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Important 1854-O Liberty Double Eagle Rarity

1854-O $20 AU50 PCGS. The New Orleans Mint began producing double eagles right from the start, with 141,000 coins struck in 1850. This mintage, and even higher mintages in 1851 and 1852 were a direct result of the California gold rush. Except for a few privately issued gold coins produced in California, the only options for coinage were the Philadelphia and New Orleans Mints. It is doubtful that much, if any, gold was transported to Charlotte or Dahlonega, as those Mints were primarily producing gold coins from locally mined metal.
Meanwhile, the United States Assay Office became a larger producer of gold coins in San Francisco throughout 1851 and 1852, and by 1853 became the minter of choice, and in 1854 the United States Branch Mint in San Francisco opened, providing a further coinage alternative, and a better choice for miners. By 1854, essentially all gold mined in California was minted in California, and little of the precious metal found its way to New Orleans. In 1854, just 3,250 double eagles were minted in Louisiana, making this the second rarest O-Mint double eagle behind the 1856-O. Douglas Winter and Adam Crum discussed this issue: "The 1854-O is, along with the 1856-O, one of the two rarest collectible Type I double eagles. Examples are usually sold only at auctions of major 'name' collections. Ownership of an attractive 1854-O is considered a hallmark of a truly great collection of double eagles."
Although the mintage of this date was 1,000 coins greater than the 1856-O rarity, the two issues are of about equal availability today. Dave Bowers, in A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, estimates a survival of 18 to 22 circulated examples of this date, and no Mint State pieces. For the 1856-O, he estimates 16 to 20 circulated coins and two Mint State pieces, for the very same total of 18 to 22 coins. Winter and Crum consider the 1856-O to be slightly rarer, with an estimated population of 25 to 35 examples of the 1854-O double eagle, and only 20 to 30 examples of the 1856-O. Although a limited Census is available for this issue, several pieces have been located since it was published by Winter several years ago. A revised Census for both of the two rarities would be desirable.
This example is a splendid AU grade coin with vivid green-gold surfaces. Both sides have light abrasions with only a few deeper marks including an old scratch in the left obverse field from the top point of star 4. Pale rose color can be seen on the highpoints, providing a clear indication of the light wear on the surface. This '54-O double eagle has excellent luster with traces of a prooflike surface on each side. This example is a remarkable specimen and it may qualify as a Condition Census piece. Less than 10 AU examples are known, including a recently discovered AU58 example that was part of the S.S. Republic treasure. An interesting side bar is the scope of this treasure, which included every Type One double eagle issue except: 1856-O, 1861 Paquet, and 1866-S No Motto. In all grades, Doug Winter estimates a surviving population of 25 to 35 coins.
When formulating your winning bid for this coin, keep in mind that Winter and Crum commented: "The serious collector will not have many opportunities to purchase an 1854-O double eagle. This is an issue that is so rare and desirable that you cannot really 'overpay' for it." Worded differently, whatever you pay to acquire this coin will be a fair price!
From The Wyoming Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 268T, PCGS# 8912)

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Auction Dates
August, 2006
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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