By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com
After 4 years of being traded on the open market, I think few collectors and dealers would argue the statement that CAC stickering has added considerable value and liquidity to many types of United States gold coinage. But are we now able to determine with a decent degree of accuracy which coins are most affected by a CAC (or the absence of a sticker)? Let’s take a look at some areas of the gold coin market and see how CAC is adding value.
One of the areas that CAC has added the greatest amount of value is in the St. Gaudens double eagle market. The impact is seen two ways. The first is with common “generic” issues in MS65 and MS66. One of the main reasons why the premium for non-CAC certified MS65 Saints is so low when compared to MS64 coins is that most of the coins in MS65 holders are not significantly better than those graded MS64.
What CAC has done is to identify those coins graded MS65 that are nice quality and which are “real” 65’s. Currently, non-CAC Saints in MS65 trade for around $2,300. Those with CAC stickers are worth at least 10-15% more. They are also quite liquid and can be sold even when dealers have extensive numbers of non-CAC coins in stock. Non-CAC MS66 Saints are currently worth around $2,750-2,850 per coin. The premium for MS66 Saints with CAC stickers is at least $750-1,000 per coin. Given the fact that the stickered MS66 coins I have seen are very nice (as compared with the non-stickered coins which range from inferior for the grade to decent) this premium makes sense.
Another area where CAC stickered coins are selling for a significant premium is in the better date Saint market. Let me pick a random issue: the 1927-S in MS64. This coin has a current bid of $70,000 in this grade and a bona-fide Gem is worth double this. The quality of 1927-S double eagles varies greatly and there are coins that are very low end and hard to sell for $55,000 and coins that are very high end and worth over bid. I can’t recall having ever seen a 1927-S in MS64 with a CAC sticker but if I had a PCGS/CAC coin that I liked I’d quote $75,000+.
Early gold (i.e. gold coins struck from 1795 to 1834) is area that has shown itself to be influenced by CAC stickers. I don’t like every single piece of CAC-stickered early gold that I see but I like at least 90% of the coins. Compare this to non-CAC early gold where probably 50-60% (or more) of the coins offered at auction or through dealer’s websites are not, in my opinion, nice for the grade. I find this to be especially true with early gold in the MS63 and MS64 grades. As an example, an 1812 half eagle in MS64 with a CAC sticker is currently worth around $40,000. The same coin in the same grade that is not stickered and which is not a CAC-quality coin, in my opinion, might be hard to sell for $32,500. More and more collectors of coins like this are demanding that they be CAC stickered and the premium for the pieces that have the Green Bean is at least 10-15% and climbing.
Because so many Proof gold coins have been doctored over the years, CAC-stickered pieces are currently garnering high premiums. This is more so with Matte Proofs than Brilliant Proofs. I can’t remember seeing more than a few Matte Proof gold coins in the last two years that weren’t doctored to the point that they weren’t even the right color. When the few remaining fresh pieces come onto the market, they realize strong prices. As an example, Stack’s just sold at auction a lovely 1913 Matte Proof gold set. All four coins were CAC stickered and all four brought exceptional prices. I see similarly graded washed-out NGC Matte Proof gold from time to time and it brings Greysheet prices or lower; these superb, vibrant Gems brought numbers that were way over “sheet.”
I’ve found CAC to be very particular when it comes to Brilliant Proof gold as well. Lower grade (PR63 and below) Proofs aren’t really impacted by having or not having having CAC stickers unless they are a very rare early date issue. In this case, the premium seems to be around 10%. The real premium is for very high grade pieces. As an example, from time to time, a really remarkable PR68 or PR69 Liberty Head quarter eagle will become available. While these coins tend to be pretty amazing from a visual standpoint, very few are CAC approved. I believe that a PR68 or PR69 gold coin with a CAC would sell for a very significant premium; maybe 20-30%.
There is no doubt in my mind that CAC has greatly improved the value and liquidity of nice NGC coins. As someone who sells a good number of NGC coins, I’ve noticed that pieces that have CAC stickers are regarded as being just about as “good” to collectors as PCGS coins; unless the collector is working on a PCGS-only Registry Set and will not purchase any coins at all in NGC holders. In the collector marketplace, the current hierarchy for many series of US gold coins is as follows:
- PCGS coins with CAC stickers
- NGC coins with CAC stickers
- PCGS coins without CAC stickers
- NGC coins without CAC stickers
A major exception to this rule is rarity. If a coin is a very rare date (say an 1883-O eagle or an 1842-C Small Date half eagle), collectors are still concerned first and foremost with the coin itself and not the plastic.
Another exception is the popularity of the series and who the end users are. Certain series, like three dollar gold pieces, are just not popular enough right now that CAC stickers make all that much of a difference from a price standpoint. Other series, like Type Three Liberty Head double eagles and Indian Head quarter eagles, are sold mainly by marketers who do not “preach the gospel” of CAC and, therefore, the current market premium is not as great as in other series.
It has been interesting to view the market acceptance of CAC in the last four years. The market has gone from being initially cynical (and in some cases hostile) to being accepting to, in some cases, fully embracing CAC. This has been most clear in the premiums paid for CAC coins and I think we’ll see these premiums continue and, in many cases, increase as demand grows in the coming years for the highest quality rare coins
Bravo to Doug for telling it like it is. Smart collectors and investors are buying almost all CAC coins.
I agree with this impression of the coin market. However, he does sell plenty of NGC, non-CAC’d gold coins.
Excellent article Doug! It is really sad how many gold coins have been played with.
I feel PCGS does not add as much value to early gold coins such as the type one double eagles as both trade very close to each other. Both are reputable and NGC seems to be grading more of the older gold. Both grade extremely rare and valuable coins. Coins such as a 1913 V Nickel are NGC graded so I doubt anyone buying a coin like this has a problem with either grading service. Graders from PCGS now work for NGC and probably visa versa. If you want to come out on top learn how to grade this type of coin yourself to get a good idea of how it will grade by NGC or PCGS. I have seen coins that I passed on that were PCGS graded because of eye appeal or bag marks in critical areas on the obverse. Same goes for NGC. I have also talked to other collectors that have sent a coin in more than once and finally got the grade they hoped for. Other heavy hitters I know have bought raw coins ie 1794 $1 raw. If it came back below what they thought they would crack the slab and send to the other grader. Type One double eagles can be somewhat hard to pinpoint as the strikes are often weak and coins bag marked. I buy the coin not the case. If a grader is too tough on coins that will certainly have an adverse effect on their numbers and operating results. PCGS is publically traded and this could pose a problem id they are too tough as their shareholders don’t like a clip in a dividend. NGC too soft and the market for their coins will drop and a NGC slab quickly replaced by a PCGS holder as this would factor into their price. I cannot comment on later gold coins, silver or proofs as I do not collect them. A review of Heritage gold seems to show NGC holding their own on early gold and may be the front runner in terms of market share. When a CAC sticker is added I don’t buy the PCGS premium as if it is CAC it meets their guidelines for the grade no matter who graded it to begin with. I own coins from both and a quick look at the best Type One Double Eagle collections shows both graders on the slabs. I do value a CAC sticker NGC or PCGS as this is a third party decision that in my opinion overrides and difference between NGC or PCGS. Ask 5 collectors and you will get 4 or more different answers.