May 28, 2020

A New Modern Rarity: 2020 (P) American Silver Eagles

An unexpected modern rarity has emerged as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on production of the United States Mint’s flagship silver bullion coin series, the American Silver Eagle.


Most production of American Silver Eagle bullion coins is done at the U.S. Mint’s West Point Mint and sometimes at the San Francisco and Philadelphia Mints, too. Because of recent temporary closures at the latter two minting facilities due to safety and health concerns related to the coronavirus, the U.S. Mint had its Philadelphia facility supplement production of the very popular bullion silver coins as needed to meet demand and fill gaps in manufacture and logistics.

According to documentation from the Mint, those American Silver Eagle coins were struck between April 8 and 20, and monster boxes of 500 such coins were all packaged manually for the Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers, who purchase the coins directly from the United States Mint and then sell them retail and to other dealers.

Demand for American Silver Eagle bullion coins has exploded during the pandemic as investors have flocked to silver coins – the most popular and widely traded coins in the world being the American Silver Eagle. This year, demand for the coins has risen strongly compared to the last couple years in response to lower spot silver prices and safe haven demand from the massive economic dislocation cause by the pandemic.
The 2020 (P) Silver Eagle coins made at the Philadelphia Mint are physically indistinguishable from coins made at other mints, and they do not carry mint marks indicating where they were struck. Instead, when graded they are given parentheses around the “P”. In addition to this, NGC and PCGS are including “Emergency Release” and “Emergency Issue” respectively on their certification labels.

The coins made at the Philadelphia Mint can be identified by hand-written labels and markings that are affixed to Monster Boxes of such coins and which include tracking numbers that correspond to which mint produced the coins.

The 2020 (P) Silver Eagle Emergency Issue

U.S. Mint officials stated in late April: “Monster boxes of 2020 American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins minted in Philadelphia were affixed with a typed label containing the box tracking number; additionally, box tracking numbers were handwritten directly on the boxes. Box tracking numbers 400,000 through and including 400,479 were used on boxes of coins minted in Philadelphia.”
Using those numbers, it was determined that 240,000 2020 (P) Silver Eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

On May 1, NGC announced that “Eligible coins will be identified by NGC with the description “Struck at Philadelphia Mint, 2020(P) Eagle S$1, Emergency Production.” With a mintage of just 240,000 coins, the 2020(P) Struck at Philadelphia Mint Silver Eagle is the second-rarest issue in the 34-year history of the bullion American Silver Eagle series. Coins identified with the “2020(P) Struck at Philadelphia Mint, Emergency Production” attribution will be listed separately in the NGC Census.” Below, you can see how NGC has decided to label these silver bullion coins.

To be eligible to be identified by NGC as 2020 (P) American Silver Eagles, coins must be submitted to the grading service in unopened Monster Boxes with the correct handwritten labels and markings.

PCGS and other grading companies soon after issued similar announcements and offer similar labels for coins that meet the criteria.

Current production of other U.S. bullion coins and collector issues is being impacted by the temporary shutdowns and reduced operations at minting facilities, but no other specific information has been provided about which mints are making how many coins.
In addition, Mint officials stated that production of American Silver Eagles and 5-ounce America the Beautiful coins would continue to be produced during the temporary suspensions of operations, while American Gold Eagle and American Gold Buffalo coins, which are only made at West Point, were not made during the shutdowns. The 5-ounce ATB coins are only produced at the Philadelphia Mint.

2015 (P) Silver Eagle

The rarest American Silver Eagle is the “2015 (P) Struck at the Philadelphia Mint Silver Eagle”, which has a mintage of 79,640. That coin has recently sold in examples graded MS69 in the $500-600 range on eBay if graded by NGC or PCGS, and for several thousand dollars or more if graded by the same companies in MS70.

To date, only about 7% of the mintage of the 2015 (P) coin has been identified and graded by the two leading grading companies along with some more by ICG and ANACS. At PCGS, 772 coins have been graded MS70, and 2,105 have been graded MS69. At NGC, a mere 103 have received an MS70 grade, while 2,333 were graded MS69 and several more coins received lower grades.

The issue of identifying bullion Silver Eagles made at different branch mints first came up in the early 2000s when the Mint had to supplement production of Silver Eagles at the West Point Mint with production at the San Francisco Mint in 2011 as demand rose. Until 2014, the nylon strap around monster boxes indicated which mint produced the coins inside, but that practice was then discontinued.

In 2015, bullion Silver Eagles were produced for the first time at the Philadelphia Mint.

In 2017, the Mint received a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to clarify which mints produced which year’s coins.

Around the same time officials at NGC were noticing patterns in the serial numbers on monster boxes of eagles as well as differences in the quality of the coins. They said in 2017 that those coins made at West Point according to the serial numbers were of higher quality than the ones made at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints, which only used manual tubing of coins, while the West Point Mint used both robotic and manual tubing. Robotic tubing increases the quality of the coins because they do not come in contact with each other as much as with manual tubing.
NGC filed a FOIA request of its own. In response to those requests, in March 2017 the Mint provided a breakdown of which mints produced how many coins from 2014 to 2017.

The Mint is not believed to have had to produce Silver Eagles anywhere except at West Point in 2018 and 2019 because there was a decline in sales during those years.

March 23, 2020

Physical Demand for Silver Spikes as Price Drops to an 11-year Low

Silver prices have dropped to their lowest level since 2009, boosting demand for the physical metal at a rate not seen in a decade.


Supplies of physical silver, as well as gold, “remain well below extremely strong demand,” said Dana Samuelson, president of precious-metals dealer American Gold Exchange, Inc. “The fall in the underlying gold and silver prices, coupled with the potential recession due to the sharp economic downturn the coronavirus is causing has spurred the public to buy physical precious metals at the fastest pace in 10 years.”

On March 12, the United States Mint said it temporarily sold out of American Silver Eagle bullion coins. “Our rate of sale in just the first part of March exceeds 300% of what was sold last month,” the Mint said.
Sales of the one-ounce American Silver Eagle coins were at 3.1 million so far this month, as of Wednesday, compared with total sales of 650,000 in the month of February, according to data from the Mint.
“With both the U.S. Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint on back order for the most popular one-ounce gold and silver coins in the North American market, dealers have scrambled to buy anything that remains available to buy, driving bids substantially higher for all physical gold, silver…coins and bars that are immediately available,” said Samuelson.

On Comex, silver futures prices saw their most-active contract SIK20, 3.840% drop to $11.772 an ounce on Wednesday, the lowest since Jan. 22, 2009, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Prices moved up a bit to settle at $12.134 Thursday.

Silver’s price ratio to GCJ20, 1.683% limbed to historic levels at roughly 130 ounces of silver to buy one ounce of gold.

Silver prices have seen sharp declines as “institutions have dumped silver for cash to pay for margin calls and other obligation, as well as hoarding cash,” said Edmund Moy, who was director of the U.S. Mint from 2006 to 2011.
He told MarketWatch that the rise in silver bullion demand is “just the beginning,” and is “primarily driven by individual investors who see silver as an affordable safen have and because of the lower prices, a buying opportunity.”
“Affordability is a major factor…silver appeals broadly to a less wealthy investors but a small change in prices is a larger percentage change for silver—and that upside attracts additional investors,” said Moy.
“Eventually, low silver prices will catch up to limited physical supply and increased physical demand,” he said. “And once the global economy begins to recover from this pandemic, silver demand from industry will recover too.”
But it’s silver’s industrial aspect that makes some analysts a bit more cautious.
Right now, silver futures look “ready to at least bounce in a significant way,” said Spina. However, “if there is another global market selloff, silver futures could get one more historic dump to [the] $10 area.”
“Much of the industrial demand news is not going to be good or great for silver for the coming weeks or months, so we need to get through this biggest contribution factor to silver,” he said. “Until then, investment demand is returning and if it keeps like this for several months and industrial [demand catches up]…it could really squeeze the price right back up and quickly!”

March 6, 2020

Panic in the Streets; Gold, Bonds Exploding Higher

Will you look at what is going on the all markets. We are seeing a panic attack. As I write this at 4 a.m. EST, gold and 30-year Treasury bonds are exploding higher. Gold is up another $18 based on the June futures and bonds are up over five full points, which is one of their biggest moves in history. Silver and platinum are slightly higher just because of the strength of gold, but both look weak.

Gold looks like it is ready to test the recent blow-off highs from Feb. 24. The $1,700 level in the June futures now look like a forgone conclusion in gold. Gold has rallied over $130 from the lows of last week and is moving in a parabolic formation. Gold should have a pullback in the next day or two; however, the rally is on.

Silver is weak and looks to be capped at $17.50 in the May futures, while platinum looks the worst with heavy resistance at $880 in the April futures. Treasuries are exploding as the fear trade builds. This is all-out panic, and we can thank the Fed for that. The Fed choke job on Tuesday with the emergency rate cut has sent fear assets flying. Pass the Xanax and enjoy the

July 23, 2019

Collecting US Gold Coins by Year

I’m not sure if it’s a trend or not but in the last few months I’ve encountered a number of collectors who are working on a year-set of US gold coins.

coin date.JPG

A year-set focuses on a specific US Gold coins year of issue and attempts to include an example of each date/mint combination. A year-set can be a somewhat random selection, or it can have numismatic/personal significance.

If I were to choose to collect in this manner, my first choice would likely be an 1859 gold set as this would mark exactly 100 years before my birth. But this isn’t the most interesting coinage year from a numismatic or historic perspective.

Before you decide which year to collect, you need to analyze what was produced during that year. Certain years, such as 1841, 1854, and 1863, are going to be immediate no-gos for most collectors due to the extreme rarity and high cost of at least one issue. Other US gold coin years contain mainly uninteresting coins and a specialized set of, say, 1899 gold coins just isn’t a worthwhile project.

If I were assembling a US gold coin year set, I would focus on a year in which the coins themselves were interesting and scarce but not impossible to locate. A few years come to mind and these are as follows: 1838, 1839, 1840, 1842, 1855, and 1866.

Let’s look at these five years and in the true spirit of a DWN blog, let’s rate them as well.

Here’s our rating system:

Level of Numismatic Interest: 1-5 (1=least, 5=most)
Degree of Difficulty: 1-5 (1=least, 5=most)
Rarity in High Grades: 1-5 (1=least, 5=most)


This is an interesting year as it bridges the gap between early gold and the more standardized Liberty Head issues. It consists of just six US gold coins, but nearly everyone is interesting and most are either first-year issues or one-year types (or both).

The most expensive coins in this set are likely to

be the 1838-C half eagle and the 1838 eagle. Both are available for less than $10,000 in very respectable preservation, but both are challenging; especially with original color and a CAC-worthy appearance.

In my opinion, this set is best combined with the 1839 to form a really interesting two-year focus which features a number of high-interest issues.

  • Level of Numismatic Interest: 4
  • Degree of Difficulty: 2+/3
  • Rarity in High Grades: 3


The 1839 is a fascinating transitional year with many interesting one-year types. As with the 1838, it focuses on issues with the mintmark located on the obverse. The 1838 features the Classic Head design, while the 1839 employs the first incarnation of the Liberty Head design. It consists of 10 different issues. With significant varieties included, this number can be pushed higher.1839SmallLetters10-768x384.jpg

The most expensive coin is the 1839 eagle with Small Letters on the reverse. After this come the 1839-C and 1839-D half eagles. All three of these issues will cost at least $10,000-15,000+ for a nice example, and the eagle is extremely hard to locate with original color and surfaces.

As I mentioned above, combining this set with the 1838 will create a really special group of coins and one which will be easy to sell when the time comes.

  • Level of Numismatic Interest: 4
  • Degree of Difficulty: 3
  • Rarity in High Grades: 3+


1840 is an interesting year as this marks the introduction of the familiar modified Liberty Head design with the mintmark now moved to the reverse. There are a total of nine different issues, but this can be added to if you break down the half eagles to include narrow mill and broad mill varieties.


The most expensive issue is the 1840-D quarter eagle which isn’t intimidating, but which has proven to be quite elusive in recent years. The 1840-D half eagle is the next most expensive issue.

Combining this set with the 1838 and the 1839 would be interesting, although most collectors would probably vote against this.

  • Level of Numismatic Interest: 3
  • Degree of Difficulty: 2+/3
  • Rarity in High Grades: 3


1842 is a very busy year for varieties. There are a total of 14 different issues, half of which are half eagles. As someone who is partial to half eagles, this makes 1842 an appealing year for me; your level of interest may vary.


There are two relatively expensive us gold coins in this set: the 1842-C Small Date and the 1842-D Large Date half eagles. You are looking at $20,000 for a nice example of the former and $15,000+ for a nice example of the latter. The 1842 and 1842-D quarter eagles are not as well-known but they will prove difficult to locate with CAC-worthy appearance.

This set could be combined with an 1843 to form a very interesting overview of the experimentation that the mint was undertaking with date and lettering sizes on all three of the then-current denominations.

Level of Numismatic Interest: 2 (3+ if you have taste similar to mine)
Degree of Difficulty: 3
Rarity in High Grades: 3


This year is interesting due to some new designs and the large number of coins produced. By 1855, there were six circulating designs from five different mints. A grand total of 20 different issues were struck during this year and these coins range from very common to rare.1855-D1-768x384.jpg

The two key issues are the 1855-D gold dollar and the 1855-O double eagle. These are expensive issues (around $50,000 for nice examples) and both are very hard to locate with good eye appeal. The 1855-D is a touch less rare but it, too, is very challenging to locate choice.

An interesting numismatic feature of this set is the fact that there are no less than five different half eagles struck in 1855. This occurred in just three other years: 1854, 1856, and 1857.

  • Level of Numismatic Interest: 2
  • Degree of Difficulty: 4
  • Rarity in High Grades: 3+/4


Our sixth and final year-set is the 1866. This is a well-known transitional year in which the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the half eagle, eagle, and double eagle. This created varieties for these three denominations from both the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints.1866-SNoMotto20-768x384.jpg

The key issue in this set is the 1866-S No Motto double eagle. This date can easily run $50,000+ for a nice example. Two other rare issues are the 1866-S No Motto half eagleand eagle, but these are more affordable.

  • Level of Numismatic Interest: 4
  • Degree of Difficulty: 3
  • Rarity in High Grades: 3

There are certainly other year-sets of interest which can be assembled by the US gold coin specialist. Some which come to mind include 1848 (the year of the Gold Rush), 1861 (the closing of the three Southern branch mints), 1875 (due to the rarity of many of the P mint issues), 1893 (the close of the Carson City Mint), and 1907 (a transitional year).

June 21, 2019

Gold races to a near 6-year high on central bank stimulus cues and Middle East worries


Gold prices continued to rise after shooting up to a near six-year high on Friday, surpassing the key $1,400 level on dovish signals from major central banks and rising tensions in the Middle East.

Spot gold was up 0.7% at $1,397.99 per ounce, after earlier hitting its highest since Sept. 2013 at $1,410.78.

U.S. gold futures hit a high of 1,415.4, its highest level since August 2013.

“The Iranian tensions provided the catalyst for gold to inch above $1,400, after threatening to break above that level since yesterday’s dovish Fed outcome,” said Howie Lee, an economist at OCBC Bank.

“There is a perfect mix of ingredients for gold’s rush to the top a weak macroeconomic environment, low bond yields, soft dollar and rising geopolitical tensions.”

Iranian officials told Reuters on Friday that Tehran had received a message from U.S. President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent.

Earlier this week, in a further boost for gold, the U.S. Federal Reserve joined global peers such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan with plans to cut interest rates to support flagging economic growth, hinting at cuts beginning as early as next month.

This prospect has put government bonds on a bullish footing.

The combination of a weaker dollar, falling yields and the Middle East tensions have lifted gold by nearly 4% so far this week – its biggest rise since the week ended April 29, 2016. Since Wednesday, bullion has risen as much as $70.

“Gold should remain in demand as a safe haven and as a store of value,” said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.

“However, because the price has also been pushed up by speculative buying, the higher the price, the more attractive it is to take profits so we will see some setbacks in the near future.”

Meanwhile, the dollar was set for a weekly loss against major currencies, and U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury yields dropped below 2% for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years.

Investors will now focus on whether the United States and China can resolve their trade row at a Group of 20 leaders summit in the western Japanese city of Osaka next week.

“If Trump and Xi do not agree on a trade deal or a ceasefire then the trade dispute could escalate further and support gold,” Briesemann added.

June 4, 2019

Investors Stampede Into Gold as Top ETF Jumps Most Since `16

The biggest bullion-backed exchange-traded fund is suddenly getting a lot of love. Holdings in SPDR Gold Shares surged by the most in almost three years as the U.S.-China trade war, signs of a slowdown, and speculation the Federal Reserve will cut rates combined to fan demand.


Assets in the SPDR ETF jumped 16.44 metric tons, or 2.2%, on Monday to post the biggest gain since July 2016, while a tally of holdings in all ETFs saw the biggest increase this year. The swing toward the traditional haven came as gold prices surged above $1,300 an ounce to hit the highest since February.

Gold’s had a lackluster year so far even as trade war concerns flared, with Fed policy makers signalling rates were on hold and the dollar gaining ground in the four months to May. Still on Monday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard weighed in, saying a cut may be warranted soon, and markets are now discounting at least two quarter-point reductions by year-end. Bullion, which doesn’t bear yields, tends to benefit from a low-rate environment.

“Gold is once again trying to reclaim its role as a safe haven amid growing trade tensions and consequent risks to growth,” Joni Teves, a strategist at UBS Group AG, said in a note on Monday. The price “looks like it is getting comfortable above $1,300, with aspirations of testing this year’s highs.”

On Tuesday, there were more signs of macro weakness from across Asia as revised data showed South Korea’s economy shrank 0.4% in the first quarter, the worst performance since the financial crisis, while the purchasing managers index in trade-dependent Singapore dropped below 50.

Spot gold was steady at $1,326.21 an ounce at 7:49 a.m. in London.

May 2, 2019

What Makes My Silver Eagles Worth Money?


Silver Eagles, just like any other coin, vary wildly in value.

Some can be worth as little as a few dollars over the spot value of silver, while others go for five figures! As a collector or investor of modern rare coins, it is important to understand where the value comes from and what makes a coin worth its weight in silver and what makes another worth big money…


There are various factors that affect the value of an American Silver Eagle. First and foremost, the mintage of the coin is very important.

Naturally, the lower the original mintage of a Silver Eagle, the more scarce that particular coin is.

The lowest mintage in the Mint State Silver Eagle series used to be the 1996 Silver Eagle at only 3,603,386. However, in 2018, savvy collectors discovered that roughly 79,000 coins had been minted in 2015 at the Philadelphia Mint.

Collectors realized that there were differences in Silver Eagle Monster Box packaging as well as varying serial number variations on the boxes. This led to an inquiry to determine if coins were being minted at mints other than the West Point Mint. The U.S. Mint shortly thereafter admitted that roughly 79,000 coins had indeed been minted at Philadelphia. Therefore, the 2015(P) American Silver Eagle took the spot as the lowest mint state American Silver Eagle ever.

However, if you accumulate the total mintage from all mint locations in 2015, then the 1996 would still be the lowest mintage ever in the series.

A second factor that makes a Mint State American Silver Eagle rare is the condition.

Raw coins typically trade for less than a certified 69 or a perfect grade 70 coin would. Collectors like to know and have peace of mind that a third party has certified the coin. The grading typically takes the guess-work out of what grade the coin could be. The higher the grade, the more valuable the coin actually is.

Naturally, there are only a few perfect grade 70 coins and many collectors are chasing them for their sets. This pushes up the prices of these perfect grade 70s. The most expensive Mint State 70 American Silver Eagle is the 1999.

The 1999 was not the lowest mintage by any means but is worth so much because there are so few graded in perfect 70.

According to NGC as of April 10, 2019, there are only 248 graded and the piece is valued at $23,000! Furthermore, 1999 is one of the years where very few coins were minted well and even developed “milky spots,” which prevent the coins from grading in perfect 70. “Milky spots” are white spots that develop on coins after they leave the U.S. Mint facility. The Mint has tried to address the issue but has not yet completely solved it. Often you will hear collectors of American Silver Eagles asking whether or not a perfect 70 grade is clean with no spots. Currently, milky spots on American Silver Eagles can significantly devalue the coin in comparison to spot free coins.

Another major issue with the American Silver Eagle is toning. Once again, toning develops over time and typically happens when coins are not stored properly or are exposed to natural elements. There are two different types of toning that can develop: attractive toning (rainbow, gold, etc.) or unattractive toning (brown, black). American Silver Eagles with natural, attractive toning often trade for high premiums, while unattractive toned American Silver Eagles will trade for substantial discounts.

Time Value

A third factor that affects the value of an American Silver Eagle is the time value associated with a particular coin. The older the coin, the more time value that is attributed to the coin. Time value is important but is not always as cut and dry as one would believe. Sometimes, age makes a coin more valuable than its younger counterparts, but this is not always the case. For instance, a 1986 Silver Eagle NGC MS70 is worth less than a 1999 Silver Eagle NGC MS70, even though the 1999 is not as old. One should look to the first factor of mintage to help understand why the 1999 is worth more than the 1986.

Supply and Demand

Another factor to consider is sheer supply and demand.

The more collectors that want a particular piece, then the more valuable a coin typically becomes. Often, new-issue American Silver Eagles will rise in price while there is a tremendous demand for them and then later come back to reality once the rush is over. Nevertheless, there are cases where the coins will continue to increase in price because there is so much demand and not enough supply. An example of this is the 2017-S Proof Silver Eagle.


Although these four factors are not the only factors that drive the value of Silver Eagles, they certainly serve as some of the major ones. Hopefully, these insights provide coin collectors a base knowledge of how to value a Silver Eagle.

March 19, 2019

Gold Prices Edge Higher, Eyeing Fed Meeting; Palladium Hits Record – Gold prices edged higher, buoyed by expectations the Federal Reserve will send markets a more dovish message about future monetary policy after the two-day policy meeting that starts later on Tuesday.


Comex gold futures rose $7.75, or around 0.6%, to $1,309.25 a troy ounce by 8:25AM ET (12:25 GMT).

Meanwhile, spot gold was trading at $1,309.43 per ounce, up $5.75, or 0.45%.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) begins its two-day policy meeting later Tuesday, with a decision on interest rates due Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. central bank will also release new forecasts for economic growth and interest rates, known as the “dot-plot”, which many analysts say will probably point to at most one more interest rate hike this year. The Fed has already signaled that it’s extremely unlikely to raise rates again in the near term, after four hikes in 2018.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was a shade lower at 95.85, hovering close to a two-week low.

“The dollar is under a little bit of pressure, providing some support to the metal,” Capital Economics analyst Ross Strachan said.

In other metals trading, palladium prices hit their highest levels on record following news that Russia is planning to ban exports of precious metals scrap.

Spot palladium was up 1.4% at $1,599.11 an ounce, having hit a record high of $1,601.45 earlier in the session.

“There have been rumors that Russia would restrict exports of some scrap materials. When the market is as tight as palladium is, sometimes such news can take on more significance than it should,” said Philip Newman, a director at Metals Focus.

Russia is a major producer of palladium, which is used mainly in catalytic converters for cars with gasoline engines. Demand for palladium has increased as diesel engines have lost market share in response to public concerns about air quality.

Elsewhere, silver futures tacked on 10.6 cents, or about 0.7%, to trade at $15.42 a troy ounce, while platinum gained 1.7% to $848.10 an ounce.

January 22, 2019

Billionaire Coin Collectors Competing for “Best of Breed” Coin Sets

An old adage is that coin collecting is “The Hobby of Kings,” since only kings could afford or have the power to seize the top quality rare coins made of precious metals. Today, that slogan has changed to become “The Collector is King,” with the serious collector of rare coins driving up prices.


In more recent times, celebrities such as Wayne Gretzky, Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003), Penny Marshall and Jerry Buss (1933-2013) have collected rare coins, but collectors such as the American financier Louis Eliasberg (1896-1976) have set the standard for a lifetime devoted to serious collecting of the best-known specimens of U.S. coins.

With the rapid growth of global wealth since the end of the Cold War, the annual Forbes census of global billionaires has grown from 140 in 1987 to 2,208 in March 2018. Out of 2,208 billionaires, it stands to reason that at least 1% of them would become fascinated by “The Hobby of Kings.” And so I bring it to your attention that four billionaires, including real estate guru Dell Loy Hansen, are currently competing for high-quality rare coins in the coin market. Hansen earlier this year bought the “Hall of Fame Collection,” the famed Liberty Seated dollar set that had been carefully put together by Bruce Morelan, who himself was the subject of much fanfare when he purchased the phenomenal 1794 Specimen Flowing Hair Dollar at auction for over $10 million ($10,106,875 to be exact). It included coins previously residing in famous collections, including those of Amon Carter and the Garrett family.

These ultra-high-net-worth business owners didn’t get to where they are by being passive. They are well-informed, highly competitive, goal-oriented collector-investors. At least two of them are trying to do what Eliasberg did and build complete sets of every coin from the U.S. Mint in as high a grade as possible.

This competition for high-end coins will fuel a resurgence in demand for all coins that trade from about $25,000 and up. Besides these few billionaires bidding for best of breed coins, other prominent collectors are building registry sets with either PCGS or NGC coins for “top of pop”– the highest graded coins according to the lists generated by PCGS and NGC of coins they certified.

Many of these collectors want their coins to be verified by the Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC) as well. CAC is a verification service that affixes green holographic stickers on the grading service holders of PCGS- and NGC-certified coins that meet its standard for “solid for the grade.” Certified coins that “exceed” CAC’s standard receive a gold CAC holographic sticker. The service was founded by John Albanese, who is its chief verifier. Albanese founded NGC and was one of the original PCGS partners.

We have already seen examples of how mid-range rarities have been actively bid up by multiples of their expected price at auction. Recent auctions have seen coins such as a Booker T. Washington (BTW) commemorative half dollar in MS-67+ bring substantially more than what experts expected the coin to realize, due to there being only a few existing in that grade and none finer. One example was a CAC 1951-S BTW half dollar graded by PCGS as MS-67+. The coin was listed at $2,600 in PCGS’s price guide, but it brought nearly five times as much, $12,500, in a Great Collections Auction in which 48 bidders participated. It had a graded population of only three, with none finer. Also bringing higher-than-expected auction prices are beautifully toned commemoratives and Morgan dollars. But be careful. One collector’s beautiful toning is another collector’s “nice, but not worth the premium” coin. There is a more subjective element to value with toned coins.

Some Billionaires are Also Buying Gold Bullion
Gold is up 1.5% through May 4, while the Dow stocks are down 1.85%. So gold is still beating stocks in 2018, and many stock market investors are getting nervous, as the historically “best” month of April was flat, and the historically worst six months for stocks (May to October) are just beginning.

With the stock market flat and in danger of falling below its key 200-day moving average, and with interest rates rising (and bond prices falling), and currencies in flux, international billionaires are looking to the time-tested value of gold for wealth preservation. Last week, Naguib Sawiris, the second richest man in Egypt (second only to his brother), the chairman of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding S.A.E, told Bloomberg that he sees gold heading for $1,800 per ounce, while the “overvalued” stock market will likely collapse. Sawiris said he is putting half of his $5.7 billion net worth into gold.

Other billionaire investors are concerned about the market and are moving to gold. Jeffrey Gundlach, founder of DoubleLine Capital, sees the “explosive, potential energy” of a massively bullish $1,000 gain for gold to the $2,300 region, based on a technical base-building platform. “Gold is maintaining an upward pattern above its rising 200-day moving average, which is extremely good,” said this guru nicknamed the “Bond King.” “I’m not predicting it … I’m letting the market prove itself.”

November 8, 2018

Collecting Strategies: Transitional Gold Coins


By Doug Winter

I am often asked for ideas about which US gold coins to collect, especially ones that are a little bit “out of the box.” I recently had a conversation with a long-time collector about new directions for his set and we discussed the possibility of starting a transitional set of 19th century American gold coins.

By transitional gold coins, I am referring to a coin that was struck as two different types during the same year. An example of this would be an 1854 gold dollar from Philadelphia which was produced as both as Type One and Type Two issue. Let’s take a look at some of the transitional coins that are available to collectors who are considering this approach.

A pair of gold coins which is not a transition would be an 1861-S and 1861-S Paquet Reverse double eagle. This is the case because the 1861-S Paquet reverse was not used in any other year. An 1866-S No Motto reverse and an 1866-S With Motto are a transitional pair because the newer reverse was used in the following year(s).


The Liberty Head gold dollar was produced from 1849 through 1889. There were a total of three types and there are a few interesting possibilities for the transitional gold coins collector.

In 1854, the Philadelphia, Dahlonega and San Francisco mint produced gold dollars with the Type One design. During the same year, a Type Two gold dollar was made at the Philadelphia mint as well. Both the 1854 Type One and Type Two gold dollars are common, although the latter becomes scarce and expensive in the higher Uncirculated grades. A transitional pairing of the 1854-P Type One and Type Two dollars could easily be assembled in MS63 to MS64 grades.

In 1856, there was a Type Two gold dollar made at the San Francisco mint and well as Type Three issue at Philadelphia and Dahlonega. These are not transitional gold coins issues, in the strictest sense of the word, as they were made during the same year but at different mints.


Production of this denomination began in 1796 and continued all the way until 1929. During this period, there were a number of transitional issues.


The first transitional pair of quarter eagles occurs in 1796 when both the No Stars and the With Stars issues were made. A total of 963 examples of the No Stars were struck and just 432 of the With Stars. While the more common of the two, the No Stars is better known and considered more desirable by many collectors. The 1796 With Stars is a very rare coin in all grades and is generally seen in lower grades than its No Stars counterpart. This transitional pair will be the most expensive part of such a set with nice AU-Uncirculated examples costing at least $250,000-300,000 and possibly more.

While the 1796 transitional gold coins set will be the most expensive quarter eagles in this set, the rarest coin will be the 1834 With Motto, which is the final year of issue for the Capped Head Left (reduced size) type struck from 1829 to 1834. There were 4,000 of these struck but nearly all were melted and today an estimated 20 or so exist. Later in the year, the better-known Classic Head design was introduced and the first-year-of-issue 1834 is common in grades up to MS63 and sometimes obtainable in MS64. A transitional pair of 1834 quarter eagles could, in theory, be obtained for less than $100,000 but the earlier issue from this year might take years of waiting to locate. No other transitional pairs exist for the quarter eagle denomination.

No transitional pairs exist for the three dollar gold piece.

The half eagle denomination began in 1795 and ended in 1929. It is fertile ground for the transitional gold coins collector with a number of interesting pairs extent, especially during the first few years of production.

The 1795 half eagle exists with both the Small Eagle reverse (employed on this denomination from 1795 through 1798) and the Heraldic Eagle reverse (used from 1795 until 1807). The 1795 Small Eagle is a reasonably common coin by the standards of early half eagles and it is, as one might expect, extremely popular. The 1795 Heraldic Eagle is considerably scarcer, especially in higher grades, although it is more obtainable. A nice transitional pair of 1795 half eagles will run $100,000 or so but, in my opinion, it is one of the most visually arresting contrasts in all of American coinage.

Another transitional pair exists in 1797. Two different 1797 Small Eagle half eagles are known; the 15 star obverse and the 16 star obverse. Both are very rare although the former is more difficult to find and is not often offered for sale. There is a 1797/5 Heraldic Eagle known which is also very rare although it is at least obtainable; two other 1797 Heraldic eagle varieties (the 15 star and the 16 star non-overdate) which are unique and located in the Smithsonian. A transitional set of 1797 half eagles would be expensive ($200,000+) and hard to assemble but it would make an exceptional item and would be a highlight of this set.

In theory, a 1798 transitional set could be assembled as well but the Small Eagle is exceedingly rare with just eight known; the last example to sell at auction (a PCGS EF40) brought $264,500 back in 2000. The Heraldic Eagle variety from this year is reasonably common. It is possible that this set could be assembled but it would take deep pockets and considerable good fortune to even have a shot as obtaining a 1798 Small Eagle in today’s rarity-conscious market.


The next transitional set in the half eagle denomination is the 1807 Bust Right and 1807 Bust Left. Both issues are reasonably common and a set could be put together, if so desired, in grades as high as MS64 to MS65. For $20,000-30,000, a more reasonably price alternative would include two nice AU coins.

A very interesting and very rare transitional pair occurs in 1829 with the Large Date (Large Diameter) and Small Date (Small Diameter). Both of these issues are very rare and generally trade once every few years. We’re talking in excess of $1 million dollars for this pair and even having the money is no assurance that a set could be assembled.

A really interesting pair of transitional pairs exists for the 1834 half eagles. The Capped Head Left reduced diameter type began in 1829 and continued until 1834. During this year, both Plain 4 and Crosslet 4 varieties. Both are quite rare with the latter being harder to find. Later in the year, the new Classic Head variety was introduced and, again, both Plain 4 and Crosslet 4 coins are known with the latter being considerably rarer. It would be difficult but not impossible to put together this “pair of pairs” with the two Capped Head coins in AU-MS grades, the Plain 4 Classic Head in a grade as high as MS64 and the Crosslet 4 Classic Head in the lower MS grades.

The next group of transitional pair half eagles occur in 1842 and 1843. 1842 Philadelphia half eagles are known with Small Letters and Large Letters reverse varieties. The former is the type of 1839-1842 while the latter began in 1842 and continued all the way through 1866. Both are scarce and undervalued with the Large letters being the rarer of the two. A pair could be assembled in nice AU grades for $10,000-15,000.

The same transitional pair exists for 1842-C half eagles. The 1842-C Small Date is very rare in all grades while the Large Date is more available. An EF-AU pair would cost $20,000-25,000 to assemble.

With the 1842-D half eagles, the exact opposite rarity pattern is seen. The Small Date is the more obtainable (although it is very rare in Uncirculated) while the Large Date is rare and almost impossible to find above AU55. A nice AU pair could be assembled for $25,000-35,000.

This transition occurred for New Orleans half eagles in 1843-O. The Small Letters is slightly scarcer than the Large Letters but both are reasonably easy to find in EF and AU grades. A pair in AU could be purchased for less than $10,000.

The next transitional pair for half eagles occurs in 1866 when the San Francisco mint made 9,000 No Motto coins and 34,920 With Motto coins. The former is extremely scarce while the latter is scarce but a bit more obtainable. The 1866-S No Motto is seldom found above AU50 while the With Motto is seldom found above AU53 to AU55. A pair of AU examples would cost around $20,000.


The final transitional pair for half eagles occurs in 1908 when both the Liberty Head and Indian Head types were struck. The 1908 Liberty Head was made only at the Philadelphia mint and it is common in grades up to MS64. The Indian Head type was made in 1908 at Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. It’s possible to assemble a 1908-P half eagle set in MS65 for less than $20,000.

The first transitional pair for the ten dollar eagle denomination occurs in 1797. The first coin struck this year was the Small eagle reverse of which only 3,615 were made. This is a rare coin in all grades and a very rare one in AU55 and above. Later this year, the large Eagle reverse was adapted and 10,940 were made. This issue is much easier to locate and it is sometimes seen in MS62 or even MS63 grades. An AU set would cost at least 175,000-200,000 but it would be easier to assemble than the similarly dated half eagles (see above).

A less obvious but still important transitional pair occurs in 1839 with the Large Letters and Small Letters reverses. The former, which is the more common, employs the same size lettering as seen on the 1838. The latter, which is far rarer, uses the same size lettering as seen on the 1840 (and onwards). It is possible to assemble this set in AU for $25,000 or so but finding a nice 1839 Small Letters reverse will prove challenging.


In 1866, the San Francisco mint struck No Motto and With Motto eagles. The No Motto coins had a mintage of 8,500 and are very scarce in all grades. The With Motto coins are more available but only 11,500 were struck. Both issues are extremely hard to find above AU50. A nice EF-AU pair would cost $25,000-35,000.

A potential transitional gold coin collector will have much to keep him busy with 1907 and 1908 eagles. In 1907, three mints (Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco) made Liberty Head eagles. Later that year, the new Indian Head design by Augustus St. Gaudens was introduced.

There are actually three distinct types of 1907 Indian Head eagle: the Wire Edge, the Rolled Edge and the No Motto. The latter is by far the most common although it is probably the least numismatically interesting. Most transitional collectors purchase a 1907-P Liberty Head in MS63 to MS65 grades and a 1907 No Motto in MS63 to MS64. Adding the Wire Edge is a nice touch but it should be noted that a nice Uncirculated example runs around $50,000. And, in the parameters we discussed earlier in this article, these are not a true transitional pair as the Wire Edge design was not fully adapted in 1908.

The final transitional pair for this denomination occurs, as a “pair of pairs”, in 1908. Both the Philadelphia and Denver mints struck No Motto eagles followed by With Motto issues. None of these are rare in grades below MS65 and a nice MS64 set is an accomplishment which is readily attainable.

The best known transitional Liberty Head double eagle pair is the 1866-S No Motto and With Motto issues. Only 12,000 or so of the former were produced and it is a rare issue whose price has soared in the last decade. The 1866-S With Motto is much more available although it can be challenging to locate in any Uncirculated grade. An About Uncirculated pair will run at least $50,000 and possibly more if the collector is fussy about quality for the No Motto.


In 1907, there was a radical change in the design of the double eagle and, as with the eagle from this year, there are pieces which use the old Liberty Head design (from Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco) and the new St. Gaudens design. There are two important varieties of St. Gaudens double eagle from 1907: the High Relief which uses Roman numerals for the date and the Arabic numerals. These were all struck at the Philadelphia. An ideal transitional set, in my opinion, would include a 1907-P Liberty Head double eagle and a 1907 Arabic numerals. A slightly more advanced set could include a High Relief as well. The two coin set is easy to assemble in MS64 for around $5,000.

A second transitional set occurs in 1908 when the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse of the double eagle. The 1908-P and 1908-D issues exist with a No Motto reverse; the same two dates were made with the With Motto reverse, as well as a 1908-S.