There are some great coins that get very little attention, but there are very few groups of great coins that are generally overlooked. The Coronet Head gold $10 coins of Carson City may very well be one exception to that general observation as few can tell you which dates of Carson City Coronet Head eagles might be more or less available.
The fact is there are very few Carson City Coronet Head gold eagles that could be called even remotely available and that is especially true in Mint State. What few Mint State Carson City Coronet Head eagles might be found can in some cases probably trace their roots to European hoards. One of the reasons the Carson City Coronet Head eagles are so tough to find today is that there was virtually no collecting at the time the coins were issued.
If you go back to the 1870s and 1880s when many Carson City gold eagles were produced, it would be virtually impossible to find any evidence of serious gold eagle collecting. What little, if any gold eagle collecting there was at the time would have been primarily by date and not by date and mint.
In fact, Q. David Bowers has made an effort to determine if there was any gold double eagle collecting at the time by date and mint and he has found basically no indication of even a single serious collector in the United States. Over time that would change, but even decades later there was very little serious interest in gold coins in large part because of the high face values.
The fact that Carson City produced some extremely tough gold eagles over the years was a fact that was easily overlooked. After all, the Carson City reputation is a well-deserved one, but it is for scarce and important silver dollars. The fact that the facility also produced gold coins almost comes as a surprise to many collectors and among those who are aware that Carson City gold coins are usually very tough the focus tends to be on the largest denomination, the double eagle, which started out with an extremely tough date in the form of the 1870-CC.
The Carson City gold eagles are also tough and as you study them it is a bit like taking a trip back in time. Carson City was the troubled mint of the period. In fact, to learn about Carson City you have to go back even further than 1870 when the facility produced its first coin. The story of Carson City really starts in 1859 when Patrick McLaughlin and Peter O’Riley discovered a silver deposit on land claimed by Henry Tompkins Paige Comstock on Mount Davidson. That discovery meant nothing would quite ever be the same in the Nevada Territory.
Once the size of the silver deposit was understood the area began to grow rapidly. As that happened, there was a lobby for a mint to be located on the area. In fact, considering the amount of silver that would emerge from the ground in the Virginia City area, which was the heart of the Comstock Lode, the efforts to have a mint made sense.
After all, when gold was discovered in Georgia and North Carolina that had given rise to the Dahlonega, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C., mints while the Gold Rush in California had produced the San Francisco facility.
About the only difference in Virginia City was that the deposit was silver and not gold and there were no private mints springing up to make private silver coins as had happened with gold.
Events in Washington, D.C., did not happen rapidly. In part, the Congress was never really in a rush to spend money on mints in what it viewed as the middle of nowhere. In addition, there was the Civil War, which at least to lawmakers in Washington, had to seem like a much higher priority than a faraway mint in a place called Virginia City. Eventually, however, the mint was approved and built. This might seem odd given the high importance attached by the Lincoln Administration in bringing Nevada into the Union as a state. This goal was achieved in 1864.
The location chosen for the mint was Carson City which was just outside the heart of the mining activity. It was the state capital. The city, however, was quiet and close enough to the Comstock Lode to be the local mint, but at least to some that was not enough.
Why a mine owner in Virginia City would opt to send his gold and silver all the way to San Francisco instead of Carson City became a central question once the Mint was opened in 1870. This preference caused low mintages at the Carson City facility. It was a question that was never resolved in favor of Carson City. The Mint there closed in 1893. This had nothing to do with the facility itself but everything to do with politics.
A man named Abe Curry was named as the first superintendent of the new facility. Curry was well known for his role in the Gould & Curry mining operation. That was the problem as Curry apparently had more enemies than friends and those enemies swore that they would never send their gold and silver to a place run by Curry. Instead they sent their gold and silver to San Francisco and by the time Curry resigned it was too late as the pattern was established of not dealing with Carson City.
The fact that some of the gold and silver of the Comstock Lode was shipped to San Francisco would explain the regularly surprisingly low mintages at Carson City as it did not have the supplies of silver and gold everyone expected it to get.
In 1870 the facility produced just 5,908 gold eagles while by comparison back in 1854 the new San Francisco facility had managed a total of 123,826. Naturally, San Francisco would be expected to put its emphasis on gold coins, but realistically from the first production, the potential troubles at Carson City were seen in the mintages.
As is often the case, the historic 1870-CC gold eagle is probably even tougher than its mintage suggests. It is priced at $13,000 in VF-20 and $52,500 in AU-50.
The Professional Coin Grading Service reports just 44 examples seen in any grade and none of them was called Mint State. In fact, only one coin even managed a grade of AU-55, which shows clearly that the average Carson City gold eagle tended to see a good deal of use before being saved.
Under normal circumstances an average gold eagle was likely to not get a lot of wear. From 1879 on it was primarily used as reserves as average people merrily used the more convenient National Bank Notes and other types of paper notes that were once again trading at par with gold coin following the end of the Civil War inflation period. Consequently, it was somewhat unusual for a coin to pick up enough wear to drop significantly in grade.
The Carson City gold eagles starting with the 1870-CC are the exception as they seemed to reach circulation and once in circulation it appears that they stayed there as many are in lower grades than is normally the case.
In 1871 the gold eagle mintage at Carson City rose to 8,085 – if you can call that an increase. That puts the 1871-CC at $2,600 in VF-20 today, with an MS-60 listed at $65,000. Once again the PCGS totals are low, with 59 examples graded with one surprising coin being called an MS-62 while no others topped AU-55.
The 1872 mintage of gold eagles at Carson City dropped to 4,600 pieces which means an 1872-CC lists for $2,850 in VF-20 while an AU-50 is placed at $24,500. In this case PCGS has seen just 38 coins and none was better than AU-58.
The 1873-CC had a similar 4,543 mintage with even poorer results in terms of availability as is reflected in a $6,000 VF-20 price and an AU-50 lists for $31,000. PCGS reports just 44 examples graded but none in Mint State, with the nicest 1873-CC being just an AU-53.
That caps off the first four years of output where the facility produced fewer than 25,000 gold eagles. Based on the PCGS totals, only one or two coins of that total manage to reach Mint State today. There are probably others, but not many, and that is a good indication of how tough Carson City gold eagles really are in top grades.
In terms of mintages, the 1874-CC at 16,767 is a definite jump. Realistically, however, that total is hardly high, but it does mean that you can acquire the 1874-CC for just $1,150 in VF-20 making it the first Carson City gold eagle you can find for around $1,000 in VF-20. In MS-60 the 1874-CC lists for $52,500. That isn’t cheap. The 1874-CC is not readily available as PCGS reports just a single MS-63.
The 1875-CC saw a mintage decline to 7,715, although that is still low. In fact, the 1875-CC is more costly than the mintage suggests as it lists for $4,250 in VF-20 and an MS-60 is at $71,500. The PCGS total of 62 pieces is higher than some other dates but all were circulated, making the 1875-CC another date where PCGS has yet to see an example in Mint State.
The 1876-CC drops back to a mintage of 4,696. This results in a VF-20 price of $3,600 while an AU-50 is listed at $21,500. The PCGS total graded is higher at 79 examples graded, but once again none of the 79 was Mint State.
The 1877-CC at 3,332 and the 1878-CC at 3,244 are similar in mintage but the 1878-CC is more expensive at $3,850 in VF-20 while the 1877-CC is at $2,400 in the same grade. Of course, neither has been seen in Mint State at PCGS while the total number seen in both cases is at less than 50 pieces, making them somewhat tougher than their prices suggest especially in the case of the 1877-CC where the number seen by PCGS stands at just 38 coins.
In 1879 the Coronet Head eagle mintage total would fall to just 1,762 pieces in Carson City. It is hard to point to any specific reason for the lower total, although at the time Carson City and all other facilities as well had been ordered to produce Morgan dollars in large numbers.
The silver dollar is a difficult coin to make and from 1879 on we would see the mintages for many denominations drop for over a decade while the facilities were otherwise engaged producing Morgan dollars.
The low mintage makes the 1879-CC a $6,650 coin in VF-20 while an AU-50 lists for $26,000. As might be expected, PCGS has not seen a Mint State example and in all other grades combined the total stands at just 31, so the 1879-CC is as tough as its low mintage suggests.
The 1880-CC is the first relatively available Carson City gold eagle date thanks in part to a mintage of 11,190, which puts it at $625 in VF-20. In MS-60 the 1880-CC is $15,500 and that is possible because PCGS reports three examples graded MS-60 or MS-61 out of a total of 118 seen.
It is very possible that the 1880-CC was a date found in small numbers in European bank vaults as while the mintage was higher it is still hardly massive. As dates from 1880 or later were more common especially in top grades in the bank vaults of Europe it is certainly possible that the 1880-CC was found in at least small numbers to help the current supply.
The 1881-CC with a mintage of 24,015 is available at $680 in VF-20 with an MS-60 at just $6,850. The numbers graded by PCGS tell the story as the Mint State total for the 1881-CC stands at 13 out of a large total of 218 graded – almost twice the total of any previous date.
The 1882-CC saw a mintage decline to just 6,764, which results in a $985 price in VF-20 and $3,250 in AU-50. The 1882-CC is available with PCGS reporting 105 examples but none was Mint State.
The 1883-CC and 1884-CC are available as is reflected in prices of $734 and $754, respectively in VF-20. Both are known in MS-60 but they are not common with prices of $22,500 and $12,850, respectively.
The higher numbers graded of these early 1880s dates are almost certainly a result of European bank vault discoveries. There were certainly not enough collectors in the 1880s or the decades that followed to account for over 100 examples of some of these dates. In fact, the collectors of the day would have been lucky to save 10 percent of the totals graded just by PCGS. The coins had to come from somewhere and the likely sources are European banks as Carson City gold coins were among the first to be purchased by American dealers when they arrived in Europe to see what treasures might be found.
The next Carson City Coronet Head eagle would not be produced until 1890 as it was a period when Carson City was basically out of operation in terms of coin production. The facility would go back on line in 1890 and the 1890-CC would have a mintage of 17,500, which makes it a $674 date in VF-20 and $3,850 in MS-60. The reason for the lower prices is again Europe as the 1890-CC has been graded 257 times and 65 of that number were called Mint State.
The European vaults almost certainly played a role in the final Carson City Coronet Head gold eagle availability. That availability was helped in the case of the 1891-CC as it was the one Carson City date to top 100,000 for a mintage and it has been graded over 600 times in Mint State by PCGS.
With probably fewer than a dozen active collectors of gold eagles by date and mint at the time they were produced we can certainly assume those few collectors did not save the 600 examples of the 1891-CC in Mint State.
The 1892-CC and 1893-CC are not as available. They do, however, continue to show the pattern of European supplies influencing the available numbers in all grades today.
The final few years of Carson City Coronet Head gold eagle mintages have provided a decent supply of nicer type coins for collectors of today.
While it is possible to obtain the later dates and especially the 1891-CC, the fact remains that the Carson City gold eagles are an extremely tough group, which reflects the problems of the Carson City facility. While Carson City might be more famous for its silver coins, the fact is that date-for-date the truly tough coins from Carson City were the gold issues like the Coronet Head gold eagle.