In the years that ensued from our own Civil War, there was a great economic expansion primarily fueled by government grants and subsidies. Railroads were the biggest beneficiary here and soon became the largest employer in the nation outside of agriculture, as nearly 33,000 miles of track was laid in the following years. In addition, abnormal infusions of cash from speculators flowed in and together, created an industry expansion “bubble” between 1868 and 1873 as the construction of docks, factories and ancillary facilities were all built at a frenetic rate. This expansion was probably not too dissimilar than the real estate boom we recently went through a decade ago.
In addition to this inflationary period, a dislocation occurred between the United States and Europe after the Franco-Prussian war, creating an economic ripple effect. The ‘ripple effect’ was instigated as a result of the Germans discontinuing their importation of silver from the U.S. causing such a disruption in demand that prices plummeted on the existing silver supply and slowed the mining effort. The year was 1873.
The direct result of all this was the Coinage Act of 1873 which decreed the United States would no longer buy silver at a statutory price or covert raw silver brought in by the general public into coinage. This Act had the immediate effect of depressing silver prices in 1875/6, which ultimately hurt the overall money supply. This had the undesired effect of raising interest rates, hurting all the rest of those in the country who heavily relied upon debit.
A major depression was upon us. In late September there was a chain reaction of bank, railroad and businesses failures and bankruptcies. Workers went on strike. As if it wasn’t bad enough there were huge property losses in Chicago (1871) and Boston (1872) due to devastating fires, locust swarms in the Great Plains, marauding Indians and conflicts with practically all western tribes, General Custer’s “last stand” and the outlaw James Brothers were becoming national folk heroes as they dodged posses and Pinkerton’s detectives.
Is it any wonder then why the United States mint decided NOT to mint $10 gold eagles in any kind of quantity during this period?
Points to consider regarding the acquisition of this 1877-S $10:
- Low mintage of 17,000 pieces – perhaps 250 or so exist today.
- 21st lowest mintage of 63 different San Francisco mint $10 eagles struck.
- 81st lowest mintage of 226 different $10 eagles struck at all mints.
- NGC total census of 165 in all grades. 32 certified in AU55; 12 finer (3 uncs).
- PCGS total population of 123 in all grades. 3 certified in AU55; 7 finer (all 58).
- NGC Price Guide published price $6,850.
- PCGS Collectors Universe published price $7,500.
- AU55 is a Condition Rarity. We know of only (1) uncirculated (MS61) ever to appear at auction (2014) realized over $22,000-!
- Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, “About Uncirculated examples are very scarce.”
- Garrett & Guth further state “Like most of the S-Mint eagles from the 1870s, virtually all of the 1877-S coins entered circulation and few collectors cared enough about them to save them in high-grade condition.” (2006).
- Walter Breen simply stated, “Prohibitively rare above EF”
The present 1877-S $10 gold eagle was struck during a decade when the mintages were quite low and in fact averaged approximately 11,000 from any given mint. And this average is offset by a couple of years of six-figure mintages. During this decade the San Francisco mint was also more focused upon minting silver dollars and double eagle. What few survivors remain of this date grade between Very Fine and Extremely Fine, as About Uncirculated examples are quite scarce and appear on the market very infrequently. Uncirculated specimens are extremely rare; this date was once recently believed to be unknown in Uncirculated.