By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
On August 25, 2022, Stack’s Bowers sold a comprehensive specialized set of Dahlonega gold. It was a sale that had very broad appeal as it encompassed every issue from this Southern branch mint and included coins that ranged in value from around $2,500 USD all the way up to six figures.
If you followed the sale, you no doubt are aware that an all-time record for any Dahlonega coin was set by the Pogue PCGS/CAC MS62 1854-D Three Dollars, which brought a staggering $502,000. There was enough depth for me to get a good handle on the ever-changing D-mint gold market.
Here are five takeaways that I got from this sale.
1. The Upper End of the Market is Extremely Strong
Here are seven results that blew me away:
- Lot 6017: 1839-D $2.50, PCGS/CAC MS64. This coin sold for $168,000; it last brought $105,750 in January 2013.
- Lot 6024: 1840-D $2.50, NGC MS62. This coin sold for $144,000; it last brought $74,750 in April 2006.
- Lot 6065: 1856-D $2.50, PCGS/CAC AU58. This coin sold for $144,000; it last brought $47,000 in August 2015.
- Lot 6067: 1859-D $2.50, PCGS/CAC MS62. This coin sold for $132,000; it last brought $44,063 in August 2015.
- Lot 6072: 1854-D $3.00, PCGS/CAC MS62. This coin sold for $502,000; it last brought $188,000 in February 2016.
- Lot 6077: 1838-D $5.00, PCGS MS63. This coin sold for $228,000; it last brought $94,000 in May 2016.
- Lot 6080: 1839-D $5.00, PCGS/CAC MS62. This coin sold for $252,000; it last brought $28,750 in January 2004.
Do you see a trend here? All but three of the coins are PCGS/CAC (with six graded by PCGS), and all are either the highest graded or close to it. Additionally, all are multiple level-of-demand issues either due to being first-year-of-type/first-year-of-issue/one-year type or due to a crazy low mintage (the ’56-D $2.50).
The buyer of many of these coins was Dell Loy Hansen, who certainly improved an already stellar set of Dahlonega gold.
2. Certain Dahlonega Coins (But Not All) Are Worth 50% to 200% Over Two or Three Years Ago
It is interesting to note that the areas in the market that are doing best are the “Upper End” and the “Collector Grade” segments. Definitions are in order.
I view the Upper End of the D-mint market as any nice coin that is at or near the top of the Condition Census for the issue. It helps greatly if the coin is PCGS/CAC, but its actual appearance (i.e., its in-person eye appeal) doesn’t seem to matter too much as many buyers in this range trust catalog images and are not sophisticated enough to determine if a coin has natural color and surfaces. However, this isn’t always the case, as proven by the 1840-D quarter eagle that smashed the all-time record price for the issue yet was NGC and non-CAC. Coins of this sort are worth as much as double over older levels.
I view Collector Quality D-mint issues as any nice coin in the Fine-12 to Extremely Fine-45 range that is choice and wholesome. Based on my experience, a nice common date CAC-approved Extremely Fine-45 Dahlonega $5–which was worth $2,500 or so a few years ago–is now worth $5,000. A nice Very Fine-25 Dahlonega Mint $2.50 that might have cost $2,500 or so a few years ago is now worth $4,500 or a touch more.
Not all D-mint coins are worth significantly more. A nasty, scrubbed-up NGC AU58 common date half eagle that I would discreetly sell via wholesale channels a few years ago for $5,500 is now worth $6,500 or so; probably less. And it remains poor value. As do no-grades (coins that can’t be assigned a “straight grade” due to problems) and straight graded coins with problems.
However, I see some real value left in coins that are too nice for the collector on a sub-$7,500 budget but too mundane for the collector buying $25,000+ coins. I call these the Near Upper End.
I purchased a really nice PCGS/CAC AU58 1853-D $5 (lot 6131 in the Sykes sale) for $7,200 including the 20% buyers charge. Back in March 2017, the exact same coin sold for $6,169. While this coin will likely sell quickly on my website to a type collector, I think it is still good value at its new price level; especially when you consider that a solid PCGS/CAC EF45 1853-D would now likely bring over $4,000.
3. Bye Bye Sleepers…
Some former sleeper issues in the various Dahlonega denominations have been discovered and now seem semi-overvalued.
One of these is the 1855-D half eagle. Five years ago, the date premium for this issue was reasonably minimal until you reached higher grades. In the Sykes sale, the two examples brought $22,800 (PCGS AU58+) and $14,400 (PCGS/CAC AU58).
Another is the 1856-D quarter eagle. As I mentioned above, the PCGS/CAC AU58 1856-D $2.50 that smashed the auction price record for this issue at $144,000 sold in 2015 for $47,000. At one point in 2016, I had three 1856-D quarter eagles in stock at the same time, and collectively, I got less than $144,000 for them(!).
A third is the 1859-D quarter eagle. A low CAC population has pumped price levels upwards—quickly. The somewhat scrubby PCGS AU58+ in the Sykes sale brought a robust $26,400.
4. Upper-End Players Have Created Their Own Market
The list of seven coins (see above) needs further discussion.
How did, as an example, the MS62 1854-D $3 become a half-million dollar coin? This is a truly great coin but I never saw it selling in 2022 for this kind of money.
Here’s the thing, though. If you are wildly wealthy and this coin appeals to you, then your response is going to be: “Find me another.”
But I couldn’t. Not even for $800,000.
You can say the same thing for all seven of these coins. PCGS and NGC have been operational for three plus decades and they still haven’t graded a nicer 1840-D quarter eagle than the Bareford MS62. It’s likely they never will.
“Find me another…”
And that’s how these seemingly nutso prices occur.
5. What the Future Holds
You know that the prices in this sale are going to bring out more coins. Perhaps the owner of the Duke’s Creek half eagles will decide it’s time to sell. If I owned any super high-grade Dahlonega gold at pre-COVID levels, I’d certainly toy with the idea of testing the market.
We’ve just seen this with 1856-D quarter eagles. Prices shot up and—bam!—there were two Condition Census PCGS/CAC examples on the market in August.
If I were the collector who owned the finest known 1838-D $5–a lovely PCGS MS63–I’d certainly think about selling it given that an inferior coin just brought $228,000.
Are these prices sustainable? I actually think they are.
Consider the fact that a nice PCGS/CAC Dahlonega half eagle (you choose the date) was worth essentially the same in 2019 as it was in 1999. With the advent of CAC, these coins could finally be quantified in terms of their rarity due to ultra-low CAC populations. Nearly every other area in the gold coin market had reacted accordingly to this process – why not Dahlonega?
As I’ve been saying for three decades, really nice Dahlonega gold is extremely scarce. When you throw a few hungry new collectors into the mix–as we saw in 1999-2000–the supply vs. demand ratio can turn on a dime and prices can skyrocket.
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About Doug Winter
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 a 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 “Red Book”) 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.