Best Buy: San Francisco $20 Liberties
The California Gold Rush was a pivotal event in U.S. history. It shifted America’s attention westward, resulted in California becoming a state, spurred the construction of transcontinental railroads, and had a profound impact on the nation’s economy. The Gold Rush’s influence can also be seen in numismatics. Both the $20 Liberty Double Eagle and the San Francisco Mint were established to help convert California gold into coinage.
Due to this historical connection, $20 ‘Libs’ struck at San Francisco have become coveted collectibles. However, few numismatists realize how scarce they are compared to their Philadelphia counterparts. After performing research on the series, we discovered around a dozen San Francisco dates are 25-50 times rarer than the more common 1904-P struck in Philadelphia. Yet, you can buy them for a small premium. While we feel MS62 $20 Liberties are undervalued in general, these rarer San Francisco dates emerged as true bargains.
We’re excited to offer a limited quantity of scarce-date San Francisco $20 Liberties in MS62.
These big, beautiful coins are all uncirculated, contain nearly an ounce of gold, and are significantly less available than the common 1904 issue. For just a small percentage more than the ‘generic’ price level, these scarce and historic San Francisco $20 Liberties represent tremendous value.
We have been able to put together a small number of coins (just over 60) in MS62 grade, minted at the San Francisco Mint. And, we are able to offer them to you (delivered) for what we feel is a great value.* Call 800-831-0007 to get yours today.
Note: You can see the ‘S’ just above the D in DOLLARS at the bottom, on the reverse (back) side of the coin above.
History and Rarity
From the beginning of the California Gold Rush, the question was, “What should be done with all the newly discovered gold?” Miners needed a way to convert their findings into cash and merchants needed a trustworthy, uniform currency. Initially, private assayers, refineries and mints filled this void. Independent firms would take in raw gold from miners, determine the weight and purity and then pay out the market value in cash. These companies would also issue coins and ingots that merchants could use in everyday trade.
While these private outfits were mostly reliable and accurate, the average citizen preferred government-issued coins. Congress acted quickly and authorized the $20 gold piece in March 1849. Up until this point, the largest coin denomination was the $10 Eagle, which was made in sporadic quantities in the 1840s. Realizing the colossal volume of gold being extracted and entering everyday commerce, it was decided to start making a $20 Double Eagle.
Just one Double Eagle was made in 1849; it was struck in proof and retained by the United States government. Today, that coin is on display at the Smithsonian Museum. Many numismatists value it at 5 to 10 million dollars.
Double Eagle production did not begin in earnest until 1850, when the Philadelphia and New Orleans mints began striking the $20 coin for circulation. While these two facilities struck a decent chunk of Double Eagles, they couldn’t handle the overwhelming amount of gold on the market. Furthermore, transporting the gold from California was time-consuming and treacherous.
Finally, in 1852, President Millard Fillmore recommended that a branch mint be established in San Francisco. This move was not without precedent; after gold was discovered in North Carolina and Georgia, branch mints were opened there too. This time, however, the sheer volume of gold to be converted into gold coins was much greater.
In 1854, the San Francisco Mint opened its doors and produced over $4 million in gold pieces in its first year of operation.
On a personal note, I visited the San Francisco Mint last year, and I encourage you to do the same. It was really something to stand where gold miners would bring their gold dust and nuggets to be turned into coins, or to see the marks on the vault walls where bags of coins had been stacked well over century ago.
As the 19th century continued, California gold production began to decline. The ‘low hanging fruit’ of the Gold Rush had already been picked, and miners required more sophisticated methods to extract metal from the earth. Gone were the days of individual 49ers panning for gold. Miners were forced to use more advanced methods like hydraulic jets and dredging. Furthermore, the 1859 discovery of silver in Nevada drew many of the individual prospectors away from California.
Despite the limited gold production, the San Francisco Mint continued operations. However, mintages varied considerably year to year depending on local demand for coins and the volume of gold deposits. Double Eagles were struck virtually every year, but the facility quickly dropped Gold Dollars, Quarter Eagles and Three Dollar pieces from its repertoire. Even $5 and $10 coins were struck in varying quantities.
The lower mintages tell only half the story as to why San Francisco gold coins can be extremely scarce. Numismatists have discovered an interesting phenomenon involving survival rates. In 1894, for example, the Philadelphia Mint made 1.37 million Double Eagles while San Francisco struck 1.05 million pieces. Yet, based on PCGS and NGC population reports, it appears that 2-3 times as many 1894-P Double Eagles survived compared to the 1894-S.
One theory is Philadelphia coins were more likely to be preserved in bank vaults, while San Francisco coins had a greater tendency to be melted, lost or destroyed. Numismatists have always wondered if the 1906 San Francisco earthquake had something to do with this phenomenon as well.
Rarity and Market Values
Over the past decade or so, $20 Liberty Double Eagles in MS62 have commanded a substantial premium compared to melt. For much of 2005, generic $20 Libs in MS62 were trading for more than double their melt value. Premiums contracted somewhat in 2006, but nonetheless still maintained an average premium of 70-90% over melt. The MS62 $20 Lib continued to escalate in value in 2007 as spot gold rose, reaching a value of $1,300 in December 2007 basis gold at $800/ounce. This $500 premium over spot expanded over the next two years, with the premium reaching over $1,000/ounce by late 2009.
In other words, for every $1 gold increase, the MS62 $20 Libs gained $2 in value.
Premiums oscillated in 2010 and 2011, but on average, MS62 $20 Libs remained at a $700-$1,000 premium over melt. With gold in the $1,000-$1,200 range, the coins were fetching $1,900-$2,100. After peaking at over $2,500 in late 2011, MS62 $20 Libs corrected in 2012 and early 2013. However, premiums expanded again in 2013. Remarkably, when gold declined in the spring of 2013, MS62 $20 Libs actually held their values. Premiums again rose to $1,000 per ounce.
Today, MS62 $20 Libs are trading for appreciably less than their all-time high of $2,500/coin. In fact, the last time they were this reasonable was in 2009—when gold was in the $1,000-$1,200 range. Compared to melt, they are at some of the lowest values we’ve seen over the past ten years. At just a 50% premium over melt, these numismatically and historically significant coins are superb buys.
To maximize upside, we can recommend scarcer-date San Francisco Mint coins from the 1890s and early 1900s. As the PCGS and NGC population reports have demonstrated, only a small fraction of all pieces minted remain in existence today: an even smaller percentage survive in MS62 condition. We were fortunate to stumble upon a group of dates that are 25 to 85 times rarer than the most common 1904 date. While we feel all MS62 $20 Liberties are prices attractively, these scarce dates are dramatically undervalued.
The chart above outlines some of the MS62 San Francisco Mint dates we are offering today, and compares them to the most common date MS62 $20 Liberty, the 1904.
Take Advantage of this Opportunity…
In summary, these San Francisco $20 Liberties offer investors multiple ways to win. In addition to being a gold play, they have the potential to appreciate numismatically as well. Not only do they have a fascinating historical connection to the Gold Rush, but they are also substantially rarer than ‘generic’ MS62 $20 Liberties. Despite being much rarer, they are currently available at a miniscule premium. We don’t expect these low premiums to last long—or the limited numbers of coins we have available.
MS62: Please call for pricing and availability.
or email me today
to purchase your coins and to take advantage of this opportunity.
*Prices subject to change due to product availability and market fluctuation.