For the past several years the primary characteristics of the successful coin investment have been rarity and quality. The maxim is that one should always acquire the rarest and best quality pieces that they can locate. 1999 has not yet revealed an exception to this rule. Those of us who have concentrated on rare, high quality coins have had a pleasant and rewarding experience. So far this year, while bullion coins and common gold coins have been suffering losses, top quality rare coins have been bringing ever higher premium prices in both public and private venues. Gold coins in the $25,000 to $100,000 range have led the way. Two of the hottest sectors in this category are Proof Gold and Branch Mint Gold. We will examine these two areas in more detail Proof Gold is the caviar of American coins. Extreme care is used in the production process and very few are made, usually less than 200. Each coin is struck numerous times on highly polished blanks called planchets. This process is a time consuming ritual that defines the state of the minters art. Only the most skilled engravers are employed in an attempt to create a peerless coin. In many instances, they nearly succeeded. Gold, however, is a notoriously soft metal and coins are subject to mishandling. Combine this with the tiny quantities produced and one begins to understand why Proof Gold coins are among the most difficult classic American coins to obtain. Although they were made from 1820 through 1915, they were not actively sold to collectors until the 1850’s. Proof coins from before that era are prohibitively rare and nearly impossible to locate. This is probably why they are one of the most lucrative and most elusive segments of the rare coin marketplace. Taken as a separate segment, proof gold ranks among the rarest of American coins. The attention proofs receive from the elite collectors, when they are offered, are due to rarity, beauty and limited supply. This demand causes prices of some pieces to run into the mid 6 figures, although there are issues, which we have identified, that are available for under fifty thousand dollars. If proof gold is the caviar then branch mint gold coins are the truffles. In addition to the main mint at Philadelphia, gold coins were produced at "branch" mints in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dahlonega, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, San Francisco, California, Denver, Colorado, and Carson City, Nevada. Today, issues produced at these mints are extremely rare and have a following among investors and serious collectors. Many a sophisticated collector has devoted decades of time and countless dollars to building a set of coins from a single branch mint. Because of such growing demand, this market can experience handsome returns for investors in the future A word of warning though, patience is a virtue. Even if you have the money, coins are seldom available. Only the quick broker can execute a trade before they are going, going, gone!