By Louis Golino, special to CoinWeek …..
The 10 coins I would love to own include four modern and four classic American coins and two modern world issues. There are plenty of pieces that would be part of my list if it included more than 10 coins, from ancient coins like a nice Greek tetradrachm silver coin to European and Asian coins from medieval times to the 19th century, but the categories that are represented in my list are the three areas of numismatics that I’ve followed most closely over the years.
2020-W V75 American Gold Eagle $50 Proof Coin
Much has been written on this coin since its almost instant sellout last November 5, by myself and others. I continue to believe, as do a large number of collectors, that its release was the worst public relations disaster for the United States Mint in modern history. The mintage was clearly set way too low. It could have been 5,000 or 7,500 instead of 1,945 and still have been a new key and increased in value.
While there are no publicly available hard facts on this (someone should file a FOIA request), it does appear that a disproportionate amount of the mintage went to dealers. I know quite a few collectors and only one was able to order a coin from the Mint. Keep in mind that the coin’s value has come down since last year, but it is still $8-10,000 raw and $12,000 in PF70. Unlike the other three modern U.S. coins in my top 10, the mintage and value are the only reasons I’d love to own it (provided I had purchased at Mint price). The others are special to me in other ways in addition to this. And I suspect it will not remain the only Gold Eagle with a privy mark.
2008-W American Buffalo Gold $50 Uncirculated Coin
While there are plenty of modern American coins that are keys, semi-keys, or otherwise significant coins that I missed out on at issue price, this one gnaws at me probably more than the others. At the time I suspected the American Buffalo gold coins would be a big deal and did purchase the three fractional sizes in both uncirculated and Proof either from the Mint or not too long after for similar prices to what the Mint charged.
But I did not get the one-ounce piece, which in Mint State is the key coin of the series with a mintage of only 9,074 coins plus many of those were sold in four-coin sets. It recently has sold raw for $2,500 and $3,000 in MS70, which is less than in the past (in 2014 an MS70 was almost $7,000), and, at current gold levels, is a good buy.
2006-W American Gold Eagle $50 Reverse Proof coin
I had a strong sense that this coin would be important from the time it was issued, and to date, it is the only Gold Eagle with a Reverse Proof finish and the second-lowest Proof coin after the 2020-W V75 coin. However, in 2006 it was sold as part of a three-coin set for the 20th anniversary of the series and there was no way I could manage the $2,600 cost at the time. Today the RP coin by itself is a $3,000 coin in 70 (and slightly less raw) and, due to current spot prices, the Proof and Burnished coins are at least $2,000 each (or about $2,500 on 70). So it turned out to be a good long-term buy.
1995-W American Silver Eagle Proof coin
This is the Silver Eagle most collectors don’t have in their collections because they either did not purchase the 1995 10th Anniversary Gold Eagle set that included it as a bonus (this coin that was not sold separately) or pick one up before prices rose into the thousands. I was not collecting in 1995, and if I had been, then I would probably not have been able to afford a four-coin gold set for $999.
On the other hand, this coin did not instantly reach its current value of about $3,250 raw (seldom seen) or in PF69 and at least $10,000 in PF70 (peaking in 2013 when one PCGS PF70 brought $86,000). It started trading for several hundred dollars in 1995 and remained under $1,000 in the 1990s until reaching that amount towards the end of the decade. It attained $3,000 by 2001 and then peaked at $6,750 in 2007. Over the next five years, the price went steadily down, reaching $3,250 by 2010 where it has largely remained – except for 2017-18, when it went up again to $4,400. This pricing data is for Proof 69s and comes from www.pcgs.com.
Draped Bust Dollar Type Coin
If you are a type coin collector, this is probably the coin you will spend the most to obtain.
These historic coins sport a gorgeous Liberty design by then-Chief Engraver Robert Scott on their obverse and a heraldic eagle on their reverse adapted from the Great Seal used from 1798 to 1804. Most collectors are familiar with the design because of the legendary 1804 silver dollar that has been widely covered in the literature. Collectors who can’t afford to spend from $10,000 for an AU coin to hundreds of thousands for a top-graded MS66 will likely have to settle for a VF coin for about $2,500 or an XF in the neighborhood of $4,000. The example pictured is an 1800 ANACS XF40 that was sold by Northeast Coin for what seems like a good price of $3,400.
1889-CC Morgan Dollar
This is the hardest Carson City Morgan and one of the overall series keys, with the finest known example (an MS68 once owned by Jack Lee) having sold for almost $900,000 in a 2013 auction. Out of 350,000 coins struck, PCGS estimates only 25,000 have survived, and of those only 4,250 are in Mint State. Since a Mint State coin starts at $25,000, most collectors will only be able to purchase a VF-35 or XF-40 coin, which is considerably cheaper at about $2,000 and $2,500, respectively. And if like me you like the Carson City dollars in GSA black holders, forget about this date as there is reported to be only one such coin in existence.
1928 Peace Dollar
Buy the key dates first is what many experts say, but like other Peace dollar enthusiasts, my set does not yet include either of the two main keys.
As far as the 1928 issue – the lowest original mintage with the second-lowest number of surviving examples in Mint State after 1934-S and the last issue until the series was revived almost a decade later, I would love to own a nice for the grade, CAC-stickered MS63 or MS64, which are not that expensive. Coins in both grades are often priced very close to each other and can range from $500 for a lower-end MS63 to $1,000 for a really nice one and $1,500 for a nice MS64.
The problem is that the quality of coins at those grades varies so much that I either don’t like most of the MS63s I come across or find the MS64s to be too expensive. The reason it is hard to find a nice example is that this date was struck softly and white examples are few and far between since many are heavily toned. In MS65 or higher, this coin jumps greatly in price, and at PCGS fewer than 400 coins have been graded at those levels while there are at least 5,000 graded MS63 and MS64. Last year a dealer I trust had a really nice example in my price range that I regret not purchasing as I rarely see a coin that nice for the price. The very nice PCGS MS64 CAC pictured is from a current auction at Heritage, which says the CDN value is $600, but bidding is already $900 for the coin.
1934-S Peace Dollar
This date has long been the overall series key because of its low original mintage and especially since many examples circulated in the 1930s and ’40s when the coin was not thought to be scarce, so Mint State coins are hard to find. PCGS estimates only 35,000 coins in total still exist, and of those 4,500 are in MS60 or better and just 300 are in MS65 or better (although there are other coins in the series that are scarcer at the Gem level).
There are many collectors building Mint State sets of this series at the MS63 level, which is doable over time and simply requires patience to find coins that are solid for the grade–which is now easier because of those green CAC stickers. A set like that will run around $10,000, but half of that would be needed for just the 1928 and 1934-S coins, with the latter running $4,000 at that level. Therefore, many collectors will opt for a lower-grade 1934-S. In lower circulated grades it is not at all expensive, and an AU55 can be had for $500-600. That coin could later be sold when the buyer has the funds to upgrade to a nice Mint State coin.
2009 French Year of Astronomy 200-Euro Gold Coin
Issued with a dual theme to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, this one-ounce gold coin has long been near the top of my want list. It holds the distinction of being the world’s first curved and colored gold coin and has remained popular and hard to find since it was released. Only 1,000 were made, and they sell for at least $3,000. The obverse shows the famous first lunar footprint, while the reverse features a deep blue insert for the sky with gold stars and Jupiter in the upper right corner. There is a 10-euro silver version with no color and a smaller gold version also with no color.
2004 Liberia Tiffany Art $10 Silver Coin
This two-ounce silver coin was the debut release of a series that would continue to gain popularity over the years and the only one on the market that featured pieces of real Tiffany glass of different colors inserted into coins that highlight a particular style of art or architecture with depictions of famous buildings around the world.
When the first issue was released on Art Nouveau, this series was not yet on my radar, and over the years it has become very hard to source and has continued to rise in value from an issue price of several hundred dollars to today’s value of around $6,000, making it impossible for most collectors to have a complete series. The two-ounce Tiffany series ended with the 2020 release, but a new three-ounce series called Metropolis debuts soon and focuses on cities around the world that have a river running through them, which begins with a stunning coin for Paris.
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Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in CoinWeek since 2011. He also currently writes regular features for Coin World, The Numismatist, and CoinUpdate.com, and has been published in Numismatic News, COINage, and FUNTopics, among other coin publications. He has also been widely published on international political, military, and economic issues.
In 2015, his CoinWeek.com column “The Coin Analyst” received an award from the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) for Best Website Column. In 2017, he received an NLG award for Best Article in a Non-Numismatic Publication with his piece, “Liberty Centennial Designs”.
In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his 2017 article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif” which appeared in The Clarion.