Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com
CoinWeek Content Partner
In the first part of this article, I discussed the ins and outs of assembling a year set of Liberty Head eagles from 1838 through 1866. In case you’ve already forgotten the premise, it’s that a collector can purchase one example of each year that this denomination/type was produced in order to save money and still be an active participant in this very interesting (and very long-lived) series.
Without further ado, let’s go to the videotape, Bob…
1867: Only two mints struck eagles this year. Philadelphia is rarer and less expensive than San Francisco. I’d go with a nice 1867-P eagle and might even stretch a bit as it is undervalued.
1868: Neither the Philadelphia or San Francisco eagle of this year is hugely rare or even all that interesting. Either one, in EF45 to AU53, seems like a good purchase. Look for a coin with nice original surfaces.
1869: The 1869-P is a rare, low mintage date that is still not all that expensive. I’d go with a nice example with original surfaces and would even stretch for a high end (AU50 or better) example.
1870: This is a numismatically significant year as the Carson City mint began operations. The 1870-CC would be a great choice for this set but it is rare and expensive. The P and S mint eagles are both scarce and undervalued. It is hard to choose from one or the other!
1871: The 1871-CC is among the more affordable eagles from this mint produced before 1880 so it would be a good choice for this set. The 1871-P has a mintage of only 1,820 and it is very undervalued in all grades.
1872: The only affordable eagle dated 1872 is the San Francisco coin which is fairly common up to AU55. The 1872-P is very rare as is the 1872-CC. I’d probably settle for a nice AU 1872-S.
1873: For gold collectors, this is a banner year with many interesting issues. I love the 1873-P with its mintage of 800 and the 1873-CC is one of the three rarest eagles from this mint. Even the 1873-S is scarce but it is the most available of the three. Still, I’d splurge and go for a nice 1873-P.
1874: Mintages increased this year and the 1874-CC is the most available CC eagle struck before 1880. I’d look for a nice example in EF45 to AU55.
1875: The stopper this year is the 1875-P which has a mintage of just 100 business strikes and fewer than ten survivors. San Francisco didn’t make eagles this year so your only realistic option is the 1875-CC which is very scarce but not impossible like the 1875-P.
1876: Another very interesting year with three possible dates available and all scarce. I personally like the 1876 as just 687 business strikes were made. The 1876-S is a sleeper which is far rarer than its mintage of 5,000 would suggest. A nice example of any of the three issues would be a great addition to this year set.
1877: The Philadelphia eagle is very rare (797 struck) while the CC is very scarce. The 1877-S is fairly common but a bit boring. I’d personally look for a nice AU 1877.
1878: Mintages increase beginning with this year as does availability. While the 1878-CC is very rare, the 1878-S is only semi-scarce in AU and the 1878-P is the first date in this set that is actually available in Mint State for less than $10,000+.
1879: For the first time, four mints struck Liberty Head eagles as the New Orleans mint reopened. I personally love the 1879-O, given its very low mintage (1,500 coins) and its numismatic significance. The 1879-CC is very rare also but much more expensive than the 1879-O.
1880: Another four mint year. Nothing struck this year is rare although the CC and O issues are extremely hard to llocate in AU58 and above. I’d select a nice 1880-O or 1880-CC in AU55 to AU58.
1881: Yet another four mint year. The scarcest issue is the 1881-O while the 1881-CC is actually somewhat available in higher grades. I think I’d pursue a nice 1881-CC.
1882: The second to last of the four mint years and another with no real rarities. I would look for a nice 1882-CC or 1882-CC in the middle to upper AU grades.
1883: The last four mint year of the eagle denomination for many years (until 1906) and one with a notable rarity: the 1883-O which had a mintage of only 800 coins. This issue has become quite expensive so it might make sense to look for a nice AU example of the 1883-CC.
1884: The New Orleans mint stopped making gold coins until 1888 so only three mints made eagles this year. The scarcest is the 1884-CC. The 1884-P is a sleeper and I would look for a nice, original MS62.
1885: Only two mints made eagles in 1885. Both are common and not especially interesting.
1886: Same comments as with the 1885. Look for a nice MS62 to MS63 coin.
1887: Ditto. The 1887-P is slightly scarcer and undervalued in MS62 to MS64.
1888: The New Orleans mint restarted production of eagles in 1888 and I’d suggest an 1888-O in MS62. The 1888-P is scarce and undervalued in Uncirculated.
1889: Of the two issues made this year, the 1889-P is the more interesting with a low mintage of only 4,485. It is very rare above MS62.
1890: Carson City resumed production of eagles in 1890 but San Francisco ceased striking this denomination until 1892. I personally like the 1890-CC in the lower Uncirculated grades as a choice for this set.
1891: Only the Philadelphia and Carson City mint made eagles in 1891. The 1891-CC is common in grades up to MS63 and a nice, original example is sure to add some “oomph” to this year set.
1892: After a three year hiatus the New Orleans mint struck eagles again. The 1892-O is available in MS62 for less than $2,500.
1893: As this is the last year that Carson City struck coins, I’d go with an 1890-CC as a ceremonial sign-off to this mint’s coins. It is very rare in Uncirculated but available in AU grades.
1894: For the nest two years, there were three mints making eagles. The 1894-S has a mintage of just 25,000 and it is very underrated.
1895: The same is true with the 1895-S. A nice MS61 to MS62 is a hard coin to find and a good value at current levels.
1896: Now we are back to two issues: Philadelphia and San Francisco. The 1896-S is moderately scarce and probably more interesting than the dirt common 1896.
1897: And now we’re back to three as the New Orleans mint resumed eagle production. I would go with an MS62 1897-O.
1898: A ho-hum year with two common issues, the 1898-P and the 1898-S.
1899: This year sees three issues with the 1899-O being the scarcest and most interesting. This is the hardest of the late date New Orleans eagles to find. Look for a nice MS62 to MS63 example.
1900: New century, two issues, both kind of nondescript. I’d go with the 1900-S.
1901: The 1901-S is the single most available Liberty Head eagle in higher grades. Buy a beautiful MS65 coin so that your set has at least one Gem coin.
1902: Two choices, both boring.
1903: New Orleans resumed operations this year and a nice MS62 to MS63 would make a good addition to the set.
1904: Two choices this year with the New Orleans being the more interesting. I would opt with a nice MS63.
1905: New Orleans didn’t make eagles this year but San Francisco did. The 1905-S is actually a bit of a sleeper.
1906: We are back to a final four issue year as Denver made eagles for the first time in 1906. While the 1906-D is a common coin, I would include a nice Uncirculated piece as it is numismatically significant.
1907: The last year of issue. Three coins are available with the 1907-S being the scarcest. Your choice here, Mr. Eagle.
Do you have questions about assembling a set of Liberty Head eagles? If so please contact Doug Winter by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.