Three years ago on this site, I warned bidders to snatch toned American silver eagles, especially PCI-rainbow ones, before prices skyrocketed. The post was subtitled “Get ‘Em While You Can.”
I hope you managed to do that because the prices being asked on eBay and other portals are bordering on outrageous.
This one on eBay has a $50,000 asking price.
True, the 1986 at MS-70 in a PCGS holder is worth $1,600 retail. Perhaps someone believes the toning here is worth $48,400. Happy bidding! However, it conceivably could sell that high to a wealthy hobbyist collecting toned MS-70 PCGS eagles. Personally, I have never seen a heavily toned 1986 MS-70 eagle in a PCGS holder. You never know. The seller has a “make an offer” tab, so perhaps he will take much lower offers.
One of the first on eBay to ask what was then a sky-high price was Bennie Strumpher of Decatur Coin and Jewelry, offering this beautiful eagle for $5,000.
He listed it in July 2015. It’s still listed.
I am tempted by the coin, as it remains one of the loveliest I have seen, but not at that price. Furthermore, I am perhaps one of the first and most avid collectors of toned PCI eagles, having bought a whole set of them for about $75 each about six years ago and then adding to the collection at about half a dozen coins each year. I have more than 60 electric, vivid toned coins.
But I won’t pay exorbitant prices being asked now. My strict limit is no more than $425 (and then the coin must be magnificent) and, hopefully, in a rare year for tone, such as 2003 or 2006.
You can view about half of my collection, and not my best ones, either, on this PCGS Showcase link. While all are in my bank box downtown, the finest of the earlier ones did not have TrueView imagery and I don’t want to send them in for reholdering and photos. My own photos cannot capture the vivid colors, so I have to visit my collection at the local bank to appreciate what I have assembled.
The most I ever paid for a toned silver eagle was $700 for this 2008 reverse of 2007 sample:
I won this one with a $375 bid two years ago, submitted it to PCGS, and had it holdered as a 2008 reverse of 2007, MS-67:
The eagle below is being offered on eBay for $3,650. It’s a 2003, and that has additional value. For some reason, probably due to the metal impurities of the planchet from year to year, some years are difficult to find with PCI toning.c1986, 1992-96, 1998, and 1999 are the most common for spectacular PCI rainbows, so bid prudently on those years.
Some of the most desirable eagles are the American-flag ones from 1990-93. I wrote a piece about that for Coin World, calling them “Patriotic Eagles.” The flag design, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. One of those depicted in Coin World sold for $2,200 on eBay, and I had it listed with no reserve.
If you have one, keep it. They really are rare but are out there in sufficient quantities. It is, perhaps, the most desirable of all toned eagles because of the symbolism.
I have four of them. Here’s one of mine in my bank box:
I won that one above four years ago with a $250 bid.
That gives you an idea of how much these coins have risen in desirability.
But there are drawbacks, too. Just because a coin has deep toning, that doesn’t make it desirable. Let’s look at some coins I would never bid on.
These are what I call “Easter eggs.” Someone was experimenting with artificial toning, probably with heat or chemicals. Those are easy to spot. They are silver melt, in my view. You can differ on that, of course. Maybe you like the tone and do not care if they are artificially colored.
Here’s one that probably has natural toning, but it is too close to artificial in its coloring for my taste. Even though PCGS slabbed it, I think the tone is questionable.
This one is easy to dismiss as artificial, again in my view, especially for a recent year like 2012. Did someone hold a flame to it? Ouch! Never do that, by the way, for safety reasons as well as hobby ones.
Here’s an example that has questionable color. I think it’s artificial, and a magnificent piece of art; but the colors are dull for my taste, so that’s a red flag. Tone should never detract from luster. If it does, the coin was cleaned and retoned or colored artificially. The temptation here is faux PCI toning in a rare year, 2006. You might take a gamble, but I would not make a bid.
I do not recommend bidding high on any PCI eagle that has spots, as many do. Spots occur when the chemical interaction with the PCI label has gone on for too long. I invest only in spotless ones. I’ll show an example of each below. Here’s one with spots:
The fields and colors should blend without any spots, as in this example from my collection:
Be careful of examples that have used photo enhancements such as color saturation. While some sellers like to do that, to show the range of hues — often with a contrasting photo in natural light — you rarely find true silver with such vibrant hues:
Some PCI tones are plain unsightly, as in this example:
Radar toning tends to be the most desirable, worthy of a high bid. About a year ago I won this coin on eBay for $275. Now similar ones are selling in the high hundreds. Be patient and search for a less expansive example. Although 1996 is a key date in the series, that year tends to tone marvelously. I have more than a dozen in my collection.
Do not pay a high premium for any PCI coin that has an unsightly blotch. The goal is seamless, spot-free toning. Here is one with a blotch above Lady Liberty’s head:
Some eagles tone in the shape of objects, and they are worth high premiums. Here are two from my collection, one with what looks like a cross and another, angel wings:
I won that cross one, which graded MS-69, two years ago with a $159 bid.
Here’s one of my earliest, won with a $35 bid in 2014:
Some patient collectors buy PCI eagles in the process of toning, crack them out and insert them with others in coin albums. They do tone nicely after five to seven years. Here’s one that would qualify for my incubator album:
I won’t buy it, though, because the seller is asking $175. Too high. My incubator coins all were bought for less than $50. Here’s a page from my album:
One of the most common examples of American eagle toning is the crescent rainbow. Here’s an example from my collection:
You can find these for less than $200 if you look long enough. Here’s an example being offered as I write on eBay:
Finally, if you bid on a PCI eagle, you should send it to PCGS as a crossover because the company will crack it out of a label that states 100% white; hard to say “questionable toning” with a label like that. NGC does not consider crossovers.
Some collectors like the PCI holder and do not crack out their coins. The trouble there is that the coin will continue to tone over time (years), so just keep an eye on it. You might get a better or worse tone, including spotting, if you are not careful.
So tell us what you think about the price of these eagles and whether you own or would bid on them. As for the ones depicted here, keep in mind that I am only expressing my opinion. A seller can ask whatever price she or he thinks the coin is worth. But as with all transactions, it is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
That’s why I think PCI coins on eBay with asking prices above $400 are going to stay there for awhile. Be patient, click the watch button, and wait for the seller to list it without a reserve.
That’s what I do.