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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.