Underappreciated Early United States Gold Coins
By Doug Winter
numerous articles about Liberty Head gold coins
that I think are clearly undervalued or
underpriced. I’ve never really written one
that’s focused on early United States gold coins
for one simple reason: it’s hard to brand coins
that trade for $10,000 and up (in most cases) as
“undervalued.” That said, there are a number of
issues whose price levels do not make sense
given their rarity.
I’d like to thank my good friend Paul Nugget,
from Spectrum East Numismatics, who helped me
prepare this list and whose expertise in the
area of pre-1834 gold is unrivalled.
Before we start, the basic question to answer
here is why are these coins undervalued or
underappreciated or “underwhatever?” I think the
answer has to do with collecting patterns in the
early gold series. Because of price
considerations, most collectors who do focus on
early gold do it from the standpoint of type
collecting. This makes sense, especially in a
denomination like half eagles that contains a
number of spectacularly rare (and expensive)
issues. Also, I have noted that many more early
gold collectors focus on the pre-1807 issues by
date (or even die variety) while the issues
struck from 1808 to 1834 tend to less actively
pursued as such.
Here is my list of ten underappreciated early US
gold and the reasons why I think they qualify as
1. 1827 Quarter Eagle.
The short-lived Capped Head Left quarter eagle
type was produced for only five years from 1821
to 1827. All five issues are scarce but pricing
guides typically lump the 1821, 1824/1, 1825 and
1827 together and accord them similar values in
virtually all grades. I think that the 1827
deserves to be priced at least 10-15% higher
than the 1825.
As of October 2009, PCGS shows a total of 26
1827 quarter eagles having been graded in all
grades versus a total of 52 for the 1825. The
population for the latter seems rather inflated
but that said, the 1827 is still much scarcer. I
don’t think it is as scarce as the 1821 (and it
doesn’t have the 1821’s cachet as being a
first-year-of-issue) but it is comparable to the
1824/1 in terms of overall rarity.
The 1827 has a reported mintage of 2,800 but it
is believed that this figure includes some coins
dated 1826. There are an estimated four to five
dozen known in all grades.
2. 1833 Quarter Eagle.
The quarter eagles struck from 1829 through 1833
are always lumped together to form a sort of
“generic” Fat Head type. All five dates are
priced exactly the same. In my experience, the
1833 is quite a bit scarcer than these other
issues and it should be given at least a 10%
premium in all grades, if not more.
PCGS has graded just 35 examples of the 1833 in
all grades. Compare this to the 1829 with a
total of 51, the 1830 with a total of 70, the
1831 with a total of fifty-two and the 1832
which has 50. I understand that very few people
collect this design by date but I think that the
1833 is so clearly scarcer than the other dates
mentioned that it should be accorded a 10%
There were 4,160 quarter eagles produced in
1833. There are around five to six dozen known
with the majority in the AU53 to MS62 range. In
my experience, I see this date far less often
than any other of the 1829-1832 issues and, for
some reasons, when I do find an example it
almost never is choice and/or original.
3. 1834 With Motto Quarter Eagle.
This is an issue whose extreme rarity I have
mentioned in previous articles on my website.
Pricing data remains way too low and should be
increased immediately to reflect recent auction
sales. As an example, in the Heritage 2009
August Pre-ANA sale, I purchased an 1834 in an
NCS “AU details” holder for $25,300. Trends for
an 1834 in AU50 is only $28,500 so I paid close
to 90% of this amount for a coin that had been
PCGS has graded just nine examples of the 1834
With Motto and it is likely that fewer than
twenty exist in all grades. The original mintage
of 4,000 is misleading as nearly all were melted
soon afterwards when the weight of all United
States gold coins were lowered.
I wouldn’t have a problem with the current
numbers in Trends for the 1834 With Motto
quarter eagle being doubled in all grades.
4. 1805 Bust Right Half Eagle.
The Capped Bust Right/Heraldic Eagle reverse
series is popular with collectors and there is
enough date collecting that a coin like the 1805
should get some kind of a premium over the more
available 1802/1, 1803/2 and 1806 Round 6. In my
experience, I would price it at around 10% more
than a common issue in all grades.
The most recent PCGS population figures show
that there have been 229 1805 half eagles
recorded in all grades. Compare this to the
total of 264 for the 1802/1, 334 for the 1803/2
and 463 for the 1806 Round 6. In my personal
experience, the 1805 is quite a bit harder to
find than the other three “common” dates of this
type that I mentioned, especially in AU55 and
5. 1806 Pointed 6 Half Eagle.
It’s interesting to note how the respect
accorded this variety tends to change almost
every year. At some points in time, the 1806
Pointed 6 sells for a significant premium over
the common 1806 Round 6 and at other times, the
premium is very small. In my opinion, the 1806
Pointed 6 is a scarce and undervalued issue with
enough of a naked-eye “coolness factor” that it
should sell for at least a 15-20% premium over a
This is supported by the PCGS population data
for this variety which shows just 58 examples
recorded in all grades. Some of this can be
attributed to the fact that this variety was not
always designated by PCGS and some of the 1806
half eagles in PCGS holders that are this
variety are not marked as such. Nonetheless,
this variety is many times scarcer than the more
common issues of this type.
I personally find the 1806 Pointed 6 half eagle
to be a fascinating coin. There are no less than
five die varieties which is even more impressive
when one considers that the original mintage was
probably well under 20,000.
6. 1808/7 Half Eagle.
The Capped Bust Left type probably generates
less interest than any other of the early half
eagle designs. I think a lot of this has to do
with the fact that the only rarities in the
series (1810 Small Date, Small 5 and the 1810
Large Date, Small 5) are very esoteric and most
people can’t easily remember which of the 1810
varieties are rare and which are common.
The 1808/7 is a sleeper issue in this series. It
is the only true overdate of this design and it
is a coin that is far scarcer than most people
realize. There were an estimated 10,000-15,000
produced and as few as 100-150 are known today.
PCGS has only graded fifty-two versus, for
example, 211 for the common 1808 Normal Date.
The 1808/7 half eagle currently gets a decent
premium over the common dates of this type but I
feel this premium should be increased another
15-25% given its scarcity.
7. 1810 Small Date, Tall 5.
As I mentioned in my description of the 1808/7,
the half eagle varieties of 1810 are confusing
and it’s hard to remember which of the four
major ones are very rare and which are common.
The 1810 Small Date, Tall 5 (BD-1) is the second
most available of the four with an estimated
150-250 known. The most common is the 1810 Large
Date, Large 5 (BD-4) which has as many as 750
known in all grades. This is confirmed by the
PCGS population data which shows a total of 80
graded for the former and 236 for the latter.
Despite the fact that the 1810 Small Date Tall 5
is clearly much scarcer than the 1810 Large Date
Large 5, the latter gets a 10-15% premium in
Trends. I’m assuming that this is a clerical
error (?) as the exact opposite should be the
8. 1828/7 Half Eagle.
Here’s an example of a coin whose current
published values have suffered due to its
extreme rarity. There are an estimated four to
six examples known and the last to sell at
auction was all the way back in May 1999 when
the Goldbergs offered an NGC MS63 that brought
$159,500. Despite this fact, the current Coin
Values shows a price of just $100,000 for an
1828/7 in AU58. If you own one and would like to
sell it to me for anywhere near this price,
don’t bother calling; just ship today for an
The pricing of this coin brings us to a quick
point of discussion: how does one price issues
that are this rare? Given the fact that it has
been a decade since an 1828/7 half eagle has
sold, the last auction price realized isn’t
terribly relevant. In this case, I think I would
put a blank through any price for this issue as
a reflection of an unknown (current) valuation.
If one does trade in the near future, this one
transaction will represent the “market” for the
issue. I don’t generally advocate establishing a
value for a coin based on one trade, but when
there are only four to six known, this is the
only way to create a realistic value level.
9. 1829 Large Planchet and Small Planchet Half
Both varieties of 1829 half eagles are
exceedingly rare. There are just seven to eight
known of the former and fewer than a dozen of
As you can imagine, there have been very few
examples of either variety that have traded
publicly or privately in the last decade. The
last Large Planchet 1829 half eagle to have sold
at auction was the fantastic Bass II Gem that
brought $241,500 in 1999. In the same sale, an
1829 Small Planchet realized $80,500.
The current Trends value for the 1829 Large
Planchet is $150,000 in MS60 with no other
values listed in grades above or below. I’d
suggest, in this case, that the value is way,
way too low and should either be raised
considerably or left blank. In the case of the
1829 Small Planchet, values are listed in Fine,
Very Fine, Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated
grades. All are far too low and all should
probably be deleted.
10. 1834 Plain 4 Half Eagle.
The current Trends value for an AU50 and an AU58
of this variety is exactly the same: $50,000. I
would assume that this is a typo. I don’t want
to seem nit-picky but this is an important, rare
issue and this mistake should be fixed.
I think that the overall pricing information on
early gold is pretty good, especially when one
considers how hard it is to price these coins.
As with all series of US gold coins, there are
some issues whose prices are a bit off and need
to be tweaked. Hopefully, this list will
motivate the Pricing Powers that Be to make some
of these changes.