Civil War vs. Reconstruction Era Three Dollar Gold in High Grade

By Doug ……

CoinWeek Content Partner

Three Dollar gold pieces struck during the Civil War are very popular with collectors and sell for significant premiums in higher grades. But, in my opinion, the Reconstruction Era dates are better values; to simplify, we’ll target the 1866 through the 1870 so we have the same number of years to compare.

1870 Three Dollar Gold PCGS MS63+ CAC. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)

1870 $3.00 PCGS MS63+ CAC. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)

For the sake of our study, we will define “high grade” for these issues as being M63 and finer. Let’s first look at the total number of coins for each group as graded by PCGS in MS63 and above.

Civil War $3.00s Graded MS63 and Finer by PCGS

Now let’s view the Reconstruction dates and see how many have been graded MS63 and finer by PCGS.

Reconstruction $3.00s Graded MS63 and Finer by PCGS

If we toss the 1861, which seems to me to have been particularly afflicted with resubmissions, and the 1868, which is a hoard date, the numbers favor the Reconstruction issues. The 1865 is the clear winner here, in terms of high-grade rarity, with a scant nine pieces graded MS63 or finer. But the 1867 and the 1869 are not far behind with just 11 graded MS63 or finer by PCGS while the 1870 shows just 13.

1867 Three Dollar Gold PCGS MS64. Images Doug Winter

1867 $3.00 PCGS MS64

Let’s throw CAC into the mix and try to determine how many of these high-grade Three Dollar gold pieces are deemed as acceptable by that service.

 Civil War $3.00s Graded MS63 and Finer and Approved by CAC

Now let’s view the Reconstruction dates and see how many were stickered by CAC.

Reconstruction $3.00s Graded MS63 and Finer and Approved by CAC

It is probably not a bad idea to toss the 1868 again. As I mentioned above, this date was hoarded and there are some really nice survivors. But that one date aside, the Reconstruction dates certainly appear as rare—if not rarer—in PCGS/CAC MS63 and finer than their Civil War counterparts.

If you are a collector of high-grade Threes, how should you approach these two groups of coins?

I think you have to be somewhat flexible when it comes to buying these coins. It is certainly an easy request to buy PCGS-graded coins exclusively, but what about coins that are NGC-graded and CAC-approved? Let’s say an NGC/CAC MS63 1869 comes available; an extremely important coin as it would be the very first example of this date to have received a sticker in this grade. If you are comfortable with your grading skills, I’d say it is a no-brainer to buy the coin and then try and cross it at PCGS.

1866 Three Dollar Gold PCGS MS63. Images Doug Winter

1866 $3.00 PCGS MS63

What about a scenario where a nice but not CAC-able 1866 graded MS63 by PCGS becomes available? This exact situation occurred recently when I sold a coin in this grade to a sophisticated collector who is working on a PCGS Set Registry of Threes. He bought the coin based on the fact that there are just three MS63 or finer examples of this date currently approved by CAC, and one is an MS66 which is likely to be out of his price range. Given that he is looking for one of the two CAC approved MS63s (certainly needles in a haystack!) he has two viable options: he can wait patiently for a CAC coin in the right grade, or he can fill the hole with a reasonably priced coin and try to eventually “make” a CAC example on his own terms.

The bottom line is that these Reconstruction Era Three Dollar gold pieces are highly undervalued in MS63 and finer, and nearly all are just about impossible to locate in 63 or better with a CAC sticker.

Are you interested in specializing in a set of Three Dollar gold pieces? Why not work with me as I have written the standard reference on this series and know the ins and outs of every date. For more information, please call me at (214) 675-9897 or email me at [email protected].

Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

Get Your Copies of Doug’s Books at CoinWeek Supplies.

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2 Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.

In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.

Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality, and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.

Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues

In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
  • Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
  • Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
  • Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
  • The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
  • Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
  • An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
  • A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
  • The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
  • Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis

Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.


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