By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
I was recently offered a coin by a dealer who I’m trying to cultivate as a potential source for my network of suppliers. I had told him to stop by my table at any show we were at together, and that I’d eagerly examine what he had available.
Towards the middle part of the event, he came up to my table and handed me a coin. As he passed it off to me, he stated that “this is a real Doug Winter-style coin, it’s dirty and original and you should like it.”
The coin was an 1866 Type Two $20 gold double eagle graded MS60 by PCGS. The coin was totally acceptable for the grade and the price, while a little on the high side, was a number I could work with. Although I really should have bought the coin as a courtesy purchase, I passed on it.
The other dealer looked crestfallen.
“Why did you pass on my coin?” he said, his shoulders slumping.
I didn’t give him the full litany of what made me pass on it and I had almost forgotten about this incident until I just realized that in the month-plus since this occurred, he hasn’t offered me another coin.
So: Why did I pass on it?
Here was my reasoning.
It is very challenging to sell just about any coin graded MS60–unless it’s a major rarity, or is in an old holder and is conspicuously undergraded.
Big coins like $20 Liberty Heads are especially difficult to sell in MS60 as the vast majority of said coins have terrible eye appeal due to heavy abrasions. Some smaller coins have decent eye appeal in this grade, and I’ve always assumed these were pieces that the graders at PCGS or NGC were split on (some at 58, some at 61) and MS60 was a compromise.
In MS60, the 1866 isn’t a cheap coin. The PCGS Price Guide is $10,000 in this grade and a decent non-CAC PCGS example in this grade is certainly worth $7,500.
Date collectors of Liberty Head double eagles generally fall into two camps: those with limited resources, and those with virtually unlimited resources. The first group would much rather have an 1866 in AU55 or AU58 at $4,500 to $5,500. The second group would want this coin in MS62 at $20,000+, or they might even go after a coin like the PCGS MS63 that brought $48,000 in the Heritage Auctions 10/2020 sale.
Ultimately, the problem with this MS60 (even if it were approved by CAC) is that it doesn’t appeal to either of these groups. It’s a little too expensive for the AU buyer, and definitely not nice enough for the Condition Census buyer.
Now, had this coin been a rare Type Two issue like an 1871-CC, I would have been thrilled to buy it. But that’s because it is notably rarer than the 1866 and far more popular. In fact, the only way I would pass on the 1871-CC in MS60 is if it were a horrible coin for the grade or it were 25+% overpriced (if it were 10% or even 20% overpriced I’d still probably be a buyer if it were nice).
Ultimately, coin dealers make buying decisions based on past experience. If I had owned a few PCGS MS60 1866 double eagles in the last couple of years and if I had sold them for a profit, I’d have bought the coin; provided that it was fairly priced and nice enough for me. My experience has shown me that this coin is not a good seller for me, and thus my decision to pass on it.
Does this much thought go into every purchase that I make? Yes, actually, but at a much quicker pace than what I’m recounting here. I can tell you with scary accuracy how many examples of a certain date in a certain grade I’ve handled and how well I’ve done with each. This is why I have favorite dates–as do virtually all dealers.
As a seller, it’s your job to figure out which dates I’m a sucker for and for which dates I’ll relax my quality standards…
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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 a 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 “Red Book”) 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.