HomeCollecting StrategiesCollecting 20th-Century Gold Coins Was Always Unrealistic for the Average Collector

Collecting 20th-Century Gold Coins Was Always Unrealistic for the Average Collector

Collecting 20th-Century Gold Coins Was Always Unrealistic for the Average Collector

By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..
In the February 1965 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Philadelphia coin dealer Gerald Zaid offered beautiful four-coin Saint-Gaudens-era gold type sets in Capitol holders for $129.95. Adjusted for inflation, this set would cost the equivalent of $1,228 in 2022 money. This was still quite a bit of cash, as almost everything else offered in his two-page ad carried a price somewhere between $1.75 for a type Brilliant Unc. Morgan dollar and $31.95 for a 1952 PDS set in a plastic holder.

I look back at my Army days and my frequent visits to an Arizona coin shop in the early 2000s, a place I would go whenever I had a few (and I mean a few) extra dollars. The shop, the name of which I cannot remember, and the dealer, whose name I never knew (my wife and I called him the “coin guy”) played a big part in my return to my childhood hobby. As a child, I had the opportunity to collect hand-me-down coins, mostly of the junk variety. As a young adult, I had moved up to silver 50 State Quarter Proof Sets (they were the rage) and the occasionally $10 to $15 loose circulated 19th-century coin.

Coin Guy had gold coins as well, and when I think back to the prices he wanted for Type III Liberty gold $20s or Indian $10s, I think about how much I wish I could have told him, “I’ll take all that you have!”

But the truth is, gold coins, even at the attractive prices they sold for in the 1960s and the early 2000s, were always out of reach.

If Zaid’s four-coin set was offered today in MS63 condition, it would run you $5,300. Maybe you could shave off a couple of bucks by getting ugly coins… but who in their right mind would want the ugliest coins in their collection to be the ones they paid the most money for?

Josh shows off his Saint-Gaudens $20.

I remember a few years ago seeing PCGS Rare Coin Market Report editor Josh McMorrow-Hernandez at a coin show and he had just purchased a Saint-Gaudens $20. It was a big deal to him as owning one was on his collector’s bucket list and he had saved up for quite some time in order to buy it. I was very happy for him and I realized that I’ve never actually owned one myself.

Even today, despite having a handful of gold coins in my collection, I’ve never made a serious effort to get into classic U.S. gold. Not due to a lack of interest, I assure you.

I will, I believe, buy at least a representative sampling. I have to if I ever hope to finish my “Mint State” DANSCO 7070. In my mind, my fully-complete coin album would need to include the now optional gold page. That page requires 10 pieces: two gold dollars (Types I and III); two quarter eagles (Liberty and Indian); two half eagles (same); two eagles (ditto); and two double eagles (Liberty and Saint-Gaudens). I’m 10% of the way there and I still need to buy the page, which itself sells for as much as $90 on the secondary market as DANSCO no longer includes it in the album. Several years ago, the company swapped it out for a completely dreadful page of late 20th-century dollars, Bicentennial coins, a commemorative dollar, and a Silver Eagle. Every time I see that page, I cringe.

The DANSCO 7070 is, in my mind, the coolest of all the coin albums. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but no coin album better curates the story of circulating American coinage from 1800-1978. It’s also not a “cheap” album to undertake, even if one were to fill the holes with XFs or below.

That DANSCO removed the gold page is no surprise, as filling those 10 golden holes is probably out of reach for most of their customers. It’s a shame, really, as no other page in that book would elicit the same response.

Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan is an award-winning numismatic author and the editor and publisher of CoinWeek.com. Along with co-author Hubert Walker, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the "Market Whimsy" column for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing. From 2021-2023, Charles served as Governor of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), where he was bestowed the Glenn Smedley Award. Charles is a member of numerous numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG).

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8 COMMENTS

  1. This is why it is even more important for the US Mint to make a modern Saint Gaudens $20, Indian Head $10, Indian Head $5 and Indian Head $2.50 gold program like they’re doing with the modern Morgan and Peace Dollars now. There are many problems with striking, overgrading and counterfeiting in the original series anyway and the US Mint stepping in to create a modern program would help give classic designs at a more affordable price point where one can be more confident in the accuracy of the grade and condition of of the coin.

    • Perhaps- yet with the “premiums” the US Mint would charge you over spot and production etc., you would be better off purchasing problem-free real XF/AU pre-1933 US gold coins in my opinion.

      • Not really. Most people if they’re spending money on a big ticket item they want the best quality they can afford and in series like Saints, there’s little price difference between XF-AU and MS63 for many dates. The price difference between the XF-Au pre 1933 pieces and the us mint prices wouldn’t be different. I’ll illustrate.

        Indian Head $5 raw as low as $658.28 for XF and as low as $733.28 for a raw AU coin on APMEX. By comparison a proof 2022 1/4 oz gold eagle was $715.00 on the US Mint website.

        Indian Head $10 raw XF is as low as $1236.56 and an AU is as low as $1266.56 on the APMEX website. By comparison a proof 2022 1/2 oz gold eagle was $1375.00 on the US Mint website. Again if you’re paying $1000+ on a coin, wouldn’t you spend the extra $100 if that’s the difference between XF/AU and a likely MS68-MS70. It wasn’t like pre-33 gold was out and about in daily commerce like the copper and silver pieces were.

        The US Mint selling Saints at $2700 (the 1 oz gold eagle proof issue price) is pretty good competition given how much the premiums have risen on NGC/PCGS generic MS65/MS66 Saints.

  2. I am not sure if getting such a set in decent shape would be out of reach. If one has the patience over a few years it is possible. Think about how much one spends on a vacation in Europe with a family of 3? You can spend $2500. Or even trips within the US are now becoming expensive with the rise in hotel rates and even online housing options.

    Now I DO agree it is out of reach for the following:

    a) A family with young kids and kids in school
    b) A couple or person who just bought a house and needs to fix it up
    c) Someone with a chronic medical condition which requires expensive meds and treatments.
    d) A student completing a degree or vocational training

    Now if you do not have these responsibilities than I think it is possible but it would take much discipline and a few sacrifices. And I would say now is the time to do this as these coins will become fewer and fewer.

    What I think is a mistake for any collector is to think they MUST get all of these when I think getting the lower denominations in a nice uncirculated grade would be best. Also there are non-gold coins that are within the budget of the average collector and more attainable to get than Gold type set.

    • That’s why I think it’s important for the US Mint to make modern day versions of these gold coins like they’re doing with the Morgan and Peace Dollars. The US Mint already has the statutory authority to do it. The US Mint can make MS69-MS70 coins at price point that’s cheaper than most MS versions of the pre 1933 20th century gold type coins.

  3. The price of most of the Gold Coins in the Dansco 7070 page is $350 to $2,000. For that amount of money for a coin I want to purchase in certified holders and not as raw coins that would fit in the album pages. I don’t trust my counterfeit detection skills to be sure they are real.

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