'Enhanced' 1886 Coronet $20 double eagle realizes less than perfect price

Market Analysis: Coin ‘doctoring’ designed to improve a coin’s look can lower its value
By , Coin World
Published : 07/12/16
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When it comes to the adjectives used to describe problem coins, an altered surface can be particularly tough to spot, and such pieces can be awarded a “No Grade” label. As Professional Coin Grading Service explains, “This No Grade covers anything added to the surface of the coin to either ‘improve’ its appearance or to cover marks. Surface alteration methods include adding: dental wax, putty, lacquer, nose grease, etc.” Altered surfaces are a form of coin “doctoring” designed to make a coin look better and can make rarities more affordable for collectors willing to live with a problem coin.

The Lot:

1886 Coronet $20 double eagle, Proof Genuine, Uncirculated Details, Altered Surfaces

The Price:


The Story:

Coronet type Brilliant Proof U.S. gold coins are among the most likely candidates for an Altered Surfaces designation since the reflective fields lend themselves to hairline scratches and provide opportunities for “improvement.”

This 1886 Coronet double eagle is graded PCGS Proof Genuine, Uncirculated Details, Altered Surfaces. “Uncirculated Details” refers to the fact that it has no wear, not that it is a Mint State coin.

In 1886 the Philadelphia Mint struck 1,000 double eagles for circulation and 106 Proof pieces, of which perhaps 20 to 25 Proof coins remain today.

COIN VALUES: How much is your 1886 Coronet double eagle worth?

In describing possible signs of alteration, Heritage observes “areas of skillful enhancement possibly include polishing in the upper obverse fields and manipulation of the reverse lettering (which appears bright as opposed to the frosted look of other devices including the eagle, portrait, and obverse stars).” This work was done to minimize the impact of hairlines, and the coin sold for a relatively affordable (for the issue at least) $18,800 at Heritage’s June 9 Long Beach auction.

There is more to this Market Analysis! Keep reading about recently sold altered coins:

1857-S Coronet $20 buffed to remove contact marks earns 'altered' label

Cleaned 1892-S Morgan dollar realizes $16,450, well below price of unaltered one

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