With gold hovering around $1300 for a one ounce coin, how is it that the 1999-W 1/10 ounce $5 American Gold Eagle is worth $800??? The answer lies in:
1) the date, and
2) the “W” mint-mark.
American $5 Gold Eagles in 1999
In 1999, Y2K was on the horizon and the world was preparing for Armageddon. At the end of the millennium, at the stroke of midnight, the world held its breath to see if lights would go off around the globe, if the world’s securities markets would be driven to their knees and if computers globally would shut down when they turned over to “00,” not knowing if that meant 2000 or 1900 . . .
Like all “date certain” things catastrophic, end-of-the-world theorists start to plan, and hoard. American Gold Eagle Coins were in high demand, because of a fear of the breakdown of everything but the “safe harbor” of gold. These theorists did not want one ounce denominations. At $300 an ounce (the price at the time), one would not take one ounce goldeagles to the grocery store to buy milk and bread. They might however, take one or two 1/10 ounce gold eagles, (at a value of $30 per coin) – two would have just about taken care a week’s worth of groceries in 1999.
Apparently end-of-the-world types also had money. In 1999 2.75 million $5 American eagle gold coins were sold. To put this in perspective, in 2011 300 thousand $5 goldeagles were produced. Almost ten times the number. The surge in demand put an impossible workload in employees at the US Mint – here in lies the problem . . .
Business strike or “bullion” $5 Gold Eagles produced at West Point do not carry a Mint Mark – the “W” is reserved for proof gold eagle coins alone. But when so many bullion coins are in demand, someone was bound to make a mistake, and they did. The 1999 “W” American Gold Eagle bullion coin was produced from unpolished proof dies – creating an error coin that is quite rare. In 1999, there were 2.75 million 1/10 ounce bullion coins produced without the “W” and another 14.5 thousand erroneously produced with the W.
That tiny little “W” has made these $5 eagle bullion gold coins worth six times more than the nearly identical coin produced at West Point with no mint mark.
With only 14,500 produced, finding a 1999-W $5 American Gold Eagle Coin is somewhat difficult, however, a quick scan of eBay showed a few for sale this morning.