THE TEN COOLEST
UNITED STATES COINS REVISITED
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Winter Copyright © June 2007
In June 2000, I wrote an article entitled ďThe Ten
Coolest United States Coins.Ē Letís say you were a true
Douglas Winter Numismatics cultist and you had decided to
follow my advice to the letter. How would your seven year
investment have performed? Are there any coins I would have
deleted from this list? Some analysis and random thoughts
regarding these ten coins follows. I. 1776 Continental
In 2000, I suggested purchasing an example of this popular, historic
issue in Choice About Uncirculated and stated that an example would cost
around $10,000. I think this amount represented a typo as, even back
then, a Continental Dollar in AU would have cost at least twice the
amount I listed.
My decision to include this coin was prescient, to say the least.
This has proven to be among the most popular and in-demand early
American issues in the last seven years. And how can it not have been?
This issue has everything going for it: size, interesting history,
unique design and the magical 1776 date.
Today, a nice AU 1776 Continental Dollar will probably cost in the
area of $60,000. And if you had bought a really nice AU55 to AU58 back
in 2000, the chances are better than even that this coin would be
regarded as an MS61 today with an estimated value closer to six figures.
Clearly, this would have been a very good purchase.
I. 1776 Continental Dollar
This is not a regular issue coin but, rather, a proposed or
speculative issue. Varieties are known in silver, pewter and brass and
with different spellings of the word CURRENCY. For this set, I would
suggest a pewter piece with the spelling "CURENCY" and the lack of the
designers initials (represented on this coin as "EG FECIT," which is
believed to signify that the design was by Elisha Gallaudet).
It is probable that these coins did circulate in colonial America and
that they did have a recognized value. This fact makes them a legitimate
candidate for the first "dollar" struck in this country as well as the
largest coin, in terms of size, issued prior to the establishment of the
United States. The magical date 1776 makes them even more desirable, in
my opinion. And, finally, the charming design on the reverse (featuring
thirteen interlinked rings with the name of each colony and symbolizing
unity) is believed to have been suggested by Benjamin Franklin.
For this set, I would opt for a very slightly worn piece; perhaps in
the About Uncirculated-55 to 58 range. I like the idea that the coin saw
some light circulation during the colonial era but would want it to be
lustrous and well struck. Such a coin would cost $7,500-$10,000; making
it an exceptional value for such an incredibly historic issue.
II. 1792 Half Disme
This is another coin that seemed much undervalued to me back in
2000. I like this issue for many of the same reasons I mentioned above
for the Continental Dollar: great story, interesting design and
fascinating history. In 2000 I suggested purchasing a nice AU example
and felt it would cost around $10,000-15,000. If you had been able to
find a nice half disme back then, you probably would have been able to
buy it at the high end of my suggested range.
As with most early coins, this is an issue that has performed
fantastically since 2000.
If you can find a good looking AU55 to AU58 half disme (and this will
be hard as most real AU coins are now in MS61 and MS62 holders) you are
probably going to have to pay around $100,000 for this coin. Even an
example which looks like its been run over by a train is going to cost
in the mid-five figures.
Without patting myself on the back too much, Iíd have to say that
this choice was a home run. Of course, I wasnít smart enough to listen
to myself and actually put away any nice half dismes...
III. 1793 Chain Cent
There arenít all that many coins left that still give me a tingle in
the spine when I buy one, but Chain Cents qualify. I love the design and
history of these coins and admire the fact that they have been coveted
by collectors since the late 1850ís.
In 2000 I recommended buying an EF or an AU Chain Cent and felt that
it would have cost in the area of $20,000 to $45,000. It wouldnít have
been easy to find a decent looking example but with some searching you
might have been able to buy one with good detail and reasonably choice
Today, Chain Cents are not only nearly impossible to find in grades
above VF20, they are just about the most overgraded type I have seen in
third-party holders. Coins that I personally grade Fine-12 are housed in
EF-40 holders and both services seem to conveniently overlook the fact
that coins in EF holders are riddled with problems.
Assuming you could find a decent coin in 2007, youíd be looking at
spending $60,000-80,000 plus for an EF and at least $100,000 for an AU.
This was a good choice but in retrospect I think I might have
selected a 1793 Liberty Cap instead. But, as I recall, I didnít choose
this type in 2000 because I thought it would be impossible to find one
that I liked even back then.
IV. 1794 Silver Dollar
This is the first and largest United States silver coin. Any
well-heeled collector who couldnít be sold on the desirability of this
coin back in 2000 had to truly have his head in the sand.
In my 2000 article I suggested a nice EF example of this coin and
that such a piece might be available in the $75,000-90,000 range. This
value range might have been just a touch low and Iím guessing that if
anyone did take my advice, they probably had to pay closer to $100,000.
Regardless of what this theoretical collector paid, if he did buy a
1794 dollar, he did very, very well. Early dollars caught fire a few
years ago and the 1794 proved to be the ultimate trophy coin in the
early dollar series.
A nice EF 1794 dollar today is worth $250,000 to $300,000. Any
significant investment made in early dollars around 2000 would have done
fantastically well seven years later but the 1794 is the one issue which
I believe will continue to show the greatest strength in the future.
V. 1795 Eagle
I selected this coin for my group of 10 because it is the first
United States gold coin and it is the sort of big, neat, old gold coin
that new and old collectors alike seem to love. Looking back at this
choice, I might have changed it to a 1796 quarter eagle or another 18th
In 2000, a nice About Uncirculated 1795 eagle was available for
around $30,000-35,000. Such a coin would have graded AU53 to AU55 (and
would grade AU55 to AU58 in todayís looser environment). Today, the same
sort of coin would be priced at around $80,000-90,000; possibly a bit
more if the coin was original and had nice eye appeal.
I am not as enthusiastic about this issue today as I was seven years
ago. I think at close to $100,000 the 1795 eagle in AU is pretty pricey,
given the fact that it still somewhat available. More importantly, most
pieces in AU holders are really low end for the grade.
Still, a rise in value from $35,000 or so to around $90,000 isnít too
shabby for a seven year hold. This is typical of most early gold during
the past seven years.
VI. 1836 Gobrecht Dollar
I didnít choose a Proof 1836 Gobrecht Dollar as one of my Ten Most
Cool Coins because of its history or numismatic significance. I chose
this issue because I love the design. Thereís just something about the
stark cameo-like appearance of the obverse and the eagle flying in the
field of stars on the reverse that Iíve always found very appealing.
Apparently, Iím not the only one who thinks this way.
Back in 2000, nice PR63 Gobrecht Dollars seemed pretty cheap. They
could be bought for around $20,000. Today, the same coin is more likely
to cost in the area of $30,000-35,000. So the gain that this coin has
shown has been pretty impressive although it pales in comparison to some
of the early issues listed above.
Personally, I think PR63 and PR64 1836 Gobrecht Dollars are still a
good value and even though the market for these pieces is a bit soft
right now, they are a good long-term purchase at current levels.
Examples which are too dark should be avoided as should pieces which
have been overdipped and which are now bright white.
VII. 1850 Double Eagle
What could I possibly have been thinking when I put this issue on my
list of Ten Cool Coins? Sure itís interesting and it has status as a
first-year-of-issue but Iíd hardly put it in the same ballpark as the
other nine coins on this list.
That said, this issue has performed very nicely since 2000,
especially in high grades. In my first article, I suggested purchasing
an MS61 and figured that such a piece would be obtainable in the
$6,000-9,000 range. Today, a nice MS61 sells for $12,000 or so.
In retrospect, a Liberty Head double eagle collector could have done
a lot better from an investment standpoint if he had purchased a few
nice New Orleans pieces. As an example, the 1854-O and 1856-O issues
have shown spectacular price gains in the past seven years and even the
secondary rarities such as the 1855-O, 1859-O, 1860-O, 1861-O and 1879-O
have performed exceptionally well.
Iím not going to totally disown this choice but Iím pretty
embarrassed to see it alongside such issues as a 1794 Dollar or a Chain
VIII. 1861-D Gold Dollar
The 1861-D gold dollar remains my favorite Dahlonega coin of any
denomination. Itís the most historic southern issue, I love the
crudeness of its manufacture and it is, of course, genuinely rare.
Back in 2000, the 1861-D gold dollar seemed to be available on a
somewhat regular basis. With a little luck and patience you could find
one at auction or in a specialistís inventory. Today, these coins seem
to have disappeared and I have not personally handled an 1861-D in close
to a year.
I recommended purchasing a nice AU58 example and suggested that it
would cost $17,500-20,000. If you heeded my advice, you did very well as
a similar example would probably fetch double that amount today. What
makes this all the more remarkable is the fact that the high end of the
Dahlonega market has been fairly flat in the past seven years with
certain coins actually dropping in value despite what is arguably the
most sustained bull market in modern numismatic history.
This is another coin which I would hang on to for the long term if I
had one put away right now. Despite its rise in price, it is a coin
which is in great demand and which has such a wonderful story that it
canít help but appreciate in value in the coming years.
IX. 1879 Flowing Hair Stella
Unlike the 1861-D dollar, the 1879 Flowing Hair Stella is a truly
rare coin. If you check auction records over the past few years, youíll
note that a lot of pieces have sold. But I still think the Stella is a
coin that is genuinely cool. It is interesting, has a unique design and
history and it really is a perfect ďtrophy coinĒ for a well-heeled
In 2000 I suggested purchasing an example that graded PR63 (back
then, Stellas existed in this grade. The PR63 of 2000 is now a PR64). A
nice example would have been available back then for around
$50,000-55,000. Today, the same coin would probably be worth around
When nice Stellas were worth $50,000 or so they were a great value.
At todayís price level, I donít really like the value that they
represent. But, I can certainly see how coins like this trade for
$150,000 given their great story and always high level of demand.
Time to pat myself on the back one final time. This was a great
recommendation and if you listed to me you made a ton of money!
X. 1907 High Relief Double Eagle
I can remember struggling with the decision to make this the tenth
and final coin on my list. High Reliefs are big, beautiful and ďcoolĒ
but they are just so...common. I hated to put a coin on this list that I
knew could be obtained by the truckful at major auctions and
conventions. But this was a list built around cool coins and if a High
Relief isnít a cool coin than what was?
My recommendation was to purchase a nice MS64 and back in 2000 this
coin was obtainable in the $14,000 to $17,000 range. For a number of
years, the market for High Reliefs stayed pretty flat but this coin was
extensively promoted in 2005 and 2006 and it rose in value to a high of
around $35,000-40,000. Today, the market for these has softened and a
nice MS64 High Relief is more likely to sell in the $26,000-28,000
If I were in the market for a High Relief as an investment, Iíd
probably consider buying one now, while prices are somewhat depressed.
Iím guessing that MS64ís could drop as low as around $22,500-25,000 but
at that level there would be enough market support that people would
jump in and start pushing up demand.
So there you have it. Ten Cool Coins revisited seven years later. Had
you bought some or all of these coins you would have tripled your money
and had a pretty neat little coin collection to boot. The best lesson to
learn from this list is that cool coins are always what people will want
to buy, regardless of what series or price range you are discussing.
If you would be interested in assembling a set such as this (or any
other set of United States coins), please do not hesitate to contact me
by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (214) 654-9905.