BY JOHN FEIGENBAUM, PUBLISHER & PATRICK IAN PEREZ, EDITOR
While reviewing the values of gold coins for this Quarterly III edition, one item that first caught our attention in the $5 Liberty series was the movement of the dates in the 1880s. It is no secret that a significant amount of U.S. gold coinage has been repatriated from Europe recently, and it is clear this is having an impact on populations and prices. Based on trading activity it seems that many of the $5 Libs in these European hoards are dated in the 1880s, and as a result dates that have been considered better in the past are now trading close to type coin (generic) prices. This includes San Francisco mint coins, such as the 1883-S, 1885-S, and 1886-S. Dealers and collectors should be aware of this rapidly changing landscape, as it will take some time for the standard references on U.S. gold to catch up to this new data, as we are still in the midst of this change. It is important to note that many of these dates are still scarce to rare in Gem, as European gold often grades AU to low Mint State. MS64 looks to be the prime grade to collect for this series, offering a good combination of scarcity and value.
This trend can easily be applied to the two other significant series we cover here: Liberty eagles and double eagles. While the population of coins is growing in lower grades, high grade examples are increasingly difficult to find. The best source for such coins has been shipwreck discoveries, and we see many examples of S.S. Central America coins (mostly S-mints from the 1850’s) doing quite well in the market. Why not? They are beautiful, well preserved, and still quite desirable. Circulated Euro coins suffer from low eye appeal, especially when potential buyers seeking bullion-type holdings, are tempted by the beautiful gold issues of this country, Australia, China, and many others.
One on another general note, there is an overall sense that nice, high quality examples of the dated gold issues in this sheet are only becoming increasingly difficult to find on the market. Dealer inventory of early dated gold coins is weak and we are told that anything nice is easy to sell at current levels. High grade type 1 double eagles are great performers at auction, when you find them. Additionally, we’ve seen a light smattering of proof gold issues coming to the market, and these have typically blown away our published levels. The reason we haven’t changed prices is due to a general lack of dealer bids coupled with very inconsistent supply. Also, the specific condition and freshness of the coin offered has a huge bearing on its worth. Especially for proof gold coins, it’s important to use our values as a guidance but also do your homework with recent auction performance of related issues in similar grades.