A Guide to Collecting Pre-1933 Gold and Rare Coins

If you are looking to invest in Pre-1933 gold and rare coins but aren’t sure where to start, this helpful guide will give you a great starting point.

Why are Pre-1933 gold coins so special?

First of all, it is important to know that when the United States was minting these coins, there were actually three denominations of U.S. currency: Cents, Dollars, and Eagles. There were one hundred cents in a dollar (like how it is today), and ten dollars in an eagle. That is why you will see some Pre-1933 gold and rare coins referred to as “Quarter Eagle,” “Half Eagle,” “Eagle,” and “Double Eagle.” Aside from the investment benefits of their gold content, Pre-1933 gold coins are attractive to collectors for their collectibility and historical significance. These factors are what give pre-1933 gold a premium over its melt value.

Pre-1933 $1 Gold Coins

These coins are relics of an America when the currency was still tied to gold and silver. Some Pre-1933 gold coins are rare, and rare coins will have a higher premium than more common Pre-1933 gold coins. For example, a 1904 $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle is very common and will not have a significant premium over the gold content. The same can be said for a 1927 $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. However, an 1881 $20 Liberty Head - even in worn condition - can go for tens of thousands of dollars. It is one of the rare coins.

Because of low mintages, coins minted at the U.S. Mint in Carson City, Nevada are more desirable to collectors, and will garner a premium. It is essential to learn about each series ahead of time before you buy in order to develop a full appreciation for the collection you are building. More information on specific series of Pre-1933 gold coins can be found on NGC’s or PCGS’s websites, and you can check out our guide to collecting Indian Quarter Eagles here.

Pre-1933 Classic Quarter Eagle

Should I Buy Certified or Raw Coins?

The question of whether to buy certified or raw coins is an important one to ask yourself when building your Pre-1933 collection. Both certified and raw coins each offer their own benefits. While certified coins are guaranteed to be authentic, impartially assigned a numerical grade and sealed in an airtight holder, raw coins are generally cheaper and appeal to collectors who like to physically feel gold in their hands.

When it comes down to it, the type of collection you intend to build should dictate whether you buy certified or raw coins. If you are looking to include key date (rare, high premium) coins in your collection, you should probably buy certified coins in order to guarantee their authenticity. Certified coins also have a higher resale value than raw coins. However, if you are planning on buying Pre-1933 coins mostly for investment purposes or if you are building a casual collection (foregoing key dates), you might rather stick with raw coins. You must ask yourself what kind of collection you would like to build before deciding whether to buy certified for raw coins.

Pre-1933 Classic Half Eagle

How Should I Collect Pre-1933 Gold Coins?

As you might have found out by now, there are many different ways to collect Pre-1933 gold coins. There are $1, $2.5, $3, $4, $5, $10, and $20 denominations, and almost every denomination has had different designs over the years. Pre-1933 gold was minted from 1795 until 1933. Some collectors build type sets - a set containing one coin from each type of design within each denomination. This is a more practical type of collection, instead of amassing a large, potentially expensive collection of each date and mint mark combination for a type of coin.

Pre-1933 Eagles

Some collectors build smaller sets, such as coins from a specific year of significance. Other collectors build sets by type of design, such as one Indian design quarter eagle ($2.5), half eagle ($5), and eagle ($10). Certain collectors even collect by condition, buying the same type of coin in brilliant uncirculated, about uncirculated, extra fine, and very fine condition. This is especially helpful to the new collector who may learn something about grading coins from this exercise.

Although there are many ways to collect coins, what is most important is that you do it in a way that you, the collector, will get the most out of.  Do you enjoy rare coins? To learn more about Pre-1933 gold and rare coins, click here. To get started or keep building your collection, you can check out our collection of Pre-1933 gold coins here.