Several years ago a well known professional
coin dealer proposed the idea of putting together a Box
of Twenty key coins as vehicle for good potential in the
future. Twenty coins spread over different series are diversified
enough so that if one does not perform well, the others
can make up the difference. It’s well known that not
all rare coins appreciate in value at the same time. Some
remain dormant, some depreciate in value, some increase
modestly, and some rocket into the stratosphere. Wouldn’t
it be great if we knew the rockets in advance? Since we
only know them in retrospect, it makes sense to choose a
group of pieces that are fundamentally or conditionally
rare so that any downside risk is outweighed by the upward
movement of a few of the superstars in the group. Now is
an excellent time to compile your Box of Twenty.
A fundamentally rare coin is one that had
a very limited mintage. All regularly issued business strike
and proof coins with mintages under 10,000 pieces are fundamentally
rare in any condition obtainable. This category includes
all early gold and silver coinage as well as some copper
and nickel pieces. For example all of the quarter eagles
of 1796 to 1807 are in this category. The largest mintage
was in 1807 with 6,812 pieces. Both PCGS and NGC have certified
254 pieces in all grades, and these numbers do not account
for crossovers or resubmissions. Obviously no more than
254 collectors could have one of these certified coins,
making them always in demand. Yet mintages of other years
are significantly lower. The next highest, 1804, is less
than half at 3,327. Both services have 147 combined including
both 13-Star and 14-Star reverses. All early date quarter
eagles are fundamentally rare and would make an excellent
choice for a box of twenty.
A conditionally rare coin is one that has
a large mintage but saw much circulation and is common in
circulated grades but rare in uncirculated or almost uncirculated
condition. An example is the 1861 half eagle. It had a mintage
of 688,084, making it a fairly common date. In circulated
grades it retails for less than $600. Yet in Mint State
65 it lists for $37,050 and in MS66 a whopping $71,500.
Clearly upper mint state grades of this coin are desirable
because they are conditionally rare. NGC has certified 1456
in total but only 8 in MS65 and 2 in MS66. PCGS has 715
in total with 7 in MS65 and 1 in MS66. While these examples
are sufficient to make the point, there are numerous other
examples one could choose.
Some coins appreciate slowly in value and
others jump up quickly. For example, the 1860-O silver dollar
increased from $5,560 to $6,940 since July 2005; however,
if we look at the 1860-O in MS65, we see an increase from
$16,880 to $35,930 in that same period of time.
The foregoing are isolated examples of the
kinds of changes in value that quality selected coins can
undergo over time, and these examples are taken only over
the past five years. A box of twenty well chosen pieces
held over time will yield some spectacular results, and
the time to begin with your twenty might never be better
than it is now.
Box of Twenty Proof Coins
coins are specially manufactured pieces that were originally
made for the designer to check on the correctness of the design.
They are usually given two or more strikes from the dies to
bring up the design more sharply than on regular production
coins. They are struck on proof dies that are specially prepared
to make proof coins. Prior to the modern era, most proof coins
usually had very limited mintages and are fundamentally rare,
especially in mint state condition. This box of twenty consists
exclusively of proof coins of various different denominations
found in our inventory or archives. Included are a colonial
piece, a half-cent, a five cent, a quarter dollar, four silver
dollars, a gold dollar, two quarter eagles, a three dollar
piece, three half eagles, two eagles, and three double eagles.
The colonial coin is the 1783 Washington and
Independence in PF62 BN CAC. Only 3 to 5 specimens are known,
so all are rare. The piece is a cent sized token that was
in the collections of Virgil Brand and John Ford.
The half-cent is from 1833 and is in PF64
BN condition. It has the Eliasberg Collection as its provenance.
The coin had an original mintage of 25-35 pieces and is rare
in all grades.
The 1897 Proof Liberty Nickel had a mintage
of 1,938. This pristine coin is tied for finest at both PCGS
and NGC. Designed by Charles Barber, it is a late example
of the Type 2 variety, with CENTS.
The quarter dollar is a Liberty Seated
type of 1856 that was designed by Christian Gobrecht. It is
in PF63 condition and comes with a CAC sticker. It had an
original mintage of 40-50 and is rare in all grades.
The first silver dollar is a Trade Dollar,
which was made for export to China. It is dated 1875 and is
in PF66 condition. With an original mintage of 700, the coin
is fundamentally rare. Trade dollars were designed by William
Barber contained 420 grains of .900 silver. The regular dollar
of the time contained 412.5 grains of silver.
The 1836 Gobrecht Dollar is technically
speaking a pattern coin. The designer’s name appears
on the base, and the coin has a plain edge. It is graded PF62.
Only 30 to 40 pieces are known.
Liberty Seated dollars were made during
the Civil War. The 1862 toned proof is graded PF65. It had
an original mintage of 550, which makes it rare in all conditions.
The proof 1895 Morgan dollar is known as
the King of the Morgan Dollars. Since there were no 1895 Philadelphia
dollar coins made, this proof piece is necessary to complete
a set. Only 880 proofs were struck.
Another Civil War dated proof is the 1861
gold dollar in PF65 condition. Only 25 to 30 pieces remain
in all conditions. James Longacre designed the piece using
his Indian Princess motif.
A curious but long lasting denomination
was the quarter eagle. The Liberty Head motif was designed
by Christian Gobrecht. The 1888 specimen is graded PF63 UCAM
and had an original mintage of only 97.
The Indian Head motif was used later by
Bela Lyon Pratt. His 1914 quarter eagle, which is incused
and made use of a realistic looking Indian brave, is graded
PF64. It has a matte proof finish and an original mintage
The three-dollar piece is represented by
an 1886 example in PF62 CAM with a CAC sticker. Like the gold
dollar, it was designed by James B. Longacre. It had an original
mintage of only 142 and is rare in all conditions.
The half eagle has a Civil War date of
1862 and is in PF65* CAMEO condition. It was designed by Christian
Gobrecht and had an original mintage of only 35.
The Type 2 half eagle added the motto IN
GOD WE TRUST to the reverse. The 1907 piece is in PF63 condition.
Only 92 proofs were made for this last-year-of-type coin.
The third type half eagle was the Indian
Head motif designed by Bela Lyon Pratt. It uses a realistic
Indian brave as its motif and was incused. The 1912 coin is
graded PF67. It had a mintage of 144.
The eagle is represented by two pieces.
The first, the Liberty Head motif of Christian Gobrecht, is
an 1898 PF65 UCAM piece. It had an original mintage of only
67 pieces and is rare in all conditions. It is a Type 2 coin
since the motto has been added to the reverse.
The second eagle is an Indian Head motif
designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It is one of 83 pieces
that were minted in 1912. The coin is graded PF66 and shows
an Indian Head obverse and a majestic standing eagle for its
There are three double eagle coins in this
box of proofs. The first is a Liberty Head motif from 1883.
It is graded PF64 UCAM, and it is rare in all grades with
an original mintage of only 92. Designed by James B. Longacre,
the coin’s reverse used the double ribbon to signify
the new denomination.
The High Relief 1907 PF64 double eagle
was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It is considered by
many to be America’s most beautiful coin. While the
actual proof mintage is unknown, NGC has certified 141 in
all grades. PGCS does not certify High Relief double eagles
in proof condition.
In 1907, Saint-Gaudens’ design was
modified by Charles Barber. The new coin had Arabic numerals
for the date, a flat relief, and in 1908 a motto added. The
1911 PF66 double eagle had an original mintage of 100. It
is rare in all conditions.