U.S. Coin Price Guide

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Fractional Gold Bullion
By Mark Ferguson

When the American Eagle gold series made its debut in 1986, the concept of four different sizes of bullion coins was identical to what was offered in the Canadian Maple Leaf and South African Krugerrand programs.

Investors went for American Eagle 1-ounce gold coins in a big way, while demand for the half-ounce version has been lower.

What about the Uncirculated American Eagle tenth-ounce and quarter-ounce gold bullion coins? Since they carry a higher premium above spot value than 1-ounce coins, the two smallest pieces are usually ignored by cost-conscious large investors. Gold buyers who have limited funds to spend will often purchase a fractional piece or two. Hence another growing market has emerged for these coins with face values of $5 and $10.

No one at the U.S. Mint or in the retail coin business expected the quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce pieces to become the target of date set collectors, but that is exactly what has taken place in recent years.

The two smallest fractional American Eagle gold coins – especially the $5 piece – fit within the budgets of many hobbyists. The design is appealing, and those who like precious metals but don't have the funds to build sets of pre-1933 U.S. gold gravitate towards American Eagles. In some cases, collectors who acquired a few odd pieces over the years decide to take on the challenge of assembling a complete set.

With the exception of the lower-mintage 1988 and 1991 $5 coin and the 1991 $10 coin, fractional American Eagle gold coin prices are closely tied to the bullion value. While the key date gold American Eagles command a premium, the cost is far less than better dates in other series.

Even though they are gold, the $5 and $10 American Eagles are relatively undemanding from a financial standpoint. Collectors can acquire a new piece each year and still have funds for other series, and those with a serious interest in fractional gold can also purchase Proofs directly from the U.S. Mint or on the secondary market.

Although it has been 23 years since the American Eagle gold coin became a reality, it isn't too late to begin building a fractional set.

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