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Beauty? Give me the $20,000

Yesterday I mentioned a collection of ultra-grade Sacagawea dollars.

Today I will return to the topic of the most ultra of the ultra grades because of the courtesy of Ian Russell of

An online auction result at his firm shows how much profit can be earned if by happy accident you get a coin ordered from the U.S. Mint that grades out at the top of the scale.

The coin in question is the 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens gold $20 that the hobby went wild for by ordering almost 115,000 pieces.

That’s a big mintage for an expensive coin. The initial price was about $1,200.

Once purchased, it was delivered and slabbed quickly.

It garnered a Professional Coin Grading Service grade of MS-70 Prooflike First Strike.

The number of coins that have such a high grade is 26, according to Ian.

That works out to .02272 percent of the total number struck.

When his online auction closed Sept. 30, the winning bid was $20,903, including a 10 percent buyer’s fee.

That’s quite profit on the original purchase price.

When prices like this hit the headlines, it is no wonder so many people eagerly send coins off to the grading services to get them slabbed and a grade assigned.

It’s like a lottery where the losing tickets don’t expire worthless. The coins submitted that don’t make the top grades can still be sold for routine prices.

But if only 26 coins make the top cut, you cannot call this a mass collector market. However, it is certainly a mass participation market for collectors who place the original orders at the Mint for specific items that they think will have a chance to reach the top end of the grading scale.

Perhaps we should call it a “Dream Market.” Everybody dreams of winning a lottery.

The 2009 $20 is a beautiful coin even if it doesn’t make the top grade. Many collectors would even call it the most beautiful U.S. coin of all.

Shouldn’t that be enough to satisfy those who bought it?

Perhaps it should be, but it isn’t.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."