception of the extremely rare 1854-S, this is the rarest Liberty Head quarter eagle produced in an unquestioned business strike format, and it is clearly the rarest of the ten Trophy Coins on this list.

Runners Up: 1838-C and 1839-D (popular first year of issues), 1856-D (rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle), 1875 (lowest business strike mintage of the series except for the 1854-S).

1854-O $3.00 NGC AU58+ CAC

3. 1854-O Three Dollar Gold

The Pitch: Popular first year of issue and one year type.

My natural inclination was to include the 1854-D as an obvious Trophy Coin, but at $50,000 this didn’t fit in with the spirit of this list; especially after I just listed a $50,000 item as coin #2. So, I chose the “poor man’s 1854-D,” namely the 1854-O.

As with its expensive cousin, the 1854-O is a one-year type and a first-year-of-issue. It is a surprisingly plentiful issue given its relatively low mintage of 24,000; over 1,000 exist, mostly in the EF40 to AU50 range. Accurately graded AU53 to AU55 examples with natural color and choice surfaces are still affordable and, in my opinion, they are very scarce due to the fact that 90+% of the surviving 1854-O threes have been cleaned and/or processed.

I handle dozens of 1854-O Three Dollar gold pieces every year, in grades ranging from EF40 to MS61, and this issue continues to fascinate me.

Runners Up: 1855-S (first SF issue), 1865 (rarest Civil War date).

1800 $5.00 NGC AU55+ CAC

4. Draped Bust Half Eagle

The Pitch: Old gold.

I’ve specialized in rare United States gold for close to three decades and I don’t think I’ve ever met a collector who didn’t like early gold. What’s not to like? These coins are historic, hefty, attractive and rare. Of the three denominations struck from 1795 to 1834, the half eagle is the most affordable and the most obtainable.

Narrowing down our choices for a Trophy Coin, I would select a Draped Bust half eagle, struck from 1798 through 1807. Nearly all collectors confronted with a choice of dates for this denomination would select an 18th century issue, but the 1798 and 1799 are not cheap; thus, I suggest focusing on an 1800-1807. Nice AU coins are available, with some patience, in the $10,000-12,000 range. These coins have been excellent performers over the years (they have essentially doubled in price over the last decade) and they remain at the top of the list for many collectors’ dream coin.

Runners Up: Capped Bust type (1807-1812; cool but not as cool as the earlier Draped Bust type), 1813 (the most affordable Fat Head half eagle).

1838-C $5.00 PCGS AU50

5. 1838-C or 1838-D Half Eagle

The Pitch: Very popular first year of issues and one year types. Mintmark on the obverse. Popular!

It was too hard for me to choose one or the other so I picked both…and for good reason. Both the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles have become extremely popular in recent years and together they form a wonderful two coin collection.

The 1838-C is the more common of the two but it is much rarer in high grades than its counterpart. I have only seen one truly Uncirculated 1838-C half eagle (the Elrod/Bass coin graded MS63 by PCGS) and no more than five or six really nice high end AU examples.

The 1838-D is scarcer but it seems to have been saved in higher grades and as many as 10 are known in Uncirculated.

More than nearly any other southern gold coins (except for the 1861-D dollar and half eagle) these two issues have near-universal collector appeal.

Runners Up: 1840-O (first year of issue), 1842-D Large Date (rarest half eagle from Dahlonega), 1863-1865 (rare Civil War issues).

1909-O $5.00 PCGS MS61 CAC

6. 1909-O Half Eagle

The Pitch: Popular one-year type coin and the last gold piece ever struck at this mint.

After discontinuing the manufacture of half eagles in 1894, the New Orleans mint struck 34,000 half eagles—seemingly out of the blue—in 1909-O. This has been a popular issue for many years and it has a grade distribution not unlike the 1854-O Three Dollar. The 1909-O is common in EF and lower AU grades, scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and rare in Uncirculated.

I have handled dozens of 1909-O half eagles in the last few years ranging from affordable EF45 examples to the finest known, the incomparable Eliasberg MS66 which I purchased for a client in the January 2014 FUN auction. This issue appeals to a wide range of collectors and for good reasons: it is a unique issue with a great back story.

For most collectors a nice AU50 to AU53 example will fit well in their collection. A Trophy Coin aficionado could easily spend $50,000 or far more for a nice Uncirculated 1909-O.

Runners Up: CAC approved common date Indian Head half eagle in MS64 or MS65.

1838 $10.00 PCGS EF40

7. 1838 Eagle

The Pitch: First year of issue with a neat short-lived design.

The eagle denomination was discontinued after 1804 and upon its resurrection in 1838 it became, again, the largest denomination of American coinage. Only 7,200 eagles were made in 1838 but this date is a little more available than one might think. But most 1838 eagles show considerable circulation, and properly graded AU50 and higher examples are quite scarce.

I have been a big fan of this date for many years and I don’t think I’ve ever had a nice quality 1838 eagle that hasn’t a) sold quickly and b) received multiple orders off my website when available. The 1838 is a coin with strong demand from non-specialists, and while prices have risen accordingly over the years, $7,500-10,000 will still buy you a decent example. If you are willing to spend $15,000-20,000+ you can buy a smoking 1838 eagle, although many of the coins offered in recent years (in both NGC and PCGS holders) have had originality “issues.”

RUNNERS UP: 1841-O (first New Orleans eagle), 1865-S Inverted Date (very cool blundered date), 1873/1876/1877 (very low mintage issues).

1854-S $10.00 NGC AU58 CAC

8. 1854-S Eagle

The Pitch: Affordable first-year-of-issue San Francisco gold coin and a great Gold Rush memento

There were many other Liberty Head eagles I thought about, including the first-year 1870-CC, the low mintage 1879-O, and 1883-O, not to mention some of the rare, interesting Indian Head eagles. But I chose the 1854-S for a variety of reasons.

1854 is a magical year for San Francisco gold coinage. The mint opened its doors this year and produced five denominations. Two, the quarter eagle and half eagle, are formidable rarities. The eagle is actually the most common denomination from this year with hundreds known in EF40 to AU55 grades.

I wouldn’t call a marginally decent AU55 example of the 1854-S eagle a Trophy Coin. But a properly graded AU58, especially with a CAC sticker, is a great value at current levels ($5,000-7,000) and it is the best available quality for this date as the 1854-S is exceedingly rare in full Mint State.

Runners Up: See above.

1857-S $20.00 PCGS MS64, SSCA

9. 1857-S SS Central America $20.00 in MS64

The Pitch: A borderline Gem 150+ year old big gold coin for around 10 grand.

Before the discovery of the SS Central America, I could have counted the number of Gem Type One double eagles that I had seen on one hand. This discovery brought thousands of superb pieces into the market. It not only made owning a superb quality Type One double eagle a reality for most collectors; it also jump-started the still-hot Liberty Head double eagle market.

Some readers of this article will bristle at my inclusion of this as a Trophy Coin. But consider this: there are hundreds of new collectors who began buying rare gold coins as a result of dipping their toes in the water with an SSCA. And an MS64 still seems like the sweet spot of this issue: the coins tend to be lovely and the price is reasonable when compared to an MS65 or an MS66.

My ideal SSCA coin has been carefully selected by a knowledgeable dealer to not have discoloration or signs of chemical reaction to the conservation performed after the coins were salvaged. I like the coins with all the “bells and whistles” you can add on: they should be approved by CAC, in the original packaging and accompanied by the presentation box and COA as issued.

Runners Up: 1850 (first year of issue), 1862 and 1863 (rare Civil War issues), 1865-S Bro Jo.

1914 $20.00 PCGS MS66

10. Common Date Saint in MS66 with CAC Approval

The Pitch:  A beautiful coin in a beautiful grade at a beautiful price point.

Remember: this is a group of Trophy Coins for collectors who can’t afford, say a High Relief in Gem Uncirculated. Everyone loves Saints and the Next Best Thing for the more casual gold collector is a Gem MS66 common date.

But we are talking Trophy Coins here so this common date Saint must somehow be uncommon. And for this I suggest buying a pretty, CAC approved MS66. To buy one you have to pay a strong premium over an average quality coin. You can find quantities of MS66 saints without CAC stickers for less than $3,000. CAC approved coins bring a 50+% premium but they are worth it. The quality of many of the MS66/CAC Saints I have seen has been superb with great color and luster and just a few small marks in the fields.

If you could add or delete coins from this list, what would they be? Feel free to leave comments or contact me directly 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.

Ten Trophy Gold Coins and their Pitches

I define a “Trophy Coin” as one which suitably combines rarity, appearance, and a great story in one neat package. Trophy coins aren’t necessarily the rarest pieces within a specific series. As an example, a 1907 High Relief is far from the rarest issue in the St. Gaudens series, yet for most collectors it is a Trophy Coin while a great rarity like a 1921 Saint in MS63 (and above) is considered more of a specialist’s issue.

Trophy coins, because of their strong multiple levels of demand, tend to be fully valued in regards to other coins. You’ll never read an article by me espousing how an MS64 is undervalued. But I know that a nice MS64 High Relief on my website will sell more quickly than many rarer issues which don’t have Trophy Coin status.

This article deals with gold Trophy Coins. By their very nature, trophy coins are expensive and this article will seem elitist, but if your coin budget is a few thousand dollars per issue, you just aren’t going to be a player in the Trophy coin market.

In addition to a brief discussion about each trophy coin, I’m going to include the “pitch” which makes these coins so unique and which gives them multiple levels of demand.

1861-D $1.00 PCGS MS61

1. 1861-D Gold Dollar

The Pitch: The only gold coin which can be positively attributed to Confederate manufacture. A coin which every Southerner should own!

The 1861-D is clearly the most desirable gold dollar and a strong case can be made for calling it the single most coveted issue from any southern branch mint. It has many things going for it: genuine rarity (fewer than 100 are known from a mintage estimated to be in the 750-1000 range), unique appearance, compelling backstory (struck by the Confederate forces after the mint had been seized from the Union forces), and multiple levels of collector demand.

The 1861-D dollar has become extremely popular in recent years and it now trades in the $40,000-50,000 range for a decent example. I still like the growth potential for this issue, and it is possibly the best “investment” of any coin on this list due to its unusual co-status as collector coin and trophy coin.

2. 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle

The Pitch: Rare one-year type and first year of issue.

Only 963 examples were produced and while it is not the rarest early quarter eagle (that honor goes to the very rare but very esoteric 1804 13 star reverse) it is clearly the most popular issue of this type; if not the entire denomination.

This is an issue which has been regarded as a great coin long before the Trophy Coin concept even existed. It is truly a rare coin but, for me, the thing about the 1796 No Stars that I find most appealing is its unique design. It is a minimalist’s dream with its stark obverse; a design which I far prefer to Stars Obverse type which was adapted later in 1796.

The 1796 No Stars quarter eagle has shown good price performance over the last few decades and I see no reason why this shouldn’t continue. With type collectors, quarter eagle specialists, early gold enthusiasts, and trophy coin buyers all competing for a limited number of problem-free examples, I like the future for the No Stars very much.

3. 1911-D Quarter Eagle

The Pitch: The rarest date in the most avidly collected (and the only completable) set of 20th century gold issues.

This is one of the few coins on this list which needs an asterisk. While I regard a Gem Uncirculated 1911-D quarter eagle as a trophy coin, I certainly don’t regard a circulated example as anything more than a widget. And, to a degree, this is true with lower-end Uncirculated examples as well.

The reason this issue deserves to be on the list is more marketing-driven that, say, a 1796 No Stars quarter eagle. The 1911-D is a condition rarity (unlike most of the other coins on this list) and its presence is a bit disingenuous as a result. While I freely admit this, for many collectors, an MS65 1911-D quarter eagle is a dream coin and this is exactly what we are referring to when we discuss “trophy” issues.

Price levels for high grade 1911-D quarter eagles have dropped in recent years, primarily due to a (temporary?) weakness in the Indian Head quarter eagle market. If I had to guess, I’d say this weakness is temporary and a carefully hand selected, CAC approved MS64 or MS65 should appreciate in anticipation of an influx of new collectors entering this area of the market.

4. 1875 Three Dollar

The Pitch: Rare Proof-only issue with reported mintage of just 20 coins.

This is an issue whose presence on this list is likely to not be unanimously approved. It isn’t because the 1875 isn’t a rare coin; clearly it is. Any Trophy Coin controversy caused by the 1875 three dollar is more likely to be due to a lack of collector enthusiasm for this denomination. I am in the former camp because this coin is “sexy” and because it has been accorded Trophy Coin status for many generations. If I remember correctly, a Gem Proof 1875 three dollar sold for over $100,000 back in 1973, and it was the first six-figure United States gold coin. (!)

Ironically, third-party grading has not been kind to the 1875 three dollar as it has proven, once and for all, that this issue was restruck ca. 1875-1876, as the total number known exceeds the reported original mintage. That said, the 1875 three dollar, in my opinion, is still an indisputable Trophy Coin.

The price performance for this issue has not been all that impressive given what Gem Proofs were worth two decades ago versus what they are worth now. But I expect three dollar gold pieces to become more popular sooner than later, and if and when this happens, the 1875 will regain its status as the King of Threes.

1795 Small Eagle $5.00 NGC AU55

5. 1795 Small Eagle Half Eagle

The Pitch: First year of issue and, along with the similarly dated eagle, the first American gold coin.

I think that there would be very little argument with placing the 1795 half eagle on any Trophy Coin list. Who wouldn’t want to own a good-looking example of this historic issue? And the beauty of the 1795 Small Eagle half eagle is that it is available enough in better-than-average grades and it isn’t wildly expensive.

The level of demand for this coin has always been strong but I have noted an even greater demand in the past decade. Type collectors have always wanted a nice 1795 half eagle but now there is competition from other collectors as well. I wouldn’t necessarily regard just any 1795 small eagle as a Trophy Coin (even a nice EF, while something that I would personally be thrilled to buy for inventory, isn’t a true trophy). A higher grade example (in this case MS63 or above) with original color and choice surfaces would be a great addition to any trophy coin set.

I expect coin like 1795 half eagles to show excellent price appreciation in the coming years. These are the Old Masters of American coins, if you will, and while they are not as faddish as more modern issues, they have the core fundamentals which any issue needs for future appreciation.

6. Gem Indian Head Half Eagle

The Pitch: In MS65, perhaps the most beautiful American regular issue gold coin and rarest 20th century type in Gem.

This choice is a bit of a stretch but it’s my list of Trophy Coins and I can stretch if I want to. The Indian Head half eagle is by far the rarest major gold type coin struck in the 20th century in higher grades. A properly graded MS65 or finer example, preferably with CAC approval, is not only a beautiful coin to look at; it is scarce from an absolute standpoint. I have always loved this design and even today, with looser grading standards and (current) lesser demand, Gems are hard to locate.

What I like about the Indian Head half eagle series is the variation of “looks” which the individual issues show. If you study this series even a short while you’ll learn that a high grade 1908-S, as an example, has a very different appearance than a 1909-D. The luster is different, the color is different, and the strike is different. I find these differences to be interesting. What I really like about this series, though, is just how rare even a common date like a 1909-D is in properly graded MS65.

Price levels have dropped quite a bit on Gem Indian Head half eagle in the last few years and I attribute this to a few factors. The demand for this design in Gem Uncirculated is low due to a current lack of Indian Head half eagle specialists; for some reason the ebb and flow of serious collectors in this series is more pronounced than for other comparable series. Even collecting gem gold by type is currently out of fashion so type coin demand for common(er) dates in MS65 and higher is low. At the current level of $15,000 or so for a PCGS/CAC MS65 slightly better date, I love the value of this Trophy Coin.

7. 1795 or 1933 Eagle

The Pitch (es): First year of issue or last year of issue. The 1795 is the biggest-sized early gold coin while the 1933 eagle is the only legal-to-own gold coin from this year.

I anguished whether to choose the 1795 or 1933 eagle as my Trophy Coin and really couldn’t leave off either issue so…I decided to include both.

The 1795 eagle is not a dramatically rare coin—except in very high grades—but it is a coin which nearly any collector can relate to. If you think about the context in which this coin was issued, it has a fascinating backstory. In 1795, ten dollars was a tremendous amount of money. The average citizen never saw a gold eagle in 1795, let alone owned one, and these were more storehouses of value for banks or the very wealthy.

1795 eagles are not inexpensive (choice coins can run into the mid-six figures) but given the age, beauty and historic/numismatic significance they possess, I think they are very fairly priced for a true Trophy Coin.

The 1933 is the yang to the 1795 eagle’s yin. Only a tiny fraction of the 312,500 originally struck escaped the melting pot and most are in higher grades. Of the three dozen or known, most grade MS64 to MS65 and a few really attractive Gems exist. These trade in the $400,000-600,000+ range and I would not be surprised to see properly graded MS65 examples break the million dollar threshold in the not-too-distant future.

8. Proof Liberty Head Double Eagle

The Pitch: Big. Shiny. Rare. What’s not to like?

If I was given the chance to do a numismatic show & tell with a billionaire, I would bring as many Trophy Coins as I could find. And I’d start with big, flashy coins like better date pre-1900 Liberty Head double eagles in PR64 to PR66.

These coins check nearly every well-heeled collector’s hot boxes. Even a newbie collector or investor is going to like the way an 1893 double eagle looks in Gem Proof, especially if it shows full cameo contrast and it has across-the-room black and white appearance. Nearly every pre-1900 issue has an original mintage of under 100, and even a “common date” like an 1896 still has a likely surviving population of less than 50 coins; less in Gem Proof.

Our unnamed billionaire might not want to start a date run of Proof Twenties, but it is certainly likely he’d want to buy at least one example for type purposes, and maybe even expand in to a three coin set with a Type One, Type Two and Type Three issue included. For just a shade over $100,000 he could begin this endeavor with a really nice Type Three. I personally like the growth potential of such coins quite a bit and have lately sold a number of PR64 and PR65 Type Three double eagles.

MCMVII (1907) $20.00 Wire Rim PCGS MS64 CAC

9. 1907 High Relief Double Eagle

The Pitch: America’s most beautiful coin. The Trophy Coin to end all Trophy Coins.

You can’t pick more of a trophy coin than a High Relief double eagle (well actually you could—an Extremely High relief—but even this list has some price parameters and $3 million+ is probably out of the range of most readers of this article).

I won’t replay the backstory of this coin as it has been told many times, but suffice to say even with bastardization by the mint, the design for this coin is truly beautiful and it appeals to virtually all collectors.

High reliefs have been good storehouses of value in recent years. They tend not to rise in price all that much or drop in price either. As a trophy coin, I personally like examples which are graded MS64 and MS65 and approved by CAC. From personal experience, I never have trouble quickly selling a nice High Relief when it is listed on my website. They are not crazy expensive relative to their strong demand.

1915-S Pan-Pac Octagonal $50.00 PCGS MS62

10. 1915-S Pan-Pac Octagonal $50.00

The Pitch: The biggest coin, size-wise, to be struck at the U.S. mint. Big, beautiful and, in the case of the octagonal design, highly unusual appearance.

If you sit and think about it, the Pan-Pac Octagonal is a gimmick coin. It's huge, it's eight-sided, and even by 1915 standards, its mintage of 645 is presumptuous at best. That said, it is the Mack Daddy of all Trophy coins, and it is a coin that every rich collector or investor can’t resist.

Even someone like me, who doesn’t care for gold commemoratives, loves the Pan-Pac Octagonal. I realize that the Round $50 is considerably scarcer, especially in Gem, but the Octagonal is so, well, odd. I love the massiveness of this coin and the way that even encased in a PCGS holder, it feels like a little brick of gold. I love the Robert Aitken design. And, of course, I love that crazy, crazy shape.

This is an issue which I think has great investment potential for those individuals who think this way. I can see nice Pan-Pac easily breaking the $100,000 mark in the future, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see an investor or a fund start buying all the MS64 and better examples up and driving prices along.

 

What are you favorite Trophy Coins? Did I leave any coins off this list that you think should be included? Email me at dwn@ont.com with your thoughts.

 

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.

Which Rare Gold Coins Will Be Demand in 2014?

A few years ago, when my blog was more of a newsletter, I used to write an annual piece entitled “What’s Hot, What’s Not.” I’ve never had the heart to go back and look at these; analyzing my analysis has never had appeal. But these were popular features and I thought I would bring them back - but with a twist. Instead of pondering about what will be “hot” in 2014 and what won’t, I thought it would be more interesting to speculate on what are some potentially in-demand areas.

1. Coins Priced Below $2,500

As I write this, the market for interesting gold coins priced at $2,500 and below is extremely strong. Case(s) in point: I used to run a weekly e-mail based sale of coins I called E-Specials which were two or three interesting gold coins priced in the $750-1,250 range. I used to be able to go to a major show and buy a dozen coins like this so the E-Specials would be pre-set for a month or more. Now, I can’t find many coins like this anymore, and I’ve punted the E-Specials.

So, what qualifies as an “interesting” gold coin in this price range? From my selling experience with E-Specials, I found that the parameters that always met with selling success were: PCGS graded, CAC approved, and dated prior to 1880. The interest factor for coins in this price range was greatly improved when I offered large sized issues; i.e., eagles and double eagles.

If I had to list a few specific coins in the $1,000-2,500 price range that I feel will be in demand in 2014 and may show some appreciation as a result, I’d include the following:

1852-D $5.00 PCGS EF45

  • Dahlonega half eagles in EF40 and EF45. The level of demand for nice D mint half eagles is very strong now, especially if they are choice, original coins. In the last few years values have crept up from around $1,600-1,800 to around $2,200-2,500+, and I see no price resistance to even higher numbers for the right coins.
  • With Motto New Orleans eagles in MS61 and MS62. I’ve written this before but if some clever marketer would quietly assemble a position in common and slightly better date With Motto (1888-1906) eagles from New Orleans, prices could go up 20-40% without anyone batting an eyelash. The possibility exists that set collecting could drive this series as no dates are rare and many are available even in MS63 and MS64.
  • Low grade scarce/rare date issues.  One of the major changes in the rare date gold market in the last three to five years has been the sudden surge in demand for affordable examples of tough dates. As an example, a coin like an 1861-S eagle is too expensive in higher grades for most collectors. But a nice Fine or Very Fine can be bought for a few thousand dollars and if the coin is worn but cosmetically appealing, it has a strong level of demand that didn’t necessarily exist a few years back.

2. Coins Priced in the $5,000-10,000 Range

Coins in the price range are my “bread and butter” but I would say this middle range (“middle” at least in the sense of rare gold coins) is the weakest part of the coin market going into 2014. Collectors who buy coins in this range are far more selective now than they were a few years ago, and a coin has to have an “it” factor to sell for $5,000, $7,500, or $10,000. I’ve invented a term called Multiple Levels of Demand to define what I regard as coins that have “it.”

As with coins priced below $2,500, coins priced at around $10,000 have to be interesting, and they have to have good visual appeal. Here are a few areas that I think will be in strong demand in 2014.

1841-D $5.00 NGC AU58 CAC

  • Properly grade AU58 branch mint quarter eagles and half eagles. Nice slider examples if southern branch mint gold coins remain one of the best values in all of 19th century numismatics. As I’ve explained before, a properly graded AU58 (not a coin that “looks like an MS64;” these don’t exist) is a coin that is being rewarded for positive eye appeal while a typical MS60, MS61 and even an MS62 is a coin with faults which are being punished. Most collectors would rather have a nice, natural AU58 Dahlonega half eagle at $5,000-6,000 than a “rubby” MS61 at $9,000-$11,000 and it is hard to blame them.
  • Better date Three Dollar gold pieces. This is a series that has been out of demand for too long and with a little bit of promoting, I could see some improved level of collector demand in 2014 and beyond. There are some great values in this series right now and, interestingly, there are more nice coins available in the $5,000-7,500 range than in many other comparably priced types.

1915 $10.00 PCGS MS65 CAC

  • MS64+CAC Indian Head gold.  From what I’ve seen, the quality of MS64+ Indian Head quarter eagles, half eagles and eagles is pretty nice and the typical example is visually better than MS64. As long as premium aren’t excessive over an average quality MS64, I can see the market expanding even further for these coins in 2014; especially when the price jump to MS65 is at least double or triple.

3. Coins Priced at $20,000 and Over

At this level, the air gets a lot thinner, but the market for nice quality expensive (notice I said “expensive” and not “trophy”) coins is as strong now as I can recall at any time since 2006-2007. Buyers of expensive coins are very discriminating (as they should be), but in my experience, the “right” coins in the $20,000-50,000 range are selling very well and will continue to do so in 2014.

There are a number of areas which fit into this category which I think have good upside in 2014. Here are a few of them.

  • Really exceptional branch mint gold coins in MS63 and MS64. If you look at auction prices from 1999-2001 and compare the values of a coin like an 1847-C quarter eagle in PCGS MS64 then versus now, you will typically see a slight overall decline. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that many coins have been graded MS63 or MS64 which are not nice. But in my opinion, a choice, original CAC-quality Dahlonega half eagle in MS63 or a beautiful, naturally toned Charlotte quarter eagle in MS64 is truly rare. These coins may not have date collector demand in these high grades but there are numerous type collectors looking for one or two great coins in all of these series. Watch for demand to increase in 2014 and beyond.
  • Rare date Proof gold in PR64 and PR65. Many of the Proof gold coins from the 1860’s, 1870’s and early 1880’s have tiny original mintages and fewer than half are known. Despite the rarity of a coin like an 1874 quarter eagle in Proof, the focus has been more on large denomination coins (eagles and double eagles) or super-grade pieces in the PR66 to PR68 range. While they are not often available, comparably “affordable” Proof gold dollars, quarter eagles, three dollar gold pieces and even half eagles seem to be increasing in demand and I see no reason that this will not continue through 2014 and beyond.

1863 $5.00 NGC MS60 CAC

  • Truly rare business strikes in Condition Census grades. The level of demand for formerly obscure business strike rarities will increase in 2014 as well. One thing I noticed in 2013 was that when I listed a choice, higher grade example of a truly rare coin on my website, I got multiple inquiries and not just from the “usual suspects.” As an example, I listed two very nice 1863 half eagles on my site in 2013 and I heard from numerous collectors for each of them, including two silver dollar collectors who wanted to buy an 1863 “just because it was cool” and a few dealers who I’ve literally never sold a coin to before.

4. Trophy Coins

In virtually all collectibles areas, the truly great “trophy” items are in huge demand and this will continue in 2014. The NGC MS63 Brasher Doubloon that will be sold by Heritage in a few weeks at the 2014 FUN auction could very well set a record for any coin - and there will be a number of million dollar+ coins in this sale and other auctions immediately afterwards.

A decade ago, the sale of a million dollar United States coin was front-page news; today it is relatively commonplace. As more “big money” discovers the coin market, I look for many exceptional prices realized in 2014, both at auction and via private treaty.

Do you buy rare gold coins?

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