There are any number of really tough gold coins. In some cases they command extremely high prices while in others the prices may be high but certainly reasonable when you realize what you are getting. That is probably the case with the 1886 Coronet Head double eagle.
The reported mintage of the coin is a mere 1,000 pieces with a suggested mintage of 106 proofs. In this case, we cannot be precise but we do know that there was a proof total with the proofs of 1886 having the date logotype punched lower than the business strikes where the first digit is centered between the neck and the dentils.
Whether you are looking at a Proof-65 or a business strike, the 1886 is basically as tough as its mintage would suggest. After all, with a mintage of 1,000 there were not many pieces to go around and it was a $20, which is far too high a face value for the collectors of the time.
Even if every single one made had landed in the hands of a collector, the supply would be inadequate. We see that all the time with coins like the $5 Jackie Robinson commemorative business strike where the mintage was under 5,000. For a modern commemorative gold set, you do not even need the BU as you can buy the proof, but nevertheless, the BU has soared to $2,900. You have to think that under the circumstances the 1886 double eagle would cost a fortune.
The 1886 is not cheap. A Proof-65 lists for $105,000. Despite the mintage of about 100 you would still expect the proof to be the most available coin in top grade. The Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 16 proofs and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation 15. With the proofs being notoriously tough, these totals are not low. Of course, the price tag is not that low either, but it seems to be in line with other proof gold double eagles of the period.
The business strike is another matter. In VF-20, the 1886 lists for $10,500 while an EF-40 is $18,500. An MS-60 is $70,000. When you consider what you are buying, those prices do not seem all that high and anyone considering a purchase can probably be thankful that the 1886 was produced at Philadelphia. That was the center of collecting activity and some coins would have been saved. If a double eagle with this mintage had been produced at a branch mint, the odds are it would be much scarcer and higher priced.
Philadelphia was the only mint to produce double eagles in 1886. That was unusual. Further, it was not well done. Contact marks are typical.
Some estimates put the number of business strikes that have survived at 25 to 40 pieces. The grading services may be the best indicators. At NGC, 20 have been seen. What is interesting is that of that number one was an MS-61 and one was an MS-65. The others were all circulated. At PCGS 22 have been seen, with three reaching MS-60 or better.
The small number of uncirculated examples is very interesting as well as the high proportion of lower circulated grades. Obviously, the coin did circulate. With so few examples surviving, collectors can’t be too picky.
The 1886 is a very tough coin worth its current prices. It is, however, nice in that it is an extremely tough coin, but one that can be found in all grades. That is not always true of low mintage gold.
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