Archive for March, 2008

March 28, 2008

>Incuse (in-kyoos’)

>The artistic success of the 1907 $10 and $20 gold coins of Augustus Saint Gaudens made President Theodore Roosevelt want to continue the overhaul of United States gold to include the $2.50 and $5 coins. Unfortunately, Saint Gaudens died in August 1907. Roosevelt, in his usual impetuous way, asked his friend, Dr. William Bigelow, to come up with a new approach and a qualified sculptor for the two coins; and fast!

Bigelow was a third-generation Harvard-trained surgeon who chose to follow the art world instead of the scalpel. He became enamored of Asian art and philosophy. Several trips to Japan later, he had amassed a huge collection of Asian ceramics, prints and paintings. He would eventually donate his collection to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where it is considered to be the finest collection of Japanese and Chinese art in the United States.

Dr. Bigelow met Bela Lyon Pratt at his studio in January 1908. Pratt was a Boston sculptor who had attended the Yale School of Fine Arts and the Art Students League of New York City, where he studied under Saint Gaudens, eventually becoming his assistant. After further studies in Paris, Pratt became Professor of Sculpture at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. Pratt had a great deal of confidence in himself, and that impressed Bigelow who knew that Roosevelt was not fond of those who were timid or shy. Bigelow explained to Pratt that he was interested in a sunken relief design for the new coins. This statement astonished Pratt, for just a couple of days before their meeting he and his assistant had been discussing the very same idea!

Pratt immediately started work on models for the $2.50 and $5 gold coins. He believed that the headdress on Saint Gauden’s $10 coin was not natural looking, so he modeled an Indian chief (possibly Chief Hollow Horn Bear), wearing a headdress with feathers lying in a more natural position. For the reverse, President Roosevelt was adamant that the reverse of the $10 coin must be used. He was pleased that this powerful eagle was featured not only on the $10 gold coin, but on his inaugural medal of 1905 as well.

The $2.50 and $5 coins were minted around October of 1908. The radical sunken relief design was an artistic if not popular success. These coins were the opposite of the higher relief $10 and $20 coins of Saint Gaudens, because they stacked easily in banker’s trays. There was some comment by concerned citizens that the recessed areas of the coins might harbor germs. These concerns were unfounded. The coins would continue to be struck through 1929.

These United States gold coins of 1908, under the aegis of President Theodore Roosevelt, were more than worthy of comparisons between the finest gold of Europe, or of the ancient world of Greece or Egypt. America had finally utilized the talents of its best sculptors to show the world that their coinage was second to none!

March 26, 2008

>buffalo bullion

>So, ok… I know they are not “rare coins” but in the mad rush towards bullion the new Buffalo Gold pieces that have been slabbed “Cameo Proof” or “First Strike” are inherently rare. These bullion pieces already sell at a premium over spot and that premium has been climbing. Consider the state quarters which are really kids stuff but make the point. State quarters are worth a quarter unless they are proof or slabbed with some unique identifier like “Ultra Cameo Proof”, some of which now retail for 100x’s their face value. So if you are going to make an investment in bullion consider the fact that bullion will always be the price of bullion but a graded proof automatically makes the coin rare.

March 24, 2008

>Previous Market Highs?

>Large denomination gold coins have moved up with the price of gold but are not anywhere near their own previous market highs. $20.00 Saint Gaudens and $20.00 Liberties in grades MS 63-65 are the coins of the season. These undervalued rarities have been disappearing from the market. Their availability has been dwindling since the beginning of 2007, but are still available. Getting the highest grade possible is the best way to assure return on your investment as the population of these rarities in high grade drops off significantly. Even though gold has reached record levels rare coins haven’t.

March 24, 2008

>big gold

>Both Liberty and Indian $10s and $20s are seeing bid jumps and record prices at auction houses with gold’s higher prices. The particularly exciting aspect of these results is the fact that rare coins lag behind gold’s movement, meaning there are a lot of buying opportunities even with prices moving up. We expect to see a continuation of this activity in 2008 as new investors flock to rare gold in search of better gains. Some of the more notable prices realized at auctions recently include a 1931-P $20 GSG in MS-66 ($126,500), an 1854-O $20 Liberty in AU-50 ($368,000), and a 1910-S $10 Indian in MS-66 ($82,800).

March 24, 2008

>Gold Rush

The first “gold rush” in the United States was not in 1849, but 1828 in Georgia and North Carolina. The discovery of gold in southern Appalachia dates from 1799, when a 17 pound gold nugget was found in a creek near Charlotte, North Carolina by a 12-year-old boy. Mining in the area continued on a limited basis until 1828, when larger deposits of gold were located in two counties.

Templeton Reid, of Georgia, started the first private mint devoted to minting gold coins in the United States in 1830. He minted $2.50, $5, and $10 gold coins for only two and one-half months before closing his operation due to lack of public confidence in the gold content of his coins.

A much more successful enterprise was that of the Bechtler family of Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Metallurgist, gold and silversmith Christopher Bechtler and his son Augustus were recent German immigrants to Philadelphia. They moved to North Carolina in 1830, probably with the intent of being close to a readily available supply of usable gold. As with future enterprises in the West, miners in the area faced many obstacles when shipping their gold dust to Philadelphia for assaying purposes. Recognizing heavy demand as well as the potential for a good profit, Bechtler started an assay and coining business in 1831. The Bechtlers’ output was known for its well-assayed and honest coins. Their coins were so highly regarded that, in the Civil War, the Confederacy stipulated that fiscal obligations were payable in “Bechtler gold” rather than Union, state, or Confederate coins or currency. The Bechtlers struck the first gold dollar produced in America. The family closed their operations in the early 1850’s.