Precious Metals

Damage from high relief gold Eagles drops grades

Some 2016 American Eagle 1-ounce gold bullion $50 coins submitted to Numismatic Guaranty Corp. have received final grades three to five points lower than expected because of damage caused by coins with higher obverse relief than normal being stacked together in the usual packaging tubes.

The value of a coin can drop significantly with each point reduction in grade.

U.S. Mint officials confirm the production of up to 63,000 of the coins having the higher than normal relief on the obverse, but have not yet disclosed a cause. Mint officials learned of what they are now calling the "variant" (not an error) not long after one of its authorized purchasers, Coins 'N Things in Bridgewater, Mass., had a 500-coin box of the bullion coins rejected by Professional Coin Grading Service because of an extraordinary number of damaged coins.

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NGC has seen its share of 2016 American Eagle 1-ounce gold coins with more marks than expected, especially noticable since the coins often receive high Mint State grades of MS-69 and MS-70. Submissions began arriving to the grading service in the latter part of January. The coins went on sale to authorized purchasers  Jan. 11.

"NGC graders first observed that some of the 2016 $50 gold eagles wobbled when placed obverse side down on a flat surface," according to from David Camire, NGC Finalizer [for grading] and Mint error specialist. "It was initially thought that the coins were bent, but upon closer examination it was determined that the obverse design had a slightly higher relief than normal.

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"The highest point of these coins is the center of the figure of Liberty instead of the rim. Because the highest point was the design, these coins often showed excessive rub from being stacked in Mint tubes. In many cases, the contact marks resulted in grades that were three to five points lower than one would expect to see for newly issued gold eagles received in Mint-sealed boxes.

"When compared side-by-side with a normal relief gold $50 eagle, it is nearly impossible to see that the relief is slightly higher, and NGC therefore decided not to assign a different attribution to these higher relief gold eagles."

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