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Collecting Graded Gold American Eagles

Graded Gold American Eagle Coins

Prior to 1967, Gold coins from around the world did not contain one troy ounce of Gold. Rather they had a specific amount of Gold based on the value of Gold at that time. For example, when $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle coins were introduced in the United States in 1850, each coin minted contained .9675 oz of pure Gold. That specific weight was used because that is the actual amount of Gold that could be purchased with $20 in 1850, since Gold was trading at $20.67 per troy ounce.

In 1967, South Africa shocked the world’s financial markets by producing the world’s first 1 oz Gold bullion coin. The South African government predicted that the 1967 Krugerrand Gold coin would be well received – and it was. By 1980, the Krugerrand accounted for 90% of the global Gold coin market. But the problem with this seemingly perfect scenario was that South Africa had an official government policy of apartheid. Due to their embrace of this “institutionalized segregation,” many Western nations made it illegal to import Krugerrands. Thus the acceptance of these coins suffered among worldwide investors.

In 1979, Canada saw the opportunity to try and create the most important world Gold bullion coin. They realized the Krugerrand had the stigma of apartheid attached to it, so the Royal Canadian Mint introduced the 1 oz Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin. Canada began distributing their coins worldwide and they quickly gained market share on the Krugerrand.

On August 14, 1974, just five days after taking office from Richard Nixon, President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 93-374, allowing U.S. citizens to once again buy, sell, trade or own Gold coins. The U.S. market and consumers were ready to own Gold coins once again, but our government wasn’t quite ready to compete for worldwide dominance in the Gold coin marketplace.

In fact, it wasn’t until Ronald Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 that our government was ready to compete for the world’s Gold investors. This Act allowed the American Gold Eagle coins to be minted and mandated that all Gold used in these new coins must be from “newly mined domestic sources.”  

The Gold Bullion Coin Act authorized 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz and 1 oz Gold coins. The obverse design is a representation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ classic $20 Gold Double Eagle design, minted from 1907 until 1933. It is widely considered the most beautiful of all American coins. The reverse is a modern design displaying a family of eagles.

The first Gold American Eagle bullion coins were struck in 1986. They have been minted in all four denominations every year since. In the last 33 years, Gold American Eagle bullion coins have become very widely collected because of the collecting interests of both bullion collectors and coin collectors. Complete sets of one of each denomination coin are popular but are expensive as the total set would contain over 61 ounces of Gold! 

 Gold Eagles come in three unique finishes

  1. Uncirculated coins are struck without any special handling. These are the most common and may be difficult to find in the highest grades.
  2. Proof coins are struck using highly polished blanks. Produced in much lower quantities than the Uncirculated version, Proof coins receive special handling and are generally available in higher grades.
  3. Burnished coins are struck on blanks specially prepared to give the coin a matte finish. Like Proof coins, these are struck in small quantities and are handled individually at the mint to ensure high quality throughout production.

As some Gold American Eagle coins in the highest grades can be fairly expensive, an important factor to consider is having those coins graded by either the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). PCGS and NGC are considered the two top-tier, independent, third-party grading services in the world. Only NGC and PCGS have strong dealer networks that support the two-way market for these coins. And only NGC and PCGS grade their coins to specific published grading standards. Their grading standards are consistently accepted worldwide.

NGC- and PCGS-graded Gold American Eagle coins are easy to collect and very easy to liquidate. Populations of each date and mintmark in each collectible grade are published online by both NGC and PCGS.

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