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How to Begin Collecting Early Gold

January 27th, 2012 Coins

When numismatists talk about "early gold," they are typically referring to Eagle coins produced in Philadelphia between 1795 and 1834. Although many of these pieces tend to be somewhat expensive, there is a certain pride that comes with owning an early gold coin. Writing for CoinWeek, Doug Winter lists 14 of these coins that collectors are most avid about finding - six quarter eagles, six half eagles and two eagles. Many early gold coins break the six figure mark, making them hotly-pursued items among a wide spectrum of collectors. Because you're dealing with high-value coins, it's important that you do your homework. Here's a guide on how to begin the process.

1. Compile reference works. Winters recommends going out and picking up a number of reference works before you even think about buying an early gold coin. Doing so is important, as it can help you gauge the relative value of a piece you're considering against how the market has reacted to it in the past. Although there aren't very many books specifically about early gold coins, the Harry Bass Research Foundation's website is filled with high-quality images that can help you determine what specific piece you're dealing with.

Perhaps the best sources to learn about early gold values are auction catalogs from the past. Several auctions in the past few decades have featured a number of early gold coins. The best way to go about finding these catalogs is to contact dealers who specialize in coin books and asking them if they can help you compile them.

2. Decide what you will collect. There are a couple of ways to "format" an early gold coin collection - you can either pick a specific series (quarter, half or full eagle) and collect it by date, or you can pick a certain type (quarter Eagle, no stars on observe) and try to compile as many as possible. According to the source, collecting early gold coins by type is the more difficult choice of the two, as some pieces are very rare and difficult to find.

Of course, the decision you make also needs to be informed by how large your budget is. If you don't have a tremendous amount of money to throw around, it may be best to stick with less expensive coins in a particular time period. If you do a bit of research, you should develop a good idea of what kinds of prices you'll be dealing with.

3. How to get the coins. After all this preparation, you may be wondering how you go about getting your hands on these pieces. You essentially have two options - you can find a specialized dealer that you're willing to work extensively with, or you can keep your eye on the auction circuit and see if any interesting pieces come up.

Once again, your budget will come into play when making this decision. If the coins you're looking for are especially rare, you may find auctions to be a bit out of your price range. A dealer, on the other hand, can help you find what you're looking for, and the fee usually won't be enough to break the bank. However, if you're in the market for particularly expensive and rare early gold coins, you're going to want to check out the auctions. You'll end up paying quite a bit for your piece, but many coins are difficult to find anywhere else.