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Deciding When to Buy – Or Sell – Classic U.S. Gold Coins


Many classic U.S. gold coins, like this Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles in grades MS63, are trading at small premiums over melt as gold prices hover near all-time record highs. This market situation in summer 2024 offers buyers and sellers many potential opportunities. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

What gives? Why are classic U.S. gold coins currently lagging behind the rising gold market?

The situation is an example of risk versus reward. As long as you believe bullion prices will continue to rise, the market will catch up, and small premiums over the melt value usually return, albeit after the market accepts the new market levels. Coin dealers have to believe they’re making the correct move, too.

Several recent articles have touted the value of classic numismatic gold coins as compared to their basal melt value, with premiums over that melt value at all-time low percentages. Yes, the premiums are at an all-time low, but the price of gold itself is at an all time high.

Which way do you go? You will probably be a buyer if you believe gold prices will continue to rise. Conversely, if you own gold bullion coins, you may be asking if now is the time to sell.

Only you can make that decision.

In other PCGS articles, I detail how coin dealers have been building their personal bullion portfolios over the decades by utilizing the difference in the markets for similar (roughly one ounce) gold bullion items whether they are Liberty Head or Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles or One-Ounce American Gold Eagles.

The goal of this exercise, you might say, is accumulating more net ounces of gold regardless of whether they are numismatic gold (like pre-1933 vintage gold coins) or bullion gold (American Gold Eagles, for example). Many dealers use this position as their trading platform, too, and offer a two-way market on the most frequently traded bullion and numismatic gold. Many dealers’ core capital position is bullion dependent, especially if that dealer trades in gold items.

The fact that many dealers are bullion dependent affects liquidity more than value in the long term, but currently there is a pressure on numismatic gold coin prices because the marketplace action is focused more on bullion gold. The question virtually any numismatic businessperson is going to ask themselves is whether the “juice is worth the squeeze?” In other words, the question becomes, “does an investment promise an enticing return or am I just churning?” However, for the market squeeze resulting from all-time high gold prices, MS62 and lower Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, as well as most bullion gold coinage trades at a pretty well-defined buy-sell spread – the difference in price between what a dealer will pay to buy a coin for their inventory versus what they can sell it for to a retail customer. Rising gold prices and the resulting market demand for some items has put pressure on many parts of the market.

But don’t be distracted by market forces that are out of your control. While nobody can control the market, you can plan and prepare!

Do you believe gold and silver prices will continue to rise? Currently the premiums for MS63 Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles are enticingly low, while the buy-sell spreads for bullion gold are relatively stable. Maybe now’s the time to buy some more.

Do you believe gold and silver prices have topped out? Then perhaps take some profit. You could buy or trade into some numismatically related gold coins.

Don’t know what’s happening with the market? You might consider selling part of your bullion holdings while still keeping some of your gold to maintain your position in that part of the market.

This is a decision you will need to make totally on your own considering your personal goals and finances.

The bottom line is that selling part of what you have and taking a profit allows you to either cash out or have trading funds with which you can buy other coins or bullion-related items. You will also have gained some trading expertise in that you have successfully liquidated or traded some of your coins or bullion, which is an important skill you can use many times over in the future.

Whatever decisions you make – or might need help in making – be sure to consult a PCGS Authorized Dealer. And always be sure to ask any questions you may have!

Buying and Selling Tips St. Gaudens Double Eagles Liberty Double Eagles (1849-1907)