U.S. gold coins fall into two categories: collectible and bullion. Collectible U.S. gold coins were struck in 1933 and
before. Bullion gold coins have been minted by the U.S. government since 1986. This
article will provide a brief overview of these two fascinating areas, and explain
how their market values are set.
Collectible Gold Coins
The United States struck its first two denominations of gold coins for use as everyday
circulating money more than 200 years ago — in 1795. The higher (face) value, a
$10 coin called an “Eagle,” contained nearly one-half ounce of pure
gold. The lower value, a $5 coin, contained nearly one-quarter ounce of pure gold
and was called a “Half Eagle.”
In 1795, fewer than 6,000 Eagles, and fewer than 9,000 Half Eagles were struck in
the Philadelphia Mint. In addition to their tiny original mintages, two reasons
explain why only a miniscule percentage of these coins have survived for modern
collectors and investors. First, the Mint constantly melted worn and damaged circulated
gold coins and recycled the gold into new coins. Second, the government recalled
all U.S. gold coins from circulation in the early 1930s and melted them. As you
might expect, the Eagles and Half Eagles of 1795 are avidly sought by collectors
and investors. Their market value has risen rapidly into six-figure territory for
Fixed Supply & Rising Demand
The market value of all United States gold coins is set by the interaction of supply
and demand. Coins with tiny supplies and massive demand, like 1795 Eagles and Half
Eagles, command lofty market values.
All pre-1933 gold coins minted by our government are subject to the same laws of
supply and demand as the 1795 Eagles and Half Eagles. The supply of these desirable
coins is forever limited by their original mintage and subsequent governmental melting.
Demand for U.S. gold coins has risen decade after decade as the number of collectors,
investors, and museums interested in obtaining and owning them — both here
and around the globe — has expanded. These two facts explain why the values of
U.S. gold coins have been rising decade after decade.
In the modern marketplace, the value of any pre-1933 U.S. gold coin is determined
by the daily interaction of supply and demand. A huge number of active buyers and
sellers meet and make a transaction each day — in person, on the phone, at coin
conventions, on the Internet, and at auctions. The volume of buying and selling
has risen sharply in the last several decades as the market for U.S. gold coins
has grown well beyond a few million knowledgeable American collectors. Today’s
marketplace also includes millions of domestic and international investors, currency
traders, bankers, hedge fund billionaires, overseas businessmen diversifying their
holdings, savers worried about currency depreciation, grandparents seeking a timeless
asset for their heirs, etc.
The net effect of this widespread buying and selling of pre-1933 U.S. gold coins
determines each coin’s
Popular Pre-1933 U.S. Gold Coins
To receive additional pricing and availability information about pre-1933 U.S. gold
coins call an ITM precious metals consultant 888-OWN-GOLD.
U.S. Gold Bullion Coins
From 1795 to 1933, the U.S. government minted gold coins to be used as everyday
money by Americans. Today, the United States government produces a river of gold
coins – not for circulation, but for sale to bullion investors. Their values
are determined by the movement of gold bullion, a commodity traded around the world
and around the clock.
In 1985, Congress passed the Bullion Coin Act of 1985. The law instructed the Treasury
Department to begin producing and distributing non-circulating gold coins. Produced
in large numbers, the American Eagle family quickly became the investing world’s
most popularly traded gold bullion coins.
American Eagle Gold Coins
The American Eagle family includes coins containing exactly 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and
1 ounce of pure gold. Each gold coin is struck on a 22-karat (91.66 percent) pure
On the front of the current American
Eagle coin is the “Striding Liberty” design. Originally created
by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and used on our nation’s circulating $20 gold coins
from 1907 to 1933. From 1986 to 1991, the year of striking is indicated in Roman
numerals. Arabic numerals have been used since in 1992.
The design on the back is dominated by a large eagle hovering above its nest. Also
on the reverse are the coin’s pure gold content and its face value. The face
value is included solely to meet our nation’s coinage laws.
The U.S. Treasury Department guarantees every American Eagle gold bullion coin for
its weight and pure gold content. This guarantee has helped the American Eagle become
the most popular gold bullion coins in the world.
Produced in virtually unlimited numbers, the American Eagle gold coins are bought
and sold in many thousands of locations in the United States and around the world.
Their government guarantees, widespread availability, and unrivaled worldwide acceptance
have produced a deep and liquid market.
The Value of American Eagle Gold Coins
Gold bullion coins are valued primarily for their gold content. In addition to this
intrinsic value, the U.S. Mint charges its distributors a premium to cover the government’s
minting and distribution costs. American Eagle gold coins are never available at
their face value. The denomination that appears on the coin’s reverse is used
solely to indicate it is legal tender (lawful money) of the United States. When
an American Eagle gold coin has entered the marketplace, it trades according to
its bullion value, which fluctuates every minute of every day.