Compared to their small denomination counterparts, larger United States gold coins can be quite difficult to find in higher grades. This is a result of basic physics: the more surface area a coin has, the more likely it is to pick up marks, scratches and other defects. Furthermore, larger gold coins were often shipped and stored in bags instead of rolls resulting in deep contact marks from bumping against each other.
This article will provide a basic overview of the larger gold design types ($5, $10 and $20 issues) and how scarce they are in higher grades.
Early $5 Half Eagles 1795-1838: Simply put, these are wildly rare in lofty Mint State grades. Any MS 65 early Half Eagle is bound to be worth tens of thousands at minimum value. MS 66 and MS 67 specimens on the other hand are very rare.
Liberty Half Eagles 1839-1908: This series can be located in MS 65 and MS 66 with relative ease. A nice MS 65 will likely cost $2500-$3000. The most likely dates to be encountered in Gem Uncirculated are in the 1900-1908 year range. MS 67 specimens are quite scarce but they do appear on the market from time to time.
Indian Half Eagles 1908-1929: Due to its unusual incused design, this format of $5 Half Eagle is actually rarer in Gem Uncirculated than the Liberty Half Eagle. $5 Indians are more likely to pick up contact marks and less likely to have strong luster; therefore Gems are quite scarce (and worth $8000-$10000 at a minimum).
Early Eagles 1795-1804: Early Half Eagles are extremely tough to find in Gem Uncirculated, but the $10 Eagle is even rarer. A true MS 65 Early $10 is easily a six figure item. In 2016, a spectacular 1795 $10 Eagle in MS 66+ fetched as astounding $2.585 million.
Liberty Eagles 1838-1907: These are a little trickier to find than Gem half eagles, but high-grade examples do exist and can still be located with relative ease. Figure an MS 65 piece will run in the $2750-$4250 range and an MS 66 will cost $7000-$9000. In MS 67 this design type is very rare.
Liberty Double Eagles 1850-1907: Despite being so large, these coins are still abundant in MS 65. Almost every Gem Uncirculated $20 “Lib” is dated 1904 and is worth around $2500-$3000 today. MS 66 coins are a little tougher than their $5 and $10 counterparts and are worth $7500-$9500 or so. This design is wildly rare in MS 67; sometimes a year or two can pass before a specimen appears on the market.
Saint Gaudens Double Eagle 1907-1933: This is far and away the most common United States gold coin in ultra-high grades. At any given time, one can buy hundreds of MS 65 “Saints” and sometimes 100+ MS 66 pieces too. Even MS 67s surface onto the market with regularity. The most frequently seen dates in high grades are 1908 and 1924.