By Doug Winter – RareGoldcoins.com
CoinWeek Content Partner ……
I have written previous articles about CAC population figures. To me, CAC populations help to quantify quality. By this, I mean that if eight examples of a specific date of Liberty Head half eagle have been approved by CAC, we can assume that there are at least eight above-average examples of this date with some degree of originality and eye appeal. A figure of “eight” at PCGS is not as quantifiable when it comes to quality.
Before I begin, I want to add a few points so not as to seem naïve in my devotion to CAC. The first is that CAC figures are subject to resubmissions. When you crack a coin out of a CAC-approved holder, it takes some effort to have this deleted from CAC’s database and even I am guilty of not always making this effort.
Secondly, the percentage of all nice dated US gold coins that have been sent to CAC is still not even close to 50%. It is, however, large enough to represent a more than adequate sample size for articles such as this. Thirdly, I don’t always agree with CAC’s opinions. There are coins which flunk at CAC which I really like, and coins that have passed at CAC which I don’t care for at all. That said, CAC provides us with an interesting laboratory to make some observations about issues with surprisingly low or surprisingly high pass rates.
Issues with Surprisingly Low CAC Populations
1.) 1858-D $1.00
CAC Population of 6 coins
No Dahlonega gold dollar should be easy to find with CAC stickers as these coins were not made well and tend to come processed. But the 1858-D surprises me as I have personally handled a number of very nice, original pieces in grades ranging from EF40 to MS62. It’s probably happenstance that some of the nicer 58-D dollars just haven’t been sent to CAC yet.
2.) 1846-C $2.50
CAC Pop 3
This date’s low CAC population doesn’t really surprise me as it is poorly made and almost all of the circulated examples I’ve seen have poor eye appeal. I am somewhat surprised that none of the small number of (relatively) high-grade 1846-C quarter eagles have yet to make it to CAC. I know of at least two or three nice Uncirculated which have yet to be sent to CAC, so this scenario might change in the future.
3.) 1857-D $2.50
CAC Pop 2
If I asked you which date had the lower CAC population between the 1856-D and 1857-D quarter eagles, you’d bet on the former, right? Shockingly, the 1857-D has just two approved (both AU58) versus seven for the 1856-D (I think this number is inflated as four are graded AU58). The 1857-D is an issue that generally comes pretty nice except for one thing: many pieces have a slight clean-y look, likely due to having come from a small hoard that was conserved. This is the exact sort of look that CAC hates and this is my best guess as to why so few 1857- Ds have qualified so far.
4.) 1843-O Small Letters $5.00 and 1856-O $5.00
CAC Pop 5 and 4, respectively
It is interesting that the two lowest CAC population half eagles US gold coins aren’t the 1842-O and 1847-O but rather the 1843-O SL and the 1856-O. The former is more of a surprise, as I’ve handled a pretty decent number of choice EF and AU examples and there are a few really nice Uncirculated examples known. This means that either a.) the nice coins have all been ruined, or b.) they are owned by collectors who don’t use CAC (or “c” – a combination of “a” and “b”).
The 1856-O isn’t as much of a surprise. I almost never see nice examples of this date in collector grades, and I count on one hand the number of CAC-worthy higher grades.
5.) 1890 $5.00
CAC Pop 4
This somewhat scarcer late date is a total mystery to me. Not a single circulated example has been stickered at CAC. This is somewhat understandable as it is a pretty mundane coin in circulated grades. But some dealers (guilty as charged…) send mundane US gold coins to CAC and I, for one, would have no problem sending in a nice AU. Uncirculated 1890 half eagles are scarce and most of the ones I have seen are very over-abraded, euro-looking MS60 and MS61 coins with an appearance that CAC doesn’t care for. I would have to assume that as soon as people figure out the CAC population is so low, more will be sent in and the population will expand rapidly.
6.) 1844 $10.00
CAC Pop 1
This issue is well-known by eagle collectors as a rarity and it is one of the two rarest pre-Civil War Philadelphia issues of this type along with the 1839 Head of 1840. But, still, only one coin (an AU55) thus far stickered? I sold the stickered AU55 a few years ago and I made a comment at the time that this issue was extremely rare with choice, natural color and clean surfaces.
But still… only one coin?
7.) 1864 $10.00
CAC Pop 0
Among the rare Civil War eagles, the 1864 is not the rarest issue; that honor belongs to the 1863 and 1864-S. But for some reason, not a single 1864 has yet to be accorded a CAC sticker. This isn’t shocking but if I sit and think, I can recall at least one or two nice EF/AU 1864 eagles I’ve owned that’ve been choice and reasonably original. And I have to think there are a few CAC-worthy lower grade 1864 eagles which will be submitted sooner or later.
8.) 1866 With Motto $10.00
CAC Pop 1
Only a single higher-grade 1866 Motto eagle (an AU58) has been stickered at CAC. I have handled a number of nice EF40-AU50 examples and wonder why none of these have yet to sticker. This is a date which often comes “baggy” and I have found from experience that CAC tends to not like excessive contact marks; even on a coin that’s otherwise choice and original.
9.) 1882-S and 1905-S $10.00
CAC Pop 5 and 6
Certain coins are what I refer to as “happenstantial CAC scarcities.” Neither the 1882-S nor the 1905-S eagles are scarce in nice AU to MS62/63, and both are well-made issues which come with choice surfaces and pleasing color. For whatever odd reason(s) there haven’t been a lot of these sent in to CAC, hence the populations are currently low. I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes in the next year, especially after this information is digested by collectors who own a nice 1882-S or a 1905-S.
10.) 1871-CC $20.00
CAC Pop 8
I’m not shocked that this coin has a low CAC population as it is rare. But the fact that seven of the eight approved by CAC are EF45 leads me to conclude that this figure is inflated. And, I’m surprised that only one 1871-CC double eagle in grades higher than EF45 has been approved so far. CAC populations for CC-Mint double eagles have proven to be higher at this point than I expected, so I would have thought that at least a few AU50 to AU55 1871-CCs would have stickered by now.
Issues with Surprisingly High CAC Populations
1.) 1875 $1.00
CAC Pop 12, with 8 in Uncirculated
The 1875 has the lowest mintage figure of any business-strike gold dollar (save for the excessively rare 1849-C Open Wreath), and it is a famous coin. I rarely see nice 1875 dollars and most of the ones I’m offered have been dipped, recolored or cleaned. It surprises me that eight Uncirculated pieces have stickered thus far. Except for one thing: coin collectors in 1875 knew this was a low-mintage issue and a number were “put away”. That said, my guess is there is some duplication thus far from the submissions approved at CAC.
2.) 1848 CAL. $2.50
CAC Pop 11, with 7 in Circulated Grades
The ultra-popular CAL. quarter eagle seems to come in two flavors: very ratty or very nice. I am very surprised that seven circulated examples have thus far been approved by CAC. I have seen a number of VF, EF and lower end AU 1848 CAL. quarter eagles in straight-graded third-party holders which have been very “problematic” and it seems highly unlikely that CAC would miss these coins if submitted. I’m not surprised by the number of higher grade pieces known, although I am aware of a few Gems which have been doctored.
3.) 1854-D $3.00
CAC Pop 16, with 8 in AU55 to AU58
This rare and popular standalone issue is more available in higher grades than generally believed. But most of the AU55 and AU58 examples that I’ve seen have been blatantly overgraded and seem unlikely to sticker at CAC. I’m guessing that the figure of 16 approved as stated by CAC is inflated by resubmissions. I can’t imagine there are as many as 16 1854-D threes in total that are CAC quality, and certainly not every one of them has already been sent to CAC.
4.) 1873 Closed 3 $3.00
CAC Pop 5
While I don’t always buy Three Dollar US gold coins anymore (they aren’t easy to sell), one issue I will still buy is the rare but affordable 1873 Closed 3. In the last decade, I’ve been offered as many as 20 different pieces ranging in grade from EF40 to MS62, and each one has been terrible. Not sorta kinda overgraded, but blatantly terrible. So that’s why I am surprised that as many pieces (five) have been beaned as the CAC population report suggests. If I would have been allowed to bet on the number I would have picked the under and guessed just two or three…
5.) Common Date C+D Mint $5.00s
Various CAC Populations
Let’s pick two random common date southern branch mint half eagles: 1847-C and 1852-D. I would have guessed the number approved by CAC would have been less than 20 for each. Wrong! For the 1847-C the total approved as of June 2016 is 32 (with a dozen graded AU50 and finer) and 31 for the 1852-D (with 14 graded AU50 and finer). I guess I’m not shocked by the lower grade numbers (i.e., those in VF and EF), but given the quality of the typical southern branch mint half eagle in, say, AU50 to MS62, I find these numbers to be very surprising.
6.) 1841-O and 1856-O $10.00
CAC Pop 7 and 9
The 1841-O is the rarest No Motto eagle from New Orleans; the 1856-O is not as well-known but it is extremely hard to find in CAC-worthy grades. Of the 7 1841-O eagles approved by CAC, 5 grade EF40 and finer. I find this to be pretty amazing, given that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen five really nice 1841-O eagles… and I’ve seen more of them than literally anyone else. The 1856-O has a CAC population of nine, with all of these grading EF45 or finer.
Again, where are these coins and why aren’t I seeing them?
7.) 1862 $10.00
CAC Pop 20
Until three or so years ago, this date was considered very scarce and now it seems to be all over the place. I’m guessing a small hoard broke but come to think of it, I’ve handled a lot of 1862 eagles in the last few years and they didn’t all have a “hoard-y” appearance. Of the 20 approved by CAC, no less than 16 are in AU grades. This generates a giant hmmmm… in my coin brain but I have no good explanation for this seemingly ultra-inflated number.
8.) 1864-S $10.00
CAC Pop 7
The 1864-S is the second rarest Liberty Head eagle after the 1875 and with just 30 or so known, you wouldn’t expect seven examples to have been approved by CAC. I can vouch for four of these as I have “made” them at CAC and, interestingly, three of the four grade VF30. Even more interesting is the fact that all three of these were fresh coins from “out of the weeds”. I find it even more interesting that, as rare as this date is, a decent percentage of the surviving pieces are choice and original.
9.) 1861-O $20.00
CAC Pop 9
When I first became aware of this date’s scarcity and multiple levels of demand, it seemed reasonably easy to find nice, original VF and EF 1861-O double eagles. Fast forward to 2016 and seemingly every 1861-O I see is scrubbed, scuffy, and overgraded. I am really surprised to see that CAC has approved nine. I am responsible for two of these, so I’d be pretty curious to see the other seven.
10.) 1866-S No Motto $20.00
CAC Pop 13
As a keen student of the Type One double eagle series, I am well aware of just how hard it is to locate nice 1866-S No Motto $20s. Due to some findings in Europe, comparably higher grade pieces are more available than they were a decade ago, but most of the nice ones from these sources are overgraded and/or scuffy and don’t seem like candidates to sticker at CAC. The number that has stickered is far greater than what I would have expected.
What gold coins surprise you with their low or high CAC population figures? Please share your findings in the comments below!
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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 ten years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.
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 exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins has 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.
If you are interested in buying or selling classic US coins or if you would like to have the world’s leading expert work with you assembling a set of coins? Contact Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.