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10 Top 'CC' Gold Picks
By Mike Thorne, Coins Magazine
June 10, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Given the short time it actually produced coins, it’s amazing how much influence the Carson City Mint has had on collectors of U.S. silver and gold coins. The story of the Mint really begins with the discovery of the Comstock Lode, a fabulous deposit of silver ore.

This was in 1859, and at first the silver and a small amount of gold was shipped for coining to the San Francisco Mint. Of course, the trek from Nevada to northern California was fraught with peril, as travelers had to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains and avoid potentially hostile American Indians, among other difficulties.

As you would expect, mine operators soon petitioned Congress for a branch mint in Nevada, which was approved in 1863. Abraham Curry’s influence on a Colorado congressman led to the granting of the Nevada Mint to Carson City, where it was built and coining began in early 1870. For his efforts, Curry was rewarded by being named the Mint’s first superintendent, although he served only a short time before an unsuccessful bid for the state’s lieutenant governor position.

The Carson City Mint produced coins only through 1893, although it served in other capacities in subsequent years. Today it’s the home of the Nevada State Museum.

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In this article, I’m going to give you a list of 10 CC coins that I guarantee will increase in value. The only problem is you’ve got to have a fairly sizable coin-buying budget, because I’m talking about double eagles, gold $20 pieces. These are coins worth the better part of $2,000 apiece just because of their gold content.

Carson City gold $20s were minted intermittently between 1870 and 1893. By and large, these are double eagles with relatively low mintages, coins that were actually used in commerce at the time they were made. Hence, finding high-grade uncirculated specimens is likely to be a problem.

However, even coins that are no better than Very Fine-20 are desirable, if they have the CC mintmark. What’s more, you may be able to buy some of the dates for only a small premium over the amount much more common dates bring.

Nineteen different CC double eagles were produced between 1870 and 1893. I’ve selected 10 that are relatively reasonable, at least in circulated grades, yet have low mintages. The remaining nine either have mintages above 50,000, or have very low mintages and correspondingly high values. The prices I’m using are from the March 2013 edition of Numismatic News “Coin Market,” and the coins are listed in order of increasing mintages.

1. 1885-CC (9,450 minted). According to Q. David Bowers’ A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, “Examples are rare in all conditions. Most often seen are grades such as EF and AU.…”

Prices for this date in VF-20, Extremely Fine-40, and About Uncirculated-50 are $2,500, $3,850, and $6,450, respectively. Among the 39 active listings of CC double eagles on eBay when I looked, there were no examples of this date.

In the completed listings, one 1885-CC sold in January 2013. Graded EF-45 by the Professional Coin Grading Service, the coin sold for an amount less than the Buy It Now price, which was $7,799. I contacted the seller and found that it sold for $7,450. Compare that with its “Coin Market” value, which is somewhere between $3,850 and $6,450.

2. 1879-CC (10,708 minted). About this date, Bowers writes, “The 1879-CC is scarce in all grades, and when an example is presented at auction there is always a lot of competition. Most specimens are VF to AU.…”

Values in circulated grades are $3,000, $4,850, and $8,850 for VF-20, EF-40, and AU-50, respectively. Again, I found none for sale on eBay.

In the completed listings, however, I found two examples that actually sold, one for $3,601 and the other for $5,835. Both coins had problems. The least expensive coin was graded PCGS Genuine, and the owner considered it AU-50 but it was obviously harshly cleaned. The more expensive piece was graded PCGS Genuine, Cleaning, with AU details. As you can see, it sold for well below the AU-50 price.

3. 1878-CC (13,180 minted). This is another tough date, according to Bowers. He writes, “Specimens are elusive in all grades, with VF and EF being typical preservation.…” Values for the date in circulated condition are $2,450 in VF-20, $3,950 in EF-40, and $7,250 in AU-50. I found none listed in the active eBay auctions, and none sold (or unsold) in the completed auctions. I did find quite a few listed in the Heritage Auction archives, however. The most recent sale of an 1878-CC double eagle occurred in October 2012. In that sale, an NGC-graded VF-35 went for $5,882.

Heritage-sold pieces that brought closer to the “Coin Market” prices included a Numismatic Guaranty Corp. VF-details, improperly cleaned specimen that sold for $2,645 in a May 2011 auction. In a sale in January 2011, a PCGS F-15 1878-CC realized $2,760, and a PCGS VF-35 piece in the same sale went for $3,450. An NGC VF-30 example sold for $2,760 in a June 2010 auction.

4. 1893-CC (18,402 minted).
In his comments on this date, Bowers doesn’t mention lower-grade circulated examples. He writes, “Today, AU and Mint State coins are readily available on the market, although 1893-CC is not among the most plentiful Carson City double eagles.” “Coin Market” values for 1893-CC are $2,162 in VF-20, $2,375 in EF-40, and $2,850 in AU-50.

I found none in the active listings on eBay and only one in the completed auctions, a PCGS Genuine, with cleaning and AU details. It sold for $3,056 in January 2013.

The Heritage archives contained records of more than 200 examples sold over the years. Out of the first 50 examples, only three had grades below AU: Two were improperly cleaned, one with EF details and the other with VF details; both sold for $2,185 in 2012. The third example was graded EF-40 by PCGS and sold for $3,220 in a January 2011 sale.

5. 1873-CC (22,410 minted). Bowers considers this date “Very rare in Mint State” and writes, “Most show wear and are graded VF or EF, although higher grade pieces are known.” “Coin Market” values are $2,900 in VF-20, $4,750 in EF-40, and $11,750 in AU-50.

Once again I found no listings for the date on eBay. Of the 128 listings in the Heritage archives, there were just nine examples grading as low as VF. Of these, two VF-35s sold at the same sale in July 2009, one certified by NGC ($3,450) and the other by PCGS ($3,738). The most recent sale involving the other low-grade pieces was held in 2002, well before the current run-up in the value of gold.

6. 1872-CC (26,900 minted). About this date, Bowers writes, “Most extant pieces are VF, others are EF, but only a few are AU or finer…this variety probably circulated mainly in the West, and extensively so.” The values are $2,550 in VF-20, $5,450 in EF-40, and $8,950 in AU-50.

Not surprisingly, there were no listings for this date on eBay, either in the active listings or in the completed listings. Of the 148 listings in the Heritage archives, the most recently sold specimen grading less than AU was an NGC-graded EF-45 piece that went for $7,475 in January 2012. As for VF pieces, a PCGS-graded VF-35 example sold for $4,313 in January 2011, and the remaining 5 records were for coins that sold in 2000 or earlier.

7. 1892-CC (27,265 minted). This is a date you might actually be able to find, as Bowers writes, “The 1892-CC double eagle is somewhat scarce.” “Coin Market” values are $2,065 in VF-20, $2,375 in EF-40, and $2,850 in AU-50.

I found one listed on eBay, a PCGS AU-58 Buy It Now (BIN) priced at $8,030, or best offer. As for completed listings, there were two that actually sold, an NGC with AU details and cleaning that went for $2,550 and an NGC AU-55 that sold for $4,996. The cleaned AU specimen may have been bargain priced.

In the Heritage archives, I found nearly 300 listings for the 1892-CC double eagle. In grades of VF, there were 14 listings, most of which were before the current rise in the price of gold. A cleaned example with VF details sold for $1,955 in June 2012.

In EF, there were 41 listings. A PCGS EF-45 example brought $3,220 in April 2012, whereas an NGC cleaned piece with EF details went for just $2,233 in January 2013. In a March 2010 sale, an 1892-CC graded EF-40 by PCGS sold for $2,300. I have a PCGS EF-40 1892-CC that I bought in 2000 for $765. I sure wish I had bought some other dates at the time.

8. 1889-CC (30,945 minted). Bowers calls the 1889-CC “fairly scarce in all grades,” and values in “Coin Market” suggest it should be reasonably priced, if you can find it. It’s worth $2,065 in VF-20, $2,450 in EF-40, and $3,000 in AU-50.

There were four active eBay listings when I looked: one raw, well-circulated example had been bid up to $1,836, with three days remaining on the auction; two NGC AU-53 specimens were BIN priced at $4,300 and $6,700, respectively; and an ICG-certified cleaned piece with uncirculated details had a starting bid of $6,435, with a BIN price of $8,965. According to the completed listings, this coin has been listed multiple times with no takers.

I thought the AU-53 coin for $4,300 might be bargain-priced until I looked at the Heritage archives. There, I found that a coin with the same grade brought $3,304 in a December 2012 auction, and another sold for $4,113 in September 2012. An NGC EF-40 example sold for $2,530 in July 2012, and an NGC EF-45 with a CAC sticker brought $2,990 in August 2011.

9. 1882-CC (39,140 minted). Bowers notes, “The 1882-CC double eagle is usually encountered in grades from VF to AU. . . .,” and there’s no mention of rarity. According to “Coin Market,” it’s worth $2,065 in VF-20, $2,450 in EF-40, and $2,600 in AU-50.

On eBay, I found one well-circulated raw example that had been bid up to $1,836, with three days left on the auction. An NGC-graded coin with obverse scratches (not obvious in the photograph) and AU detail was BIN priced at $3,275, and a PCGS EF-45 specimen had been bid up to $2,802 with nearly four days remaining.

In the sold category on eBay, an NGC EF-40 sold for a BIN price of $2,495. Two uncertified pieces that were either uncirculated or close to it went for approximately $3,000 apiece.

With more than 240 1882-CC listings in the Heritage archives, I found two coins grading VF-30, one by NGC and one by PCGS, that realized $1,853 and $1,898, respectively, in 2011.

In EF-45, two examples, one graded by NGC, the other by PCGS, sold for $3,290 and $3,335, respectively, in 2012. A PCGS EF-40 coin went for $2,360 in August 2011.

10. 1877-CC (42,565 minted). Although it has the highest mintage of any of my 10 picks, Bowers writes, “As the low mintage figure might suggest, the 1877-CC is a key issue in any and all grades. The typical coin encountered is VF or EF.…” “Coin Market” values for the date imply that it’s not one of the key CC dates, as it’s worth $2,100 in VF-20, $2,450 in EF-40, and $3,650 in AU-50.

Of the two active eBay auctions, one offered a PCGS Genuine coin with cleaning and EF details for a BIN price of $3,350. In the other sale, the 1877-CC was NGC-graded AU details, with rim filing, and the BIN price was $4,995.

Three sales came up in the sold category. One involved a raw coin that appeared to be EF-AU and didn’t seem to have any problems, which sold for $3,350. Another was of a PCGS AU-50 coin that went for $4,900, and the third was an NGC-graded piece with EF details and obverse scratches. It sold for $2,199.

In the Heritage archives, 261 sales were of 1877-CC double eagles, but most of the coins were in higher grades than EF. I did find two sales of VF coins that were relevant, one of a PCGS VF-35 that sold for $2,500 in January 2011 and the other of an NGC VF-30 piece that brought $2,070 in March 2010. An NGC EF-40 example sold for $2,300 in August 2011, and several EF-45 coins, graded either by PCGS or NGC, brought prices between $2,760 and $3,220 in recent years.

So, what have we learned from this assay of recently sold circulated Carson City double eagles? First, most of the “Coin Market” values, which are supposed to represent average retail amounts, need to be increased. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to purchase most of the dates I examined for anywhere near their quoted values.

Second, many of the certified coins put up for sale have problems of one sort or another. Typically, they’ve been cleaned.

Third, although Bowers indicates for most of these ten dates that they’re most commonly found in VF or EF grades, in terms of their auction presence, the grades tend to be higher, either some AU or MS grade. What that indicates to me is that it may actually be more difficult to locate these coins in VF or EF than it is in higher grades.

At any rate, I stand by my initial guarantee: Carson City double eagles will increase in value. Look for certified coins (PCGS or NGC) with no problems, and be prepared to pay more than the “Coin Market” values for nice pieces. You’ll thank me later.

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