By: Lance Tchor & Larry Michelson
WINGS™ Coins, LLC
A gold coin speaks volumes about a nation’s history and culture… and at a price collectors easily can afford.
This month, we continue our little excursion into the realm of the gold escudo. In the last installment, we pointed out the differences between the original cross-and-shield escudo, initially struck in 1566, and the portrait escudo, introduced in the mid-1720s.
So, how does the rarity of the latter compare to a similar U.S. gold coin, such as the half eagle ($5) of 1795-1807? In the years following our nation’s independence, plans were put forth for a United States Mint.
In 1784 Thomas Jefferson recommended a decimal coinage system, and the following year, gold $5 coins and silver $1 pieces and fractionals were suggested, along with copper issues of even lower denomination.
The half eagle was designed and minted to have a life span similar to those of other nations’ gold coins, including Spain’s and Portugal’s portrait 8 escudos. The latter was introduced more than a half century earlier. No official records show mintages for the 8 escudos; however, the U.S. Mint carefully logged production figures for the half eagle. (In the first year of production, 8,707 $5 gold pieces were struck.)
While the 8 escudos was minted in at least eight Central and South American countries, it is far rarer in terms of certified specimens, regardless of issuing country. Our experience—as well as population reports from the major grading services—bears this out. We see many more half eagles than 8 escudos.
Interestingly, the half eagle also is vastly more expensive to acquire. It is true that U.S. collectors of early $5 gold coins outnumber those who seek 8-escudo pieces, but worldwide, the 8 escudos probably is far more collectable. It is no secret that collectors outside the United States have not embraced coin certification like their American counterparts.
Many problem-free, world coins are up to par, but not yet certified, and some likely never will be encapsulated. Our point is that large-size, early world gold—with its history, romance and, most of all, desirability—has a greater possibility of appreciation than comparable U.S. gold coins.
A mint-state, early half eagle typically commands 8 to 10 times more than an 8 escudos in similar condition. It is pretty obvious that the astute world collector can look forward to a lot of “upside potential,” especially as U.S. collectors expand their horizons to include world gold coins in
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Reproduced courtesy of The Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org)
Photos: Library of Congress (Illustration) & Heritage Auction Galleries