US Coins

Collectors covet 'dirty' 1911-D Indian Head gold $5

The About Uncirculated grade encompasses a wide range of coins. At the low end are AU-50 pieces that are just barely better than Extremely Fine, with weak luster and blah overall eye appeal. At the high-end are AU-58 coins that are often much more attractive than their low-end Mint State counterparts. The incentive for collectors to clean or otherwise attempt to improve AU-58 coins with the hope of getting them into an MS-61 or MS-62 holder is great, and collectors are increasingly willing to pay strong prices for high-end AU-58 pieces.

Here's the second of three examples from Heritage’s April 4 to 6 auction in Dallas that we profile this week:

The Lot:

‘Dirty’ 1911-D Indian Head gold $5 half eagle, NGC About Uncirculated 58+ 

The Price:


The Story:

New collectors may be baffled when they hear a gold coin described in glowing tones as “dirty,” as though it were a desirable trait. A coin that looks “dirty” often has what numismatists covet: original surfaces.

Especially in the About Uncirculated grade, many gold coins have been stripped of their original surfaces to become shiny and bright, with the hope of getting a coin into a Mint State holder. Many retail coin buyers prefer these bright coins, providing market incentives for dealers to tamper with original surfaces.

Connect with Coin World:  

Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

This 1911-D Indian Head gold $5 half eagle graded About Uncirculated 58+ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. has appealing “dirty” gold surfaces, described in the catalog as “varying shades of pale yellow and khaki-gold.”

Numismatic Bookie tackles how an 1804 dollar appeared before coin was struck’Numismatic Bookie’ tackles how an 1804 dollar appeared in a Budapest book before any were struck: Inside Coin World: This week, we find an 1804 dollar in a book two years before any of the coins were struck.

While not as rare as the 1911-D Indian Head quarter eagle (also struck at the Denver Mint), the 1911-D half eagle is considered a tougher date in its series. This one sold for $4,230 on April 4. Looking at the next grade up shows the incentive for an individual to try to “improve” it, since low-end Mint State examples sell for twice that amount.

Keep Reading About Lightly Circulated Rarities:

1891 Coronet $20 double eagleWhen a Mint State coin is rare, collectors turn to pretty, lightly circulated examples:  Prices have slowly increased over time for attractive About Uncirculated "near-Mint" examples of the 1891 Coronet double eagle.

Community Comments