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Hunting for Coronet Five Dollar Gold
By Mark Benvenuto

Coronet gold $5s seem like a tough series to collect when the economy is tight, as it is now, but difficult times actually mean there are a lot of reasons to look at these U.S. gold coins. Such coins represent a way to lock up some value and protect against losing it. They being made of gold also represent a store of value that may actually go up with time.

Let's determine just what type of gold $5 collection you can put together right now, as we wait for better economic times. The Coronet gold $5s can be divided into two varieties. The years 1839-1866 are sometimes referred to as Variety 1, because there was no motto above the eagle on the reverse. Variety 2, which encompassed all or part of the last five decades of the series, has the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" on a ribbon above the head of the eagle. I'm going to start with a good look at some of the Variety 2 dates and mintmarks.

In 1880, the Philadelphia Mint produced 3,166,436 Coronet gold $5s, making that the first year any of the mint's had gone above 1 million of these gold coins. At 3.1 million, it's fair to say the Mint absolutely shattered that mark.

Philadelphia wasn't the only busy mint facility that year, as the San Francisco branch pounded out an additional 1,348,900 (a mark that would have been a record, if not for the Philadelphia figure).

In 1881, the Philadelphia Mint produced 5.7 million gold $5s, and the San Francisco facility just missed hitting 1 million for a second year. A two-year phenomenon became a three-year streak in 1882, as 2.5 million gold $5s rolled out of the Philadelphia Mint, and the West coast again came in just shy of 1 million. All these numbers, and a few that would come after, prove that when it comes to these gold coins, there are plenty to go around.

When counting just about anything you can see or touch, 1 million is a lot. We can use that figure for the Coronet gold $5 to set something of a baseline for prices. For example, the 1881 costs $775 in Mint State-63, $235 in Mint State-60, and $223 in About Uncirculated-50. That's certainly higher than the price of bullion American Eagle coins, but it needs to be remembered that these Coronet gold $5s have some real history to them. They are really and truly U.S. coins, and not coin products made to be bought and sold as a precious-metal commodity. So, $400 seems to be the general price tag for obtaining a common-date gold $5.

A quick look at the 1880, with its 3 million mintage, or the 1881-S and 1882-S, each with just under 1 million, reveals that the prices are similar to the higher mintage 1881. This hardly means that these coins can be considered great sleepers because they are still very common dates and mintmarks. Plus, mintage isn't the only factor in rarity. Some higher mintage coins are scarcer than their lower mintage counterparts because of melting and other factors.

But it does confirm for us that the general price of $235 will land you a Coronet gold $5, at least in dates that any well-stocked dealer will probably have.

Now, let's take our hunt further and find out if the other dates and mintmarks have some interesting things to hide. Let's keep in mind that several years of production for these gold pieces saw low mintages. This means there ought to be some real rarities in the series.

So, starting out on this little foray, let's look at the 1847. It's a Variety 1 gold $5, but it has a mintage of 915,981, virtually the same as the two San Francisco coins I just mentioned. According to recent price sheets, in MS-60, the 1847 costs $1,650. It looks like quite a few of these pieces went to the melting pot, perhaps during the Civil War, perhaps later.

Don't let a single setback turn you off to this series. Let's see what sort of prices we have for the following dates: 1861, with 688,000 mintage; 1843, with 611,000; and 1852, with 573,000 for it.

Well, the 1861 is a $1,450 coin in MS-60, and the 1843 is a somewhat better $1,850, while the 1852 is $1,400. However, if we drop down to the AU-50 grade, these three Variety 1 coins are $360, $350, and $350, respectively. That's not too bad, and it's a set of numbers that seems to prove a point. The point is the mint-state early gold $5s are expensive. Those with a bit of wear on them come down rapidly in price.

While the common dates among the earliest Coronets don't do much for a person trying to collect gold while on a budget in a tight economy, maybe we can have better luck in the Variety 2 years. Let's not look at more of the most common dates, but rather at some of the ones that might be called scarce.

There are plenty of dates in the latter part of this gold series that didn't get anywhere near the 1 million mark. Taking three examples, the 1900-S with 329,000 to its total, the 1883 with a total of 233,000, and the 1891-CC with a 208,000 mintage, we can see that there really isn't all that much difference.

Specialists in the series might argue about crispness of strike from one mint to another, or that a specific year is known for not having many superb, sharp strikes, but I am looking at grades such as MS-60 or AU-50. One would imagine that there aren't too many swings in price. But that is where a person would be wrong.

The 1883 is the only one of the above coins I have listed that is a Philadelphia issue. That means it is the plain Jane of the trio. In MS-60 it currently lists at $260, and in AU-50 it is a $250 coin.

Look at the 1900-S. The most available of the three I mentioned, at least in terms of mintages, it has similar price tags as the 1883. That means we have an S-mintmarked coin with prices that similar to some higher mintage coins in the series.

Now, what about the 1891-CC? With 208,000 to its tally, it is a bit less common than the other two. Its prices?

Well, in MS-60 it's $750, and in AU-50 it's $525. What's going on here? The answer to that seems to be the continuing infatuation that collectors have with all coins that have been marked with the "CC" of Carson City, Nev.

OK. The Carson City pieces may be off limits to a collector of modest means, at least in tough times, but what do the other numbers that we just saw actually mean? It seems that San Francisco coins may not automatically have price tags that cause sticker shock, and it further means that there might be some Philadelphia coins in the series that are seriously under valued.

Moving down the totem pole a bit, at least in terms of mintages, we can find quickly that the 1902 totals 172,562 coins, the 1904-S has only 97,000 to its name, and the 1896 has 59,063, which is about equal to the 1891 with 61,413 coins to its total.

But the prices? Well, in MS-60, then in AU-50, the 1902 has the same $235 and $233 that has been the case with much more common dates I've already mentioned. The 1904-S comes in at $900 and $277, respectively, which seems to indicate that there isn't much of a premium for the S mintmark when we come down into the circulated grades. That's good news.

What's happening to make these prices so reasonable?

One thought is that very few people set out to assemble a full date and mint set of Coronet gold $5s. Perhaps the series is too long and complex. Perhaps it's just a matter of them being gold and perceived as too expensive to acquire. That's too bad, really, as there are several years in which the prices are pretty darn good for coins that are not all that common.

Another possibility is that there are hoards of sleepers within this U.S. gold series. Here is where a collector has to be truly wary. Sure, the prices of some of the coins I've looked at are under valued, definitely so when compared against the common dates. But that doesn't mean they will jump up any time soon.

Too many people perceive the Coronet gold $5s, or indeed any U.S. gold, as a prohibitively expensive series. That means these less common coins may be sleepers. But they're so deeply asleep that you could claim they're in comas and not waking up in the foreseeable future.

Let's take a look at two more dates in this series. The 1894-O, with a mintage of 16,600; and the 1893-CC, with a total number pegged at 60,000.

I have already talked about the allure of the Carson City mintmark and how high the mintages go among these gold pieces. Based on the numbers we have already seen, both of these should be rarities.

We can even prove the point about the CC mintmark a tad further. The 1894-O is a $1,300 coin in MS-60, but is back down at $570 when you look at the AU-50. The 1893-CC, however, will set a person back $1,400 in MS-60, and $770 in AU-50. Now, these two sets of prices are certainly not miserable, even for the 1893-CC. Yes, these prices are higher than some of them mentioned earlier, but keeping the mintages in mine, it would seem they should have higher values.

The end of the tunnel for tough economic times may be only a few months away, or it may be years off. No one can be sure of that, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or truly clairvoyant. But when it comes to value in the Coronet gold $5s, you only have to be able to read the price sheets to know there is a lot of value to be had throughout the series.

Coins like this may very well serve as something of a financial buffer in tough times. It may take some time and patience to find the rarer dates and mintmarks I mentioned, but it shouldn't be an impossible quest.


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