Jim Bisognani: Gem US Gold Type is a Bargain!

Posted on 5/30/2024

There's no need to wait 20 years for a great deal on US gold coins. Check out some comparisons between gold spot from two decades ago and now.

With the passing of Memorial Day, I guess we can officially usher in summer!

Yes, it's true. I was just standing on my porch, inspecting the lush grass and abundant flowering blossoms, all while taking in some glorious sunshine. What a joy! We all experience Mother Nature's highs and lows, and rich or poor, we can't do anything about it except either bemoan or enjoy it. In my opinion, summer is the best time to enjoy it.

This will always be a special time of year for me, because it was exactly 20 summers ago that I was about to embark on my first full-time numismatic writing and pricing position as Market Analyst with CDN (Coin Dealer Newsletter, aka "the Greysheet") in Torrance, California.

Beth and I were living in upstate Maine at the time, and I had just volunteered my services to the local Chamber of Commerce as an appraiser for their Spring Antique Appraisal Fair. It was going to be their version of an Antiques Roadshow type of venture. The sponsors of the event were recruiting some specialists to go over goods that the locals would be bringing in to have appraised for a nominal fee. My specialty, of course, was going to be numismatics.

The big day was Saturday, May 22, 2004. To help with the coin appraisals, I went online and ordered a copy of the Greysheet — the Coin Dealer Newsletter — the Friday evening before the event. While I was online getting my copy, I noticed they were taking applications for a market analyst and writer. So, yours truly sent off a few pages describing my background and experience in the hobby and business.

LEFT: While preparing to volunteer as a coin appraiser at a Milo Historical Society event 20 years ago, Jim Bisognani ordered a copy of the Greysheet online. RIGHT: While doing that, he decided to send them his resume, which led to a working interview in California that turned into a job at CDN, the Greysheet publisher.

Santa, is that you calling?

The Tuesday morning after the Spring Antique Appraisal Fair, I got a call from CDN. The woman, Kim, asked, "Is this Jim?" I said, "Yes." Now, at that moment, I thought that this was a follow-up call because I had ordered only a single copy of the Greysheet, and I was probably going to be given a sales pitch for a subscription or something. I was mentally prepping my "no, thank you" as Kim said, "Shane Downing, our publisher, reviewed your email application and would like to fly you out for a two-day working interview. If it goes well, we would like to offer you a position and will make arrangements to have you relocated."

My response to Kim was, "So, this is Santa Claus calling!"

She laughed and said that, if all was OK with me, she would start making arrangements for the interview in mid-June, after the Long Beach show. Needless to say, the working interview went well, and I was offered the position that Friday afternoon.

Leaving our residence in New England for that cross-country trek was memorable, to say the least; I don't drive, so I was co-pilot for Beth. Settling into our apartment and new lifestyle didn't take long. I can honestly say that, with the new job and fantastic weather, it felt like every day was a holiday. I truly mean that! The work was demanding, but being a lifelong coindexter, it was fun. Meeting weekly deadlines and writing articles about the hobby, I was enamored with was my entire life. There were other great things about my job, too: daily lunch hour walks in the sunshine, working with my lifelong friend Keith Zaner and so much more.

For the last two decades, I've been pricing and writing about this great hobby. The excitement and pleasure of viewing lots, conversing with dealers and collectors, and tracking auction results never gets old. Just ask Beth — I always have my iPad with me, and I often go to bed scanning coins and prices.

I revisited the Greysheet, dated May 21, 2004. There were many revelations in regard to price and value.

For Uncirculated type coins, one of my favorites is the US Trade Dollar (1873-1885). Back then, they were bid at $7,000 and the ask was $7,650. Today's recent auction sales of coins at that caliber were between $5,000 to $6,000 in MS 65. Conversely, MS 63 type coins were bid at $1,060 and ask was $1,160. MS 63 coins are often trading near the $3,000 range today, which is equal to a near 160% increase in value.

Click images to enlarge.

Another of my favorite type coins is the Capped Bust Half Dimes (1829-1837). Twenty years ago, MS 63 type coins were bid at $500 and ask was $545. Current auction activity shows prices realizing in the $1,200 to $1,300 neighborhood, which is more than a 135% increase.

Click images to enlarge.

Not surprisingly, spot gold was a virtual bargain at $379.50 per ounce in 2004, and silver was $5.67 per ounce. Meanwhile, 90% US silver circulated bags were bid at $3,990, and uncirculated 90% bags were bid at $4,500.

As of writing this article, spot silver is trading at just a shade below $32 per ounce, and 90% circulated bags are bid at $23,800. Of course, there have been ups and downs in gold and silver throughout the last two decades, but based on current information, spot silver has increased 465% since May 2004, and 90% circulated bags reflect a massive 500% increase.

It's almost unbelievable to think that spot gold is trading at nearly $2,000 more per ounce than it was 20 years ago! Yet, with spot gold currently trading at $2,350 per ounce, this is a 520% elevation. Of course, with the recent breakout for gold spot, virtually all premiums have eroded away for average- to mid-range uncirculated $20 Saints and Libs common dates.

Talk about a bargain: Today, a major trader was offering up 200 NGC MS 62 $20 Liberties at just $2,350 per coin, which is just 3.84% over melt value. For reference, exactly 20 years ago, an MS 62 $20 Liberty was bid at 37.5% above melt value.

Don't wait another 20 years for a great deal!

One glaring standout in regard to MS 65 quality US gold type is that, other than the $20 Libs and Saints, every other US gold type coin in MS 65 is trading at substantially lower levels than 20 years ago. Again, the market was relatively strong in 2004, but it had not yet reached its peak. This would occur around early 2008. For the fellow gold-minded coindexter, please review and consider the following real values; I believe it would be prudent for the average collector to look at acquiring MS 65 or better US gold type.

In my estimation, a huge bargain is the Liberty Quarter Eagle. Twenty years ago, on this date, bid price for an MS 65 was $1,365 and ask was $1,450. Today, a major trader is offering Liberty Quarter Eagles graded NGC MS 65 at $765. Well, my friends, you could buy three of these coins for slightly less than the price of one ounce of gold!

Click images to enlarge.

Consider the following as well: of the 83,536 Liberty Head Quarter Eagles graded by NGC, only 5,132 have been graded MS 65. That's around 6.14% of the total population in the NGC Census! Compare that to the $20 Saints in MS 65, which number 108,327 in the NGC Census, or over 2,000% more than the Liberty Quarter Eagles in like grade. Again, just some numismatic food for thought.

Now nearing 60 years as a coindexter, it is as exciting as when I was a youth ready for that glorious summer school vacation, which meant I had several months to bask in numismatic nirvana and memorize the new edition of the Red Book.

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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