The Joys of Collecting column from Sept. 14,
2015, issue of Coin World:
The Coronet gold $10 eagles, minted from 1838 to 1907, are from what
is probably the most “forgotten” of all major series in American
Dating back to the 1930s, there is and was a great interest in
collecting these coins by date and Mint mark.
Remarkably, many circulation strikes from 1838 through the late
1870s are either completely unknown in Mint State or are extreme
rarities. This is particularly true of coins from the New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City Branch Mints. The explanation is
simple: in that period, not a single numismatist is known to have had
an interest in Branch Mint coins! Not even the curators of the Mint
Cabinet bothered to save them. Collecting by date was standard, and
most buyers bought Proofs when they were available or else chose
circulated coins, not caring if they had Mint marks.
The great collectors of the 19th century — Joseph J. Mickley, T.
Harrison Garrett, Lorin G. Parmelee, Matthew Stickney, Mendes I.
Cohen, and others — sought Proofs, but paid no attention to Mint marks.
In the 1930s, strong interest developed in Mint-marked gold, with
Floyd Starr, Louis E. Eliasberg, Emery May Holden Norweb, and others
avidly seeking such coins.
Eagles of 1838 to late the 1870s, when found, were apt to be in
grades from Very Fine to About Uncirculated. Many of these were
rescued by Treasury Department employees and bank tellers who received
them as deposits when Franklin D. Roosevelt commanded that public
citizens (numismatists excepted) surrender their gold coins. Those
receiving them kept scarce pieces and swapped common coins for them —
an ideal situation as Uncle Sam sent the coins to the melting pot. A
common 1901 eagle had just as much gold as a rare 1870-CC coin.
In the late 1940s, into the 1950s and onward, the supply of gold
coins increased dramatically.
American dealers, with Paul Wittlin and James F. Kelly leading the
way, contacted banks in Switzerland, France, Venezuela, and other
countries and launched the repatriation of millions of American gold
coins that had been exported in earlier times. Many Mint State eagles
were found, but nearly all of these dated from the 1880s into the 20th
century. So far as I know, no early Mint State gold eagles were located.