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7 Great (Sill Affordable) Gold Picks
By Mark Benvenuto, Coins Magazine
February 26, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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For anyone who has been living under a rock for the last few years, the price of gold has done some amazing things of late. A metal that cost about $400 an ounce five or so years ago now brings about $1,700. That higher price is one that has settled down a bit in the past few months. If you owned a lot of gold prior to this roller coaster, you may have been feeling smug. But wherever you are as far as owning gold, there are still some possibilities when it comes to finding decent prices. Let’s look at what I consider to be seven great possibilities in U.S. gold.



1988 Olympics Gold $5

When it comes to the modern U.S. commemorative program, this gold piece is one of the early creations. The high mintages of the previous two years had begun to dwindle as collectors realized that there might now be something coming from the Mint each and every year and took a dim view of spending this much annually on gold. There were only 62,913 uncirculated pieces produced for this design, but a much higher 281,456 proofs.

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This design might be Elizabeth Jones’s best work ever. There are plenty of articles that mention President Theodore Roosevelt’s desire, in the early 20th century, to reinvigorate U.S. coinage to something as beautiful as the classical Greek coinage. One can argue that Elizabeth Jones concluded, almost a century later, what Roosevelt began. Her Nike design is classic and gorgeous. And that is reason enough to put this coin on any list today. The fact that the price is still close to that of the gold in the coin makes it even more worthwhile.



1992 Olympics Gold $5

By 1992, the U.S. Mint had been back in the commemoratives game for six years and had gotten into something of a groove with sets that consisted of a base-metal half dollar, a silver dollar, and a gold $5. This hadn’t happened every year, but collectors were getting used to it. They were also getting to the point where they felt they were being used by the Mint, and by the Congress that authorized so many commemoratives that were of little significance.

Collectors in general don’t think the Olympics are insignificant, but the U.S. Mint usually makes commemorative coins for events that occur in the United States. An Olympic example would be the 1984 Los Angeles Games, which saw quite a few designs, most of them quite good. But the 1988 games were in Seoul, Korea, in the summer, and Calgary, Canada, in the winter. Collectors wanted to know why they were the cash cows, funding U.S. participation through a coinage program. Proof of that shows in the low mintages of 27,732 uncirculated pieces and 77,313 proofs.

Well, the feelings that are now 24 years past give rise to a coin that remains affordable today. Despite these rather low mintages, there really isn’t much of a premium attached to this gold $5. It sells close to the bullion value and could be a good way to add a bit of gold to a collection.



1993-P Proof Gold $10 American Eagle


This may seem like an odd piece to plunk onto a list after making it look as if I would simply be discussing modern proofs. But there’s a very special reason for doing so, or perhaps there are 33,775 reasons. Yes, that number is the number of proofs produced that year, and although it is not the lowest of the entire series, it is pretty close to the bottom.

For those who have never gone into the details, the U.S. bullion coin program came out of the gate in 1986 with a one-ounce silver American Eagle, as well as an ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce and 10th-ounce gold American Eagles.

We certainly weren’t the first country to offer precious-metal bullion coins, but the American Eagles designs remain among the most attractive. But as the series matured, it became obvious that the half-ounce pieces, with their $25 face value, and the quarter-ounce pieces, with their $10 face value, never sold as well as their big or little siblings. That makes the 1993 quarter-ounce American Eagle one of the scarcer dates within the series.

It can’t be called a rarity. But it’s a low mintage gold coin with about the same amount of gold in it as the other two we just looked at, and it doesn’t carry much premium from its bullion value. That makes it a good addition to this list.



1994 World Cup Soccer $5

We’ve come to another sporting theme on U.S. gold, and another coin where we could argue the merits or demerits of the design. But when it comes to the World Cup, we’ve also come to a gold $5 that has mintages of only 22,464 uncirculated coins and 89,619 proofs, even though the event was hosted by the United states that year.

Despite the low totals, these coins do not have a high premium attached to them. They sell pretty close to the bullion value of gold and can be a great addition to the list.



1999 Washington $5

President George Washington and just about everything that has to do with the man has been put on coins in one way or another. He’s ruled the quarter since 1932. He was portrayed on the first of the modern commemorative half dollars, as an equestrian, military man. He’s everywhere.

With all this Washingtonia already in existence, adding 22,511 uncirculated gold $5s and 41,693 proofs is probably nothing more than a drop in the bucket. But the 1999 date honors the bicentennial of his death, much like the 1932 beginning of our current quarter design honored the bicentennial of his birth. The price tags for an uncirculated or proof version of this coin today are virtually the same, and they are both reasonable.



2006 San Francisco Mint Museum $5

Plenty of collectors groused in the early 1990s that Congress did not bother to honor any bicentennial of the U.S. Mint, such as its authorization in 1792, the first issue of copper coinage in 1793, or the first issue of silver dollars in 1794. But in 2006 it decided to give a nod to the Granite Lady, as the San Francisco Mint was known, and the centennial of the massive earthquake and resulting fires that took out huge portions of the city. With only 16,230 uncirculated pieces and 41,517 proof versions, the last thing we might expect is fire sale prices for them. But the price tags are the same for both versions and hug the market price for gold pretty closely.



2001-W or 2004-W $10 American Eagle


I said I’d make a list of seven U.S. gold coins that were still affordable, but I then stuck two coins in as the final entry. But that is only because these two quarter-ounce gold American Eagles are even lower in mintage than the 1993 I just mentioned. They ring in with only 25,613 and 28,839, respectively.

That means these are two of the lowest mintages for the quarter-ounce American Eagles that have come out in the past few years. Yet despite their low numbers, these two proofs do not carry much of a premium. This may change in the future, but at least for the moment each one remains a pretty good buy.

There is no telling whether or not these seven coins are as lucky as the lucky seven a person always wants in Las Vegas. But while the cost of gold is crazy right now, the prices of these coins have at least stayed sane.



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