Gold Coinage: A Look at an Evolving Market
By Doug Winter
One of the newer
promotions in the rare gold coin marketplace are
coins that are Prooflike. NGC began designating
Prooflike gold a few years ago (PCGS has yet to
add this designation) and enough have been
graded for a collector to get an appreciation of
the relative rarity of these issues. What is a
Prooflike gold coin, what is the market for
these coins like and what does the future hold
for Prooflike gold?
Generally speaking, when a pair of new dies is
used to strike coins, they are highly polished.
The first few hundred examples from this die
pair (this number can be significantly less or
more, depending on the type of design and the
mint that produces the coin) are reflective.
This degree of reflectivity can range from
subtle to intense. Obviously, the more intense
the degree of reflectiveness, the more desirable
a coin is.
There are basically two tiers of “Prooflikeness”
that gold coin collectors are concerned with.
The first is the blanket term of “Prooflike”
which means that a coin has a certain degree of
reflectiveness on both the obverse and reverse.
While there is no absolute standard of what
constitutes a Prooflike gold coin (at least in
terms of the depth of reflection) it is
essential that a true P/L coin be reflective on
both sides. A coin that is “deep mirror
Prooflike” shows considerably more
reflectiveness on both sides than one that is
merely Prooflike. It resembles a Proof in
appearance and it may have an attractive “black
and white” appearance that is the result of
contrast between the frosted devices and the
There is a very strong market for Prooflike
Morgan silver dollars. Collectors began paying
premiums for these coins as far back as the
1960’s and, today, deep mirror Prooflike (DMPL)
dollars can sell for huge premiums over “normal”
frosty or satiny coins. Interestingly, there is
not much of a market for Prooflike silver coins
above and beyond Morgan dollars.
I think the market for Prooflike dollars is as
strong as it is for three significant reasons.
The first is that a number of dealers back in
the 1960’s and 1970’s did a good job of
promoting these coins and getting the market
jumpstarted. The second is that there are more
Prooflike coins in the Morgan dollars series
than in all other silver coins combined. Lots of
coins equals the ability to promote these as a
collectible. The third reason is the appearance
of these coins. A high quality DMPL coin can be
extremely attractive and a collector can easily
appreciate why he should be paying a premium for
such a coin.
The market for Prooflike gold coins remains in
its infancy. Is there a possibility that
Prooflike gold could become as popular as the
market for Prooflike dollars? I think this is a
small possibility that this could happen but in
small, selective increments.
I feel that the one area of Prooflike gold that
is likely to see the most “play” with collectors
in the next few years is Liberty Head double
eagles. I think this is going to happen for a
number of reasons. The first is that Liberty
Head double eagles are already popular, so it
isn’t a big stretch for a collector to jump from
“normal” examples to ones that are Prooflike.
The second is that these coins are available
enough to be actively traded but they are, at
the same time, relatively scarce. The third and
probably most important fact is that a high
quality DMPL double eagle is extremely
impressive from a visual standpoint.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article,
NGC has been grading Prooflike gold coins for
long enough that a few conclusions can be
Taking a look at double eagles, I note that NGC
has designated 1,287 $20 Libs as Prooflike. But
what is most interesting is the fact that only
twenty-eight examples of this series have been
designated as DMPL and of these just five have
been graded higher than MS62. The conclusion
that is most easily reached about DMPL examples
is that they are quite scarce and pieces above
MS62 are genuinely rare. This is especially true
for any date other than the ultra-common 1904.
The current price record for a DMPL gold coin
is, as far as I know, the $126,500 that was
attained by an NGC MS64* 1866 double eagle that
was sold by Heritage in their 2008 ANA auction.
From examining auction prices, it seems that
predictable price levels for DMPL $20 Libs are
starting to be recognizable. MS61 and MS62
examples of non-1904 dates seem to be bringing
in the $2,000-3,000 range. The few MS63 examples
that have traded have brought in the
$4,000-6,000 range. Coins in MS64 and higher are
rare enough that it is hard to establish price
In closing, I have a few personal thoughts about
Prooflike gold coinage.
A number of 19th century gold coins are easily
found with Prooflike or even deep mirror
Prooflike surfaces. The most prominent of these
include gold dollars from the 1880’s and three
dollar gold pieces from this era. I do not think
that collectors should, in most cases, pay a
premium for these. The exception would be for a
DMPL coin that had really great eye appeal.
Many DMPL gold coins have poor eye appeal due to
the fact that the reflectiveness of their
surfaces accentuates marks or abrasions. I would
be careful paying a large premium for an ugly
DMPL coin, even if it is a rare issue.
I mentioned above that I think that Liberty Head
double eagles are likely to be the only series
that collectors will pay close attention to PL
and DMPL issues. My second choice for the series
most likely to have some degree of date-by-date
popularity would be Liberty Head eagles. The PL
and DMPL issues that I would suspect collectors
would like most would be the New Orleans coins
from the 1890’s.