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A Golden Opportunity



Over the last several years I have been feverishly working to upgrade the gold coins in my collection since the spot price of gold has fallen from its peak valuation in the fall of 2011.


In the last two years or so I have been able to upgrade several of the MS-62 and lower graded gold coins in my collection to 63 and 64. To date, I have been happy with the quality of the MS-63 and 64 gold coins I bought and I consider them to be the final upgrades for my gold type set. With the spot price of gold being relatively stable over the last few years, I have had the time I needed to buy these expensive coins at a price I can afford.


This golden opportunity has also allowed me to add several nice circulated classic gold coins and varieties to my collection. Except for the 1907 high-relief St Gaudens Double Eagle, I fully expect to add all the major 1834 to 1933 US gold varieties to my collection.


This brings me to the 1897-S MS-62 Type 3 Liberty Double Eagle in my collection. Over the last several months I have been looking for an acceptable MS-63 or 64 example. The problem is that I have not found a coin in those grades that is all that much better than the 62 I already own. The problem has always been the location and severity of the contact marks on the obverse. Dare I consider a gem-uncirculated MS-65 upgrade?


According to both PCGS and NGC population reports, PCGS grades a total of 8,204 Liberty Double Eagles in MS-65 and NGC grades 9,221. For the most part, gem condition Liberty Double Eagles are very scarce and as a result very expensive. Now if all those 65’s were spread evenly across all the dates I would not be having the following conversation.


Of the total MS-65 populations from both grading services, 65% of PCGS’s and 64% of NGC’s population are 1904 double eagles. With thousands of 1904 MS-65’s in the marketplace, the 1904 double eagle presents a wonderful opportunity for the type collector to own a gem quality gold coin at a relatively low price. This then is where a lower and stable spot price comes into play when making my decision to upgrade my current double eagle.


In 2011, I bought my current double eagle when an ounce of gold was at its peak valuation. At that time I suspected that gold would continue to rise. Now they say that hindsight is 20/20 and since I bought this coin, gold has fallen to roughly the level it has held for more than a couple of years. Now when I decide to upgrade any coin in my collection I usually sell the lower graded coin to subsidize the higher graded coin. However, in this case I am going to hold onto that 1897-S coin until the price of gold goes back up.


With that settled, I went on the hunt for an MS-65 double eagle to replace my 62. After looking around a little, I found about twenty-five 1904 MS-65’s on Heritage’s website as “Buy It Nows” with a few having a “Make Offer” option. Like all the rest of the grades not all MS-65’s are created equal so I picked the coin I liked the best and made an offer for $100 lower than the BIN.


Now Heritage was supposed to contact me in three days and when they didn’t I thought they had declined my offer. That was until 11 days after my offer when I received an invoice in my e-mail box for the coin I wanted! With that I upgraded an MS-62 coin to 65 for only $32 more than I paid for the 1897-S! Essentially, I just got a 3-point upgrade for free! If I were to sell the MS-62 at a loss it would then cost me about $600-$700. Still not that bad for an upgrade to a coin of this magnitude.


This all reminds me of the UNC-Details 1889-S Saddle Ridge Double Eagle I bought for about the same price as the two coins I am writing about. When I compare the Saddle Ridge coin to the 1904, I think the Saddle Ridge coin has a shot at MS-65 were it not for the cleaning below Miss Liberty’s truncated neck. The cleaning may not be all that apparent in the PCGS photo but in the hand it is front and center.


Unlike the 1904, 1889-S double eagles are very rare in MS-65 with a NGC valuation of $36,000 and a PCGS valuation of $30,000! I only paid a small fraction of that price for this coin, about 1/14 to 1/15 of the fully graded coin! Thus, I am thrilled to own this coin even though it has been cleaned. The moral of the story is don’t even think of cleaning your coins, you may do them irreparable damage perhaps costing you thousands and at the same time representing a great deal for me (lol)! Merry Christmas to all!






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Great buy Gary---and I fully understand the frustration of trying for a 1 or 2 point upgrade and not finding any examples better than the lower grade coin you own.


I have been looking for a 1947-D MS67 to finish my Walker Set for about 3 years. Several have popped up at auction ( usually at inflated prices and 15 to 20% fees to boot), even ebay has 3 of them right now. The problem is my MS66 looks a lot nicer than all 3 of the "higher grade" coins. It gets frustrating not being able to find a nicer coin in the grade I want and also having a 99.9% likelihood that my MS66 would not get an upgrade in the politicized TPG world if re-submitted.

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