US Coins

Heritage to offer 1880s tough date gold double eagles

Circulation strike 1882 Coronet gold $20 double eagles (left) are unsung rarities in the series. This one graded Extremely Fine 45 by PCGS is part of Heritage’s July auctions. The auctions also feature an AU-53 1886 Coronet gold double eagle that is a scarce survivor from the low mintage Philadelphia Mint issue.

All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Collectors continue to look to Coronet gold $20 double eagles as stores of value, and Heritage’s July 14 to 17 summer sessions in Dallas have two scarce representatives of tough dates in the series.

The auction combines the sales that traditionally took place at the Long Beach Expo in California and the summer Florida United Numismatists convention, with lot viewing opportunities at both shows and the auction now taking place at Heritage’s Dallas headquarters.

The 1882 and 1886 Coronet double eagles are sought-after Philadelphia Mint rarities as the San Francisco Mint handled most of the production of the denomination in the 1880s.

Only 571 1882 double eagles were struck for circulation, making the issue rare with just 25 to 35 estimated to survive in all grades. Heritage makes a case that when compared with the rare 1850s issues of the New Orleans Mint, which can sell for six figures at auction, the subject issue, graded Extremely Fine 45 by Professional Coin Grading Service, is underappreciated. It is one of three in this grade at PCGS; the finest-certified at the service are two Mint State 61 examples.

Researcher P. Scott Rubin observed in PCGS CoinFacts, “Curiously, the 1882 circulation strike Double Eagle appears to be as rare as the 1882 Proofs,” of which just 59 were struck of the denomination. Given the buying power of the $20 coin to contemporary collectors, most collectors of the era preferred a Proof example to a circulation strike for their collections (especially in an era before the popularization of collecting by Mint mark).

Heritage praises the eye appeal of this one, observing, “Rich orange-gold patina complements well-detailed design elements that show limited wear. The most protected portions of the fields retain slight reflectivity, and only a few small abrasions are noteworthy as pedigree markers.”

The coin was previously offered at 2005 auction, then-graded Extremely Fine 45 by Numismatic Guaranty Co., where it realized $32,200. That cataloger recorded, “This once-prooflike example is layered in reddish patina and only in the most protected areas are there remnants of luster.”

Scarce 1886 double eagle

The 1886 Coronet double eagle also saw a low mintage, with just 1,000 struck for circulation and an upward estimate of 70 today believed to exist. The absence of branch Mint issues of gold double eagles in 1886 places added pressure on the date for collectors today.

Heritage explains that while people in the East preferred paper money to gold coins, “the Western states still adhered to hard-money economic policies, however. Accordingly, for much of the decade of the 1880s, the Philadelphia Mint produced only token mintages of double eagles. The San Francisco Mint usually produced large quantities of the high denomination gold coins but, for some reason, none were struck in 1886. The Carson City Mint was closed for coinage operations from 1886 through 1888 and the New Orleans Mint struck no double eagles after 1879. As a result, the meager Philadelphia mintage of 1,000 pieces was the only business-strike production for the year. A small proof mintage of 142 pieces was also struck to satisfy collector demand.”

The offered example is distinguished by a significant scratch on Liberty’s cheek, but otherwise features “just a touch of wear on the well-detailed design elements. The vivid yellow-gold surfaces show the expected number of minor abrasions and some chatter in the fields and on the devices.” Heritage even mentions some prooflike reflectivity in the protected areas.

It is graded About Uncirculated 53 by NGC.

Heritage writes of the coin: “Few 19th century collectors could afford to compile long date runs of double eagles and the few wealthy numismatists who did collect large denomination gold coins preferred to upgrade their collections by purchasing gold proof sets from the Mint every year. As a result, few high quality business-strike 1886 double eagles were saved by contemporary collectors. The issue is extremely elusive in AU53 condition and Mint State coins are virtually unobtainable today. ...”

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