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US Gold Coins – Overlooked 1892 Carson City Eagle in Stack’s Bowers Coin Auction

1892-CC Liberty Eagle. MS-62+ (PCGS). CAC.

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds  ……..

News and Analysis  on coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #325

This week, an 1892-CC eagle is ‘in the news,’ as an especially desirable, PCGS-graded “MS-62+” coin will be offered by Stack’s Bowers on March 31, in Baltimore. The 1892-CC eagle (U.S. $10 gold coin) issue in general is discussed here, not just the coin ‘in the news.’ Some copper, nickel and silver coins in this same auction were discussed last week.

There are one hundred and eleven distinct coin issues of the U.S. Mint in Carson City, Nevada. These each have a ‘CC’ mintmark on the reverse (back). Mintage there started in 1870 and ended in 1893. Except for 1891-CC eagles, ‘MS’ grade eagles (U.S. $10 gold coins) of the Carson City Mint are noteworthy condition rarities.

Despite the popularity of Carson City Mint coins overall and the scarcity of 1892-CC eagles, more than a few 1892-CC eagles have been available recently. They now may be good values for collectors who are interested in Carson City coins or who collect ‘With Motto’ Liberty Head eagles.

Another idea for a collection is an extended type set of Liberty Head eagles with coins from all the mints that produced them: Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, Carson City, and Denver. Such a set could amount to just five ‘With Motto’ issues. Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco Mint ‘No Motto’ eagles could be added to such an extended type set as well, for a total of eight coins. (Please click to read two articles on Liberty Head eagles for less than $5000 each.)

Most Carson City eagles are very rare to extremely rare. The 1891-CC is the least scarce Carson City Mint eagle, and many coin enthusiasts mistakenly equate the 1892-CC with the 1891-CC. The 1892-CC is much scarcer than the 1891-CC, and there really are just a small number of ‘mint state’ 1892-CC eagles in existence.

While there exist hundreds of ‘mint state’ 1891-CC eagles, there are probably fewer than fifty-five ‘mint state’ 1892-CC eagles, including some that have been certified as being ‘mint state’ even though they are not strictly uncirculated. Moreover, uncirculated or not, many that are certified as ‘mint state’ have serious problems. The number of ‘mint state’ 1892-CC eagles that do not have serious problems is rather small. The one in the ‘news’ is very much original and is much more important than it seems to be without the benefits of research.

The vast majority of Carson City Mint eagles circulated for a long period and/or were melted. For the whole series, only a handful of CC eagles merit grades of MS-63 to MS-65. A grade of MS-62 is very high for a Carson City Mint eagle.

The finest known Carson City gold coin of any date or denomination is the Eliasberg-‘Battle Born’ 1876-CC half eagle ($5 coin), about which I devoted an entire discussion. It is the only Carson City Mint gold coin that merits an MS-66 grade.


1892-CC Liberty Eagle. MS-62+ (PCGS). CAC REVERSE

While uncirculated coins are rarer, pleasant, gradable and relatively original, circulated CC eagles are very scarce overall. These are prizes that are not widely understood, even though Carson City coins are so popular for historical and fantastic reasons. The Wild West and the notion of an official mint at such a remote location conjure up entertaining images in the minds of collectors and historians. A real point here is that circulated CC eagles, without serious problems and with natural color, are often not expensive in the context of 19th century gold coins.

“There’s strong collector demand for Carson City tens and they’re always liquid,” John Albanese emphasizes. John is the founder and president of CAC.

Overall Rarity of Carson City $10 Gold Coins

Carson City eagles dating from 1870 to 1874 are extremely rare, meaning that fewer than 100 of each survive in all states of preservation, including those that are clearly non-gradable. The concept of ‘very rare’ here refers to a coin for which fewer than 250 survive. A coin is rare if less than 500 are around, including those in all states of preservation and representatives of all die varieties of the same ‘date.’

Yes, advanced collectors tend to define rarity with parameters that are narrower than those just mentioned. For classic U.S. coins overall, however, my definitions of rarity are reasonably consistent with the use of such terms by a large number of collectors and dealers, over the past century.

As more than 100,000 people now collect or otherwise own classic U.S. coins, it is important for definitions of rarity and scarcity to be applicable to many coins and relate to a significant number of the people who collect them. It would not be logical or productive to define ‘rarity’ such that just a few collectors can own rarities and everyone else has common coins.

After all, dealers of classic U.S. coins have traditionally been referred to as ‘rare coin dealers.’ They typically sell a substantial number and a range of  ‘rare’ and very scarce coins, not just issues for which a handful are known. As for challenges to the above definition of rare, would “fewer than 500 known”–a dramatically different definition–be sensible in the context of classic U.S. coins? A definition of rarity requiring no more than thirty or even one hundred to be known would severely limit the number of collectors who could practically collect ‘rare coins.’

In any event, as I use such terms consistently, there is no point in an endless debate over parameters or semantics. Logically, a discussion of the rarity of coins requires a definition of rarity, which I have put forth.

Returning to Carson City eagles, the 1875-CC is very rare, meaning less than 250 survive, perhaps around 135. Maybe 160 1876-CC eagles exist. Regarding the 1877-CC and the 1878-CC, these are extremely rare, probably fewer than seventy-five of each exist. The 1879-CC is one of the rarest in the run, fifty-five to sixty-five are around. Current market values for most of these are sensible, given their rarity, popularity and the number of people who collect coins.

The 1880-CC is rare, though relatively available. The PCGS CoinFacts “survival” estimate of “295” seems right. ‘Mint State’ grade 1880-CC eagles are extremely rare. Many survivors are non-gradable, heavily circulated coins.

The 1881-CC is not nearly as rare as the 1880-CC, though is probably rare, perhaps 460 to 510 are around. Quite a few ‘mint state’ 1881-CC eagles survive, though some are non-gradable or should not have received numerical grades.

Maybe twenty-five to thirty 1882-CC eagles are truly uncirculated, of the 450 or so that exist. Particularly for the 1882-CC, data published by the grading services includes multiple submissions of some of the same coins. Besides, under mainstream grading criteria, a coin does not have to be strictly uncirculated to be graded MS-61 or even MS-62 in some cases.

The CoinFacts estimate of “283” 1883-CC eagles is likely to be high. PCGS and NGC together have perhaps graded just 200 different 1883-CC eagles, if that many. It seems hard to believe that there could be eighty-three that have never been submitted or failed to receive numerical grades. For Carson City gold coins, both services are fairly liberal in regard to qualifications for gradability.

Mint State grade 1883-CC eagles are extreme condition rarities. Dipped or otherwise artificially brightened AU-55 to -58 grade 1883-CC eagles have probably been repeatedly submitted with hopes of upgrades. NGC reports grading three as MS-60, perhaps not three different coins, and one as MS-61, though none higher than MS-61. PCGS has graded two 1883-CC eagles as MS-60, two as MS-61, and none higher than MS-61!

The 1884-CC is about very rare, 240 to 260 are around. Fewer than ten, however, are really uncirculated and plausibly gradable.

There are no Carson City Mint eagles dating from 1885 to 1889. The 1890-CC seems to be rare, maybe 480 in existence. The 1890-CC is, though, among the most plentiful in ‘mint state’ grades. Even allowing for re-submissions and grade-inflation, research suggests that more than ninety different 1890-CC eagles have received ‘mint state’ grades from PCGS or NGC. Nonetheless, an extremely small number have been graded as MS-63, and just one as MS-64.

The 1891-CC is the least scarce of all Carson City Mint eagles. Even so, the number extant has been over-estimated.

Yes, PCGS and NGC together report more than 4000 1891-CC eagles. The difference in value relating to each increment in the ‘mint state’ range, however, is substantial. In contrast to most other Carson City dates, there is little chance of graders at the services remembering specific MS-61 or -62 grade 1891-CC eagles, as there are hundreds. In the past, there was much upside and little downside for grading-wholesalers to re-submit the same relatively high grade 1891-CC eagles over and over again.

A currently certified MS-62 grade 1891-CC could very well have been re-submitted 100 times over the past quarter-century. Not all submitters returned printed labels (‘inserts’) that were inside PCGS or NGC holders before the holders were deliberately ‘cracked’ so that coins may be re-submitted. As PCGS reports more than 400 “MS-62” 1891-CC eagles, a cracking wholesaler may not bother to return ten printed labels (‘inserts’) because the difference in reported population between 405 or so and 415 or so would be trivial.

The 1893-CC is rarer than the 1890-CC in absolute terms and especially rarer in ‘mint state’ grades. There are fewer than 370 in all grades in existence. Neither PCGS nor NGC has graded an 1893-CC higher than MS-62 and there are not many graded as MS-62.

Coins dated 1893-CC tend to attract more attention as they are from the last year of the Carson City Mint, which was a historical curiosity. Carson City, Nevada, and Dahlonega, Georgia, were never large cities, premier cultural centers, or urban legends.

John Albanese finds that, “while 1891-CC tens are relatively common, ’90-CC to ’93-CC eagles are usually lumped together. The CC tens in the 1880s are much tougher,” John adds.

A theme here is that collectors have not been thinking much about 1892-CC eagles. The 1893-CC has an appeal as the last year of Carson City coinage and relatively common 1891-CC eagles are often selections for relevant type sets, such as a type set of silver and gold Carson City coinage.

The Scarcity of the 1892-CC

Editors of PCGS CoinFacts estimated “733” survive and Rusty Goe estimated 850 to 1200 1892-CC eagles survive. While PCGS and NGC have graded more than 935, probably 575 at most are different coins. Further, it doubtful that there are a large number in ‘Genuine’ or ‘details’ holders. An estimate of 630 to 660 seems right.

Another reason that the 1892-CC is often overlooked is that pre-1880 dates tend to have a special allure in the realm of U.S. gold coins. Indeed, post-1880 coins tend to be more plentiful and to be better preserved, on average, than pre-1880 U.S. gold coins.

Among business strikes, there are generally not very rare gold coins dating after 1880 and before 1920. The 1881 quarter eagle, the 1883-O eagle and the 1885 double eagle are among the few exceptions to this rule. Collectors tend to be more enthused about earlier dates in the runs of Carson City gold coins, rather than those from the 1890s.

So, an 1892-CC eagle is a good value for a collector who is interested in the reasons why this issue has been overlooked. Certainly, there is not a need to spend a fortune to obtain an 1892-CC eagle.

Values of 1892-CC Eagles

In January 2015, the Goldbergs auctioned a non-gradable 1892-CC, which experts at NGC indicated has the ‘details’ of a Very Fine grade. It realized $969. With patience, other 1892-CC eagles may possibly be acquired for less than $1000 each. In March 2012, Heritage sold an NGC-graded VF-35 coin for $977.50.

On August 10, 2014, “GreatCollections” sold a PCGS-graded EF-45 1892-CC for $1381.60. In February 2014, Stack’s Bowers auctioned a PCGS-graded AU-53 1892-CC for $1703.75.

During March 2013 at the Baltimore Convention Center, Stack’s Bowers auctioned an NGC-graded, and CAC-approved, AU-55 1892-CC for $1891.75.  In that same auction, there was also an NGC-graded, CAC-approved, “AU-58+” 1892-CC, which realized $4,171.25

I never saw or do not now have a recollection of the sub-60 grade 1892-CC eagles that I am citing. I am not endorsing the certified grades of specific coins here, except for the grade of the 1892-CC ‘in the news,’ as “62+” is an appropriate grade for it. Indeed, I am positively commenting upon the quality of the PCGS-graded “MS-62+” 1892-CC that Stack’s-Bowers is offering on March 31.

Nevertheless, I am not now estimating the market value of this coin. Collectors should consult experts before participating in a major coin auction.

The Simpson-Hall 1892-CC

The PCGS-graded MS-62+ 1892-CC that Stack’s Bowers will auction this week was formerly in David Hall’s set of Liberty Head eagles, a set which was later acquired by Bob Simpson as generally reported in 2011. This exact same 1892-CC eagle was auctioned by Legend in September 2015, though was then PCGS graded as “MS-62,” with a CAC sticker. It has since been deservedly upgraded to “MS-62+.”

Even an MS-63 grade for this coin is defensible. This coin has the eye appeal that would be associated with an MS-64 grade. There are many pricks, other contact marks and hairlines, which are not terrible. In quantity and magnitude, this Hall-Simpson 1892-CC has fewer such contact marks and lines than the other 1892-CC eagle that is also PCGS-graded as “MS-62+.”

The scrapes under the word “TRUST” perhaps discouraged graders from assigning an MS-63 rating. Some of the contact marks on Miss Liberty’s shoulder are a cause for concern as well. The originality and eye appeal of this coin, nevertheless, are especially enticing. I would much rather have this coin than some other Carson City Mint gold coins that have been PCGS-graded as MS-63.

No discussion of a Carson City gold issue would be complete without mention of the corresponding coin in the Battle Born Collection. Since Eliasberg’s gold coins were auctioned in 1982, the Battle Born Collection is the only complete set of all one hundred and eleven Carson City issues to have been formed. It was auctioned by Stack’s Bowers in Philadelphia on August 9, 2012.

The coin now ‘in the news,’ the Hall-Simpson 1892-CC, is superior to the Battle Born 1892-CC, which was NGC-graded as MS-62. I hypothesize that the Battle Born 1892-CC would never receive a CAC sticker while graded as MS-62. I wonder whether graders at PCGS would ever grade it as MS-62? The Battle Born 1892-CC brought $5750, during an auction in which Carson City eagles tended to bring strong to very strong prices. Appropriately, this was a moderate price for an MS-61 grade 1892-CC, which would be a fair enough grade for it. Nonetheless, 61 is a high grade for an 1892-CC eagle.

The population data for “MS-62” grade 1892-CC eagles includes multiple re-submissions. PCGS has graded just one as MS-63 and just one as MS-64. NGC reports zero at the MS-63 level and three as MS-64, which might not amount to three different coins. CAC has approved four at the MS-62 level, including the presently discussed Hall-Simpson coin, and zero at higher levels. CAC has stickered just forty-four 1892-CC eagles in all grades.

The finest known could possibly be the NGC-graded MS-64 coin that Heritage auctioned in January 2007 for $46,000. The copper spots are testaments to the relative originality of this coin and should enhance its value. That NGC-graded MS-64 1892-CC appears to be different from, and maybe superior to, the NGC-graded MS-64 1892-CC that Heritage sold in April 2012 for $32,200. I never saw the latter piece.

Concluding Remarks

For the collector who seeks just one Carson City Mint eagle, an 1892-CC should be an attractive choice and a good value. These are much scarcer than 1891-CC eagles, and are less expensive than the true rarities in the group. There are quite a few relatively original 1892-CC eagles from which to choose. As prices for Carson City Mint gold coins have fallen in recent times, a set of Carson City Mint eagles may be appealing for the history-minded collector who can afford such an undertaking.

2016 Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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