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Radiant Choice AU 1861-O Double Eagle1861-O $20 AU55 NGC. Few issues hold as much historical allure as the famous 1861-O double eagle. In his Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, Q. David Bowers (2004) writes about the issue's place in numismatics: "The series of Type [One] double eagles 1849-1866 is laden with 'story coins,' of which the 1861-O is one. Minted during the Civil War, this particular issue almost got caught up in the battle lines."
Doug Winter (2006), in his Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint, notes mintage figures for three different entities that oversaw the production of double eagles at New Orleans that year. He states that of the mintage of 17,741 pieces, 5,000 of them were coined under the auspices of the Union. The majority of examples, 9,750, were minted by an independent Louisiana between January and March 1861, and 2,991 representatives were struck by the Confederacy in April of the same year. Much effort has been put into determining which 1861-O double eagles were struck by the Confederacy, though any conclusions are necessarily speculative.
Bowers has observed that on "nearly all known specimens the bottoms of the numerals 861 are light." Such is the case with the current coin, and the vast majority of survivors of this storied issue. From the original mintage of 1861-O double eagles, relatively few have survived. Both Bowers and Winter, in their respective references, estimate that approximately 140 examples are extant, with the vast majority grading EF or lower. This includes the three different types known for the issue: strong date, weak date and manually strengthened date. Comparing percentages of known survivors of each type to documented mintage figures, it is possible that examples with weak dates could have been produced by the State of Louisiana and/or the Federal government.
The attractive piece offered here has pleasing detail for this poorly produced issue, though a measure of general softness is noted on the portrait. Light wear is present at the highpoints, but the yellow-gold surfaces retain much of their original luster and each side shows a trace of reflectivity. The overall appearance is clean, though a number of abrasions appear near the date, and a touch of alloy is noted between the obverse denticles. In sum, a desirable exemplar of this fascinating issue. Census: 13 in 55, 15 finer (12/07).
From The Waxhaw Collection.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 269J, PCGS# 8934)
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