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Putting Together a Killer Civil War Era Set (Part 2: 1863-1865)

Registry Set Guide:

We wrap up our two-part examination of PCGS' latest Registry Set, the "Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes (1861-1865)", by focusing on the years 1863-1865. If you didn't get a chance to read Part One, or would like a refresher, you can find it here.

Like in the first part, we build three versions of the set: one for the discriminating collector, with a typical grade of Mint State 65; one for a collector looking to put together a challenging set with tremendous upside potential at Mint State 63; and finally, an About Uncirculated "everyman" set that contains all of the rare dates and mints, but does so conscientiously. For the AU set, this means that you'll have to find many of the coins in raw form and submit them to PCGS. And while this does add to the difficulty, it also adds to the fun.

In the following analysis, you'll see that completing this themed set with MS-65 or comparatively high-graded examples will take tremendous patience and capital. For a little less than a fifth of the price, a collector interested in quality can put together an impressive set at MS-63 (save a few conditionally-rare issues where we drop the recommended grade to XF or AU). For those looking to assemble a high-end circulated set, the AU-50 tier can be put together, on average, for less than $850 per coin (which is inflated to take into account several 19th century key-date coins).

1861-1862: Two-Year Summary

Total Coins: 21

Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes: 1861-1862 Issues – Estimated Cost to Complete

Tier I: AU-50 Set*

Tier II: MS-63 Set*

Tier III: MS-65 Set*




(* 1861-S 25c in VF, XF, AU-50. 1862-S 10c in VF, XF, MS-63. 1862-S 25c VF, XF, MS-63. 1862-S 50c AU-50, MS-63, MS-64)

A quick summary of the first part, for comparison's sake.

Will this pricing trend hold up through the rest of the war years? Let's find out!

1863: A Meeting at the Devil's Den

Total Coins: 10

Key Pieces: 1863 and 1863-S dimes; 1863 dollar

Easy Pulls: 1863 cent and half dime

Notes: Higher mintage numbers for certain San Francisco issues do not portend current availability.

Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes: 1861-1862 Issues – Estimated Cost to Complete

Tier I: AU-50 Set*

Tier II: MS-63 Set*

Tier III: MS-65 Set*




(*1863-S Dime in MS-63, MS-62 and AU-55, 1863-S Half Dollar in MS-64, MS-63, and AU-55, 1863 Dollar in MS-64, MS-63, and AU-55)


After declaring slaves held in occupied Southern territory "contraband of war"[1] in the Emancipation Proclamation, Congress and the President dug in for another year of fighting. Determined to take the fight to the North, Confederate General Robert E. Lee launched a second northern invasion, culminating in the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, which saw more than 8,000 Union and Confederate troops killed and more than 27,000 wounded. The loss was seen as a missed political and military opportunity for the South. While the fighting took place, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens attempted to present Lincoln with the terms of peace. Seeing the tide of war turn after Gettysburg, Lincoln refused to hear him, and chose instead to continue prosecuting the war in order to win outright. European countries, which the Confederacy hoped would give them moral and material support through recognition, decided not to side with the South (although war between Great Britain and the U.S. almost broke out in 1861!). By the end of 1863, Union forces won a major strategic victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. The stage was set for Sherman's March and the world's first glimpse of modern total warfare.

Numismatically, 1863 saw a significant drop in production in Philadelphia. Specie was hoarded as double-digit inflation gripped the North (inflation rates were ten times higher in the South), which means that more examples of low-mintage Philadelphia output exist than one would assume. On the other hand, for some denominations, San Francisco produced ten times or more silver coins than Philadelphia. But that doesn't make these denominations necessarily more common. This is especially true for Mint State examples, since San Francisco strikes were widely used in commerce.

The Coins:

Another year, another common-date Indian Head cent. The 1863 issue's mintage of 49,840,000 represents the highest total for cents minted during the copper-nickel period. Most surviving uncirculated specimens fall in the MS-63 to MS-64 range, making the MS-65 a premium coin, with specimens selling in the $850-$1,000 range. But with more than 200 examples graded by PCGS, availability is not scarce, and cherry-picking for quality is recommended. The coin trades at roughly the same price in MS-62 to MS-63 before nearly doubling in price at MS-64. The midrange buyer should look for an attractive piece just under $200. In AU, the coin is easily acquired for $60-$70.

Trime production fell off after 1862, beginning the slow demise of the tiny silver denomination. With a mintage of just 21,000, PCGS estimates a total surviving mintage of 500 pieces with 200 or fewer in Mint State. That said, PCGS has graded fewer than 80 uncirculated examples, with most of them grading between MS-64 and MS-66. However, these grades are probably not typical.

2012 has been a good year for the trime, as there have been a handful of auctions for quality pieces (not usually the case). Collectors looking for an MS-65 example will likely find themselves spending around $3,000 for a quality piece with good eye appeal. Some budget relief comes to those buying at MS-63. And the difference between a quality, problem-free AU coin and an example in Mint State is minimal. AU set collectors would be well-advised to consider MS-63 if a piece is priced just right.

Besides the 1865, the 1863 half dime has the lowest mintage of all half dimes in this registry set so far. Much of what survives is on the low-end of circulated, but PCGS has seen more than 100 Mint State examples, most of which fall in the MS-63 to MS-65 range. Auction prices for the Philly strike start at $600 for MS-62 and step up incrementally to $1000 at MS-64, before taking a modest jump in MS-65 ($1,500). The price then gradually steps up again until you get to top-pop (census 3) MS-68.

The MS-68 piece highlighted by PCGS CoinFacts has luminescent, indigo peripheral toning on both the obverse and reverse that transitions into hues of orange and gold. This kind of toning is found on several Mint State examples with high eye appeal.

Collectors relying solely on mintage numbers might be surprised to find that the 1863-S half dime, while much more common than the Philly in circulated grades, is scarcer in Mint State than people realize. Quality also tends to be a problem, with only ten coins grading MS-65 or above. Mint State coins trade infrequently, so cherry-picking for quality will require patience and dealers familiar with the issue looking out for you.

The mintage/availability paradox that we see with the 1863 half dimes is a prelude to the scarcity situation of the 1863 dimes. The Philly strike has a low mintage of 14,000 pieces. PCGS has graded 30 examples in Mint State while grading only 11 examples of the 1863-S, which had a mintage of 157,500. The San Francisco issues were actively used in trade, in circulated condition; surviving numbers are what you'd expect. In Gem, however, the coin is one of the 19th century's condition-rarity key dates, with a population of one in MS-65 and one in MS-65+.

Either of these pieces would likely clear $40,000 if offered for sale. In MS-63, the coin still commands close to five figures, with the most recent example selling at a Bowers & Merena auction in 2009 for $9,200. The Philadelphia issue survives at a disproportionately high rate based on its mintage, as the coin was hoarded. Still, both issues are scarce in higher grades, which will prove challenging to collectors looking to build a set filled with gems. Tier I and II collectors will get a break on prices, but they'll have to be patient since these coins are not always on the market.

The quarter was struck exclusively in Philadelphia in 1863. 191,600 were manufactured; it's believed that only 100 or so remain in Mint State. The quality of this pool of survivors is good, with the typical PCGS-graded coin coming in at MS-64 or 65. Price-wise, the 1863 quarter tends to take a $2,000 leap per grade from MS-64 through MS-66 (top pop). Two pieces at MS-66 were offered by Heritage in 2012, and both sold for under PCGS's price of $8,000. One had several naked-eye visible die clash images and some toning, while the other was frosty and white.

The most abundant silver coins of 1863 were the Philadelphia and San Francisco half dollars. Philadelphia struck up just over half a million, while San Francisco turned out 916,000. San Francisco halves were widely circulated, leaving few in Mint State. The quality of these survivors tends to be poor to average, with PCGS certifying only one coin at MS-65 and no examples at MS-64+. The preserved Phillies tend to come a point better, with the typical problem-free uncirculated coin falling somewhere between MS-63 and MS-65. Both mintages trade infrequently and examples with better eye appeal tend to be reserved for private sales and premier auctions.

If you've made it this far into the set, then you probably already know what to expect from the 1863 dollar. The mintage balloons from 11,540 pieces to 27,200... not much of an increase, but thankfully, this date has enough graded examples in the lower mint states to keep the price down (about $6,000 in MS-63). In Mint State 64, you will see a significant bump in price as only three coins grade higher. At MS-65, PCGS estimates the current market value at $60,000, based on the hammer price of one of two examples in the grade, which sold for just under that.

You'd have to reach further back to find a higher-grade example (of which there are four) at auction. PCGS has graded one superior specimen at MS-67 and four pieces at MS-66 (the second, and "brighter", of two CoinFacts examples at MS-66, cert #21572855, has everything you could ask for in terms of strike, planchet quality, and color).

1864: "You are probably a Christian"

Total Coins: 14

Key Pieces: Both dimes; 1864-S quarter; dollar

Easy Pulls: Copper-Nickel and Bronze Indian Head cent; Two-Cent Piece

Notes: Multiple configurations of the cent and the introduction of the two-cent piece; debut of IN GOD WE TRUST on our national coinage.

Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes: 1861-1862 Issues – Estimated Cost to Complete

Tier I: AU-50 Set

Tier II: MS-63 Set*

Tier III: MS-65 Set*




(1864-S quarter in AU, AU, and MS-64)


Lee's forces faced constant harassment from Grant, who doggedly followed him through rural Virginia, culminating in a prolonged siege of Petersburg. To the southwest, General William Tecumseh Sherman mercilessly carved a 60-mile wide and 300-mile long path through Georgia, destroying infrastructure and razing farmland, and ultimately set Atlanta on fire after destroying Confederate military installations. The South was desperate to settle the issue of the war, but Lincoln stood steadfast in his belief that the country should be reunited and that slavery should be abolished.

Abraham Lincoln is re-elected in November, beating his former General, the ineffectual George B. McClellan.

Inflation and specie hoarding continued into 1864. A new denomination, the two-cent copper coin, was introduced, bearing the inscription IN GOD WE TRUST. The motto was implemented at the behest of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, prompted by a letter from Pennsylvania preacher Reverend M. R. Watkinson, who wrote in part:

"You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the all seeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW."

Mercifully, Chase did not force James Longacre to realize Watkinson's total vision for the new coin. Instead, the Treasury Secretary opted for a wreathed federal shield with crossed arrows, surmounted by a ribbon on which is inscribed IN GOD WE TRUST.

The Coins:

1864 starts with three Indian cent type coins. The first is the Variety 2 Copper-Nickel Indian cent, which marked the end of the composition's five year production. 13,740,000 were struck.

This coin, like all other coins struck by the Philadelphia Mint, was a casualty of massive hoarding during the war. Owing to this, privately produced copper tokens began to circulate in the East and Midwest. Congress responded by changing the composition of the cent to a thinner 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc bronze alloy. They also put the private token manufacturers out of business by outlawing the practice of issuing private tokens for commercial transactions.

The bronze cent of 1864 is split into the two other varieties. The first is a continuation of the design used since 1860. The second includes the initial L, belonging to James B. Longacre, the coin's designer.

This last cent ("With L") is relatively scarce, but PCGS has graded more than 130 examples at MS-65 and above. In Gem, the coin typically commands $1,500 to $1,600 with examples displaying fantastic eye appeal commanding 10 to 20 percent more.

Condition-wise, surviving examples in Mint State peak at MS-64. In MS-63, the coin is abundant and reasonably priced at about $250. Cherry-picking for quality is recommended as the price doubles between MS-63 and 64, and then triples at MS-65. The typical AU example will cost half as much as a choice BU coin.

Red Brown and Red cents are plentiful in Mint State, though most surviving examples of the 1864 "No L" cent survive in Brown.

PCGS offers competitive registry collectors up to a two point bonus for color. In Red, the "No L" is a $900 coin in MS-65, with examples common in the market. Red Browns go for nearly half that, which is essentially the price of an MS-64 Red. In Brown, the coin's value drops by two thirds and settles at just over $300. If collecting at MS-63, you are better off buying a Red example for the price as the color premium is diminished at this grade. AU examples in Brown sell for approximately $100, sometimes more if it's an especially attractive example.

The rarest of the three Indians is the bronze "With L" variety, which was produced towards the end of the year. In Red, the coin is highly coveted in MS-65. This population 33 coin (with four higher) routinely sells in excess of $5,000. In Red Brown, the price drops to about $1,600, and those looking for a bargain in Brown will have to select a piece in MS-64, since the coin is virtually non-existent in MS-65 Brown. An MS-64 Brown piece is an $800 proposition. Those looking to put together an MS-63 tier set will not likely find a Red example, as the surface preservation and eye appeal of Red specimens pushes most choice pieces to 64. In Red Brown MS-63, the coin sells for $600. Look for AU pieces in the $350-$400 range.

1864 also saw the debut of the short-lived two-cent denomination. The coin, double the size of the cent, was produced in two major varieties: large motto and small motto, with the large motto being a one-year type (and also much more common). For cherry-pickers, the first year issue also offers a number of interesting minor varieties, including a strange example that features die clash images belonging to the Indian cent. PCGS's Civil War Registry Set does not require collectors to pick up the scarcer small motto, which commands a 10x premium in MS-65. The large date issue is relatively common through MS-65. The coin is trending at about $1,500 based on 2012 auctions. This is three times the price of the same coin in Brown. At MS-63, the price drops to $200-$300, with AU examples costing $80. PCGS also confers up to two points in the competitive standings for color on this issue.

Trime mintages continued their decline, down more than 40% from the year before. PCGS has graded 100 examples in Mint State, with many of these examples grading between MS-64 and MS-66. Expect to pay $2,500 for MS-65, but you may wish to pick a choice piece in MS-66, as the coin is readily available at this grade for little or no premium (as always at the higher tier, leverage is everything when it comes to projecting future value). At MS-63 the coin sells for half of the price, though a Gem example in MS-64 being common enough to warrant an upgrade with only a small additional price consideration. In AU, the coin is in line with all of the other trime issues of the Civil War Era.

Half dimes saw a net increase in production in 1864, with Philadelphia raising their total to 48,000 and San Francisco reducing theirs by 10%. San Francisco-minted half dimes retain their period-long hegemony over the Philly strikes due to the overall lack of availability of Gem examples, which rarely come up for auction. In fact, PCGS has only graded three at MS-65, with five higher. Given the popularity for all things Seated, it's possible that PCGS' estimated value of $4,750 is low.

Things get no easier down the Mint State spectrum, with only two pieces graded (six in 64). Expect hammer prices at this tier to exceed $2,000 when a piece becomes available. The scarcity of Mint State issues makes AU the grade of necessity for most collectors; a 2012 Heritage Auction for an attractive original coin in AU-55 realized $891. Philly strikes are equally scarce in Mint State, but the market has not yet given this issue its proper premium. In MS-66, the coin sold most recently for $4,140 in 2010. With two examples in MS-65, it's virtually impossible to determine a price unless you take into account off-brand graded pieces, which have seen prices as low as $1,800. In MS-63, the coin has settled at $1,300. Collectors of high-end circulated pieces will have to find an attractive, problem-free piece raw, as PCGS has graded only a few at this level. Expect to pay upwards of $800 for raw pieces but look out for counterfeits.

The predictive nature of mintages falls by the wayside yet again when it comes to dimes, with most of San Francisco's 157,500 mintage being used in commerce. Survivors tend to be in the lower circulated grades, and the few remaining Mint State examples fall into the lower MS grades. Philadelphia's paltry 11,000 coin run is scarcer up to MS-60, and then easily outpaces the twenty or so known uncirculated 1863-S issues. MS-65 issues command $4,000 or more for the Philly strike, and $11,000 or more for the S-Mint. Collectors may decide to settle on MS-64, which is still scarce and rarely offered, but is perceived to be worth between $5,000 and $7,000. Both issues are priced similarly at MS-63 ($3,000+) and in AU at $1,250.

The larger denominations are just as hard. The San Francisco quarter is one of the Seated Liberty series' tougher dates, with a mintage of 20,000 and fewer than 100 known survivors. According to CoinFacts' estimate, only four examples are known to exist in Mint State. A spectacular MS-68 piece from the Eliasberg Collection last sold for over $100,000. The last gem in a PCGS holder sold for over $40,000 at the Long Beach show in 2008. The coin is more common in the XF range, with a handful of known AU pieces commanding prices in the low five figures. We recommend a piece in AU for the well-heeled collector and XF for everybody else.

A healthy number of Philly strike quarters remain from a mintage of 93,600. For the same price as you'd likely find an S-Mint quarter in XF, you can have a beautiful MS-65 gem. Grades for BU Philly strikes fall in the MS-62 to MS-65 range mostly, with a few well-struck and clean examples reaching as high as MS-68.

The 1864 and 1864-S half dollars are much more common, with a combined mintage of over one million coins. The half is conditionally-rare in higher mint states for the Philly strike, and almost nonexistent in uncirculated grades from the S-mint. For Philly strikes the MS-64 is a better value, with the typical piece selling for a little over $2,000. MS-65 is a jump grade with only six known examples; these have traded all over the place in recent years. PCGS notes the most recent trade of a PCGS MS-65 for $9,775 at a 2008 Heritage Auction, which is where they derive their pricing guidance. At MS-63, the coin generally trades at $1,300. PCGS estimates that only 25 1864-S half dollars survive. In twenty-five years, they have only seen eleven of them, the majority grading at MS-62 and MS-63. This, like many of the Civil War Era San Francisco pieces, is highly coveted and rarely offered. The last public sale of a gem took place in 2003 and saw a final hammer price at above $12,000. With no new material coming forth, it's not hard to imagine that this might be a conservative price in today's hot market for Seated coinage. In MS-63 the cost comes down quite a bit, but prices have continued to creep upwards, to $4,000. In AU, the coin is a bargain at current levels.

Finally, we close out the year with the conditionally-rare 1864 dollar. Dollars have always been popular with collectors, and interest in the upper-end of this issue means stiff competition for MS-65 coinage. PCGS has graded six pieces at this level.

The coin has doubled in value in the past ten years, with the current market paying well over $40,000 per coin -- and much more for very attractive pieces. At MS-62 and MS-63, the coin trades at about $5,500. And in AU, you should expect to pay $2,500 for a problem-free coin.

1865: O Captain! My Captain!

Total Coins: 13

Key Pieces: 1865 dollar; high-grade S-Mint pieces; trime

Easy Pulls: Indian cent; two-cent piece; three-cent nickel

Notes: Debut of three-cent nickel.

Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes: 1861-1862 Issues – Estimated Cost to Complete

Tier I: AU-50 Set

Tier II: MS-63 Set

Tier III: MS-65 Set*




(1865-S dime in MS-64; 1865-S half dollar in MS-64; 1865 dollar in MS-64)


On January 31, 1865, the House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment, which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Lee abandoned Petersburg, and on April 9 surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House. A week later, Lincoln was assassinated as part of a conspiracy to topple the United States government.

The nation was in shock. Lincoln was heralded as a martyr and savior of the Union. He was soon to be honored, arguably above all other presidents, on the nation's medals, coins, and currency.

Andrew Johnson became president, and his administration began the long and painful process of Reconstruction. In May, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Georgia paraded through the streets of Washington, DC. As the nation returned to a state of peace, Northern and southern soldiers alike would be embraced and memorialized. They would meet on the field once more at the 1938 Blue and Gray Reunion in Gettysburg, an event celebrated on the 1936 Battle of Gettysburg half dollar.

The Coins:

The 1865 Indian cent closes out the Civil War Era with two distinct varieties: the "Fancy 5" and the "Plain 5". According to David Hall, the Fancy 5 is the more common of the two. Plain 5's in MS-65 Red are extremely scarce and sell for $2,000 to $4,000, depending on eye appeal. The Fancy 5, on the other hand, is still challenging in MS-65 RED, but you are likely to find a spread on the lower end of $2,500 for the coin. In MS-66, the piece sells for moon money. The tier II collector will likely find what they are looking for at MS-63 or MS-64, where the coin is abundant and the typical piece sells for $400 to $600. The price for both MS-65 and MS-63 coins is substantially lower in Red Brown. In AU, the coin can be easily found for under $100.

The 1865 two-cent piece is common and marks the last time the coin would have a mintage of over ten million. PCGS has graded nearly 400 examples in Red Mint State, with most pieces grading MS-64 and MS-65. Brilliant Red gems sell for approximately $1,500. In Red Brown the coin is also abundant (although PCGS considers most of these examples MS-63 and MS-64), and sells for $600. Circulated examples will have to be pulled from raw dealer stock and should set the collector back no more than $70.

A Philadelphia Industrialist devised a coining alloy made of copper and nickel and lobbied hard for the federal government to adopt it. The result was the three-cent nickel and eventually the five-cent nickel. The three-cent nickel debuted in 1865 and officially served concurrent with the trime (though not exactly, since that coin was struck in extremely limited numbers, unlike the whopping eleven million pieces of the new three-cent nickel). A niche coin for collectors, the three-cent nickel is surprisingly undervalued for its scarcity in MS-65. A piece can easily be obtained for under $500. The coin is common in MS-62 through MS-64. An MS-63 piece should cost no more than $125 dollars. In AU, the coin trades for about $60.

The silver time saw its lowest mintage of the Civil War period. Of the 8,000 struck, PCGS estimates that roughly five percent survive. PCGS has graded a hair under 60 pieces in Mint State, most of these falling between MS-63 and 65. In Gem, the coin is offered sporadically, last traded publicly in 2008, when a heavily die-clashed specimen brought $2,875. This figure is likely low by today's standards (Heritage just sold one in MS-63 for about the same price). We estimate that a gem would go for $4,000 in today's market, if the coin were attractive for the grade. Its scarcity makes even high-grade circulated examples pricey. We find the current retail levels of $900 in line with demand.

1865 marked the last year that half dimes circulated as the only five-cent coin (the Shield nickel debuted in 1866). The 1865 Philly strike had the lowest mintage of the war years, with a total of 13,000 half dimes coined. The San Francisco Mint produced 120,000 half dimes. Despite the discrepancy, PCGS estimates that twice as many Philly strikes survive, with 46 examples graded in Mint State. By comparison, only 19 S-Mint examples have been graded in Mint State, and only one graded better than MS-64. A 2011 Stacks Bowers' auction saw one of three known MS-64 S-Mints sell for $4,300, which is more than double the current price level of an MS-63 example (not that they are much more abundant). In AU, S-Mint half dimes fetch between $500 and $650.

P-Mints, on the other hand, come nicer. In MS-65, expect to pay $2,000, or 25% more than for a MS-63 specimen. The low mintage factor elevates the price of AU examples above where you'd expect, with dealers offering problem-free coins for $750 or more.

If you intend to seriously pursue this set, especially in Mint State, you will know by now that S-Mint dimes are headcrackingly tough. Completing the set at all is a worthy accomplishment. Despite a mintage of 175,000 coins, PCGS has only graded three examples in Mint State. One sold at a Stacks Bowers Auction in 2011 for $37,375, and that was a gold and grey toner. In AU, the coin is hard to locate but certainly doable. Expect to pay $5,000 or more for a problem-free example. The Philly has a paltry mintage of 10,000 pieces, making it a semi-key date for the P-mint series. PCGS has graded two pieces in MS-65 (seven higher) and eight pieces in MS-64. In MS-64, the coin trades at $2,600; in MS-63, it trades at $1,400. AU specimens are sold at a hefty premium due to the low mintage. Finding a piece in low Mint State is perhaps a better value.

With mintages of 58,800 and 41,000, the Philadelphia and San Francisco quarters are conditional rarities. PCGS has graded three Phillies over MS-65, the best being an MS-67 example last traded publicly in 1999 (the owner would probably get a nice return on their $11,000 investment were it put on the market today). The San Francisco quarter has only two pieces above MS-65, and both of those are MS-66 (Ira & Larry Goldberg last moved one of the 66's in 2011 for $57,000). An MS-64 1865-S will likely carry a price tag of $11,000. Better luck finding an AU or low-grade MS piece at $3,500.

PCGS estimates that the market has moved up significantly for the Philly quarter since the piece is rarely traded (it's rarely seen). We believe $8,000 to $10,000 isn't out of the question for a gem. MS-63's are relatively affordable at $3,000 - which is double the going rate of a nice AU specimen.

The 1865 half dollar has a healthy mintage of 511,400 coins. PCGS has graded 30 uncirculated examples, 18 of which fall between MS-64 and MS-65. In MS-65, the coin is offered infrequently, and would likely command $10,000 in today's market. In MS-64 examples, which are more common than MS-63s, also trade sporadically, but are likely to fetch half of the price of a gem. In AU, the coin comes around much more frequently with prices wholly dependent on eye appeal and toning. A low end piece will trade for about $500.

The San Francisco strike is virtually impossible to find in high grade. The sole gem, a beautifully struck and toned example, with multiple die cracks and clash images, sold for $92,000 in 2011. Much more reasonable is the coin in MS-64, with ten examples graded and auction prices trending past $10,000. In lower Mint State grades, the coin commands $2,500 to $3,000 dollars. In AU, as is the case with the Philly strike, price depends on eye appeal. $500 is a median price.

Our Civil War series ends with the conditionally rare 1865 dollar. PCGS has graded fewer than 30 examples in Mint State. One lone MS-65 piece exists, the price of which should be several multiples of the $15,000-$20,000 that a PCGS MS-64 would get in this market. This coin, like many 19th century conditionally-rare pieces, rarely comes to market, and when it does it comes in a big way. MS-62 examples have been hovering around $6,000 in recent years, while AU pieces have over-performed in 2012, selling for $2,000 to $3,000.


Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes: 1861-1865 Issues – Estimated Cost to Complete

Tier I: AU-50 Set

Tier II: MS-63 Set

Tier III: MS-65 Set




This completes our two-part look at one of PCGS' most challenging Registry Sets -- the Civil War Set, Circulation Strikes (1861-1865). No matter what level of collector you are, if you love classic American coinage, this mid-century set has a lot to offer. As of yet, no PCGS Set Registry participant has completed this set. Conditional rarity is a big reason why. If you are willing to pick your spots and look for sharp coins in different grades, this set becomes achievable. Completing a set of Civil War Era coinage certainly ranks up there as one of the toughest non-gold challenges in American numismatics. Maybe you should give it a try! Be the first to finish it and claim your bragging rights.

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