By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
In 2016, I wrote about Gem Type One double eagles, inspired by my purchase of a PCGS/CAC MS65 1860 double eagle (which was the undisputed finest known for the date). I then asked the question: Just how rare are non-shipwreck Gem Type One double eagles? My research showed that there were only 10 or so PCGS MS65 or finer examples of the entire type that aren’t from shipwrecks. Clearly, these coins are very rare.
1860 $20.00 PCGS MS65. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
I recently purchased another Gem Type One double eagle (more on this in a second), which inspired me to do an update of the 2016 blog.
1861 $20.00 PCGS MS65+ CAC
The coin I bought was a PCGS/CAC MS65+ 1861 double eagle. I paid $84,000 USD for it out of the Heritage June 2020 auction. I won it as an agent for the same collector for whom I purchased the MS65 1860 around four years ago. He is working on a world-class collection of Type One double eagles and it is very likely the second finest collection of these coins after the Hansen/Crawford set.
The following chart lists every non-shipwreck Type One double eagle that has been graded MS65 or finer by PCGS. The italicized coins are new to the PCGS Census since 2016, and I will discuss each of these in brief after the chart.
There are five new coins on this list but none are “new” to collectors.
1850: This is almost certainly a coin formerly graded MS65 by NGC. It last sold for $161,000 as Lot 3698 in the Heritage January 2007 auction.
1854 Small Date: This is a coin that used to grade MS65 but was upgraded to MS65+. It is owned by collector Dell Loy Hansen and was formerly in the collection of Dr. William Crawford.
1855: This coin is the finest known 1855 by a considerable margin. It first sold as a PCGS MS64 in the ANR March 2006 auction and has upgraded twice: first to MS65 then, more recently, to MS65+.
1861 MS65+: This coin first sold for $78,000 as an NGC MS66 in the Heritage January 2020. The buyer then down-crossed it to MS65+ at PCGS and got it approved by CAC. It then sold for $84,000 in June 2020.
1861 Paquet: I failed to include this coin in the 2016 article but it clearly should have been. It is not only the single-best Type One double eagle in existence, but it is also among the very rarest US gold coins of any denomination with just two known (I bought the other one for $1,645,000 in August 2014).
Why Are Type One Double Eagles so Rare in Gem?
There are a variety of reasons:
- These coins were handled roughly when distributed to local banks. They likely were shipped loose in bags and the weight of these coins—coupled with their open design—meant that when they came into contact with each other, they severely abraded the surfaces.
- Business strike Liberty Head double eagles were not a mainstream series until at least the 1920s, if not later. As a result, few high-grade pieces were saved by collectors. This is particularly so with Type One issues, and the few that exist either survived by accident or were from the holdings of a foresighted collector such as John Clapp, Sr.
- Twenty dollars was a significant amount of money up through the World War II era, and this meant that few non-collectors could afford to save coins with this much intrinsic value. Smaller coins like gold dollars, quarter eagles, and three dollar gold pieces were saved by collectors. Very few Type One double eagles, it appears, were saved.
- Millions of double eagles were melted after the Gold Reserve Act of 1933 was passed by the US government. Numismatic issues were exempt and this certainly kept certain rare Type One double eagles from the melting pot, but it is probable that many important coins were melted due to the fact that in 1933 they were not yet recognized as rarities.
When the number of properly graded non-shipwreck MS65 Type One double eagles from both grading services is combined, the total is likely to remain less than 20 for some time to come. I don’t foresee many—if any!—being discovered in old collections or non-numismatic sources. The vast number of Type One double eagles that are being repatriated from overseas sources includes many Uncirculated coins in the MS60 to MS62 range but nothing even remotely close to the Gem level.
If you are interested in top quality Type One double eagles, please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or by phone at (214) 675-9897.
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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 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.