1861-O Double Eagle, Choice AU
1861-O $20 AU55 PCGS. The New Orleans Mint struck Liberty
Head doubles eagles in a continuous string from the series'
introduction in 1850 until the Civil War closed the facility in
1861, a hiatus that would last until 1879. The dozen O-mint issues
from 1850 through 1861 include a handful that are collectible for a
price in Choice AU, and a couple of fabulous rarities (1854-O and
1856-O) that are guaranteed to cause a sensation at auction in
nearly any grade.
Interesting Die Markers, Relatively Unabraded
The 1861-O is a median rarity within this wide range of O-mint twenties, although within the 1861 date, it has been somewhat overshadowed by the 1861-S Paquet Reverse. Douglas Winter ranks it seventh of 13 issues (including the anomalous 1879-O) both overall and in high grade (AU50 and higher).
The 1861-O is famous for another reason, being successively struck by the United States (5,000 coins), the State of Louisiana after it seceded from the Union (9,750 pieces), and the Confederate States of American (2,991), for a total of 17,741 examples in all. Various numismatists have attempted to connect die states and die markers of the 1861-O double eagle and its siblings with the three successive striking authorities. Winter believes that more than one obverse die was used, since some coins show weak dates, some strong dates; he claims that the strong date coins usually show a die crack from the rim above star 2 toward the chin. This piece, however, is just such a coin, with a strong date and absolutely no sign of any die crack in that position.
Some other coins show signs of "strengthening" at the date, in the form of three raised V-shaped lines. Bowers believes these are evidence of the Confederacy's lack of numeral punches to strengthen a working die.
This piece is interesting in that it has a strong date, no die crack, and no evidence of any strengthening or raised die lines in the date area; but it will not solve the problem of which dies in which states were used under which entity. It is an attractive, lightly circulated coin with semiprooflike reflectivity appearing in the fields and much eye appeal. It also has an anomaly of its own. An area of improperly mixed alloy appears in the planchet behind Liberty's hairbun, an area that has toned over and created a couple of small planchet voids. The toned-over area runs to the rim nearby. This anomaly is clearly of Mint origin. A small scrape appears just above the toned area, but overall, the surfaces are far less abraded than usual for an issue normally found with heavy handling marks. The reverse is well-struck and attractive, consistent with the grade, and shows no unusual characteristics. A great example of this historic issue. Population: 16 in 55, 6 finer (5/13).(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 269J, PCGS# 8934)
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