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1861-O $20 AU58 PCGS. An extremely popular issue among ...

2003, Orlando, FL. (FUN) Signature Sale #308

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Auction Ended On: Jan 11, 2003
Item Activity: 4 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Orlando, FL
One of the Finest Known 1861-O Type One Double Eagles, Ex: Miles, Bass, and Ashland City
1861-O $20 AU58 PCGS. An extremely popular issue among Southern gold specialists, the 1861-O is the final Double Eagle produced at the New Orleans Mint prior to 1879. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 explains why three different governing authorities struck Double Eagles in New Orleans that year. In January, Union authorities delivered 5,000 examples. These were followed by an additional 9,750 pieces struck by the State of Louisiana from late January through May and a further 2,991 coins that the Confederate States of America produced after June 1. The combined mintage of the 1861-O Double Eagle, therefore, is 17,741 pieces. Numismatic legend has it that the surviving examples with soft definition on the bottom of the date are those coins that were produced by the Confederacy. This has been disproved because all survivors of this issue display some degree of weakness in this area. It seems that the date logotype was lightly impressed into the die. Extensive die polishing resulted in the prooflike finish that most '61-O Twenties display, but it also further weakened the bottom of the date. In a vain effort to correct this defect, an employee at the New Orleans Mint tried to re-engrave the lower edge of the 8. The raised die lines from this work are still evident on the present example.
While there is no way to determine which governing authority struck which 1861-O Double Eagles, the popularity and desirability of this issue remains constant among advanced collectors. Doug Winter's most recent (January 2002) estimate on the number of extant examples in all grades is 135-165 pieces, of which 30 coins grade AU50-AU58. To date, the '61-O is unknown in Mint State, a fact that confirms the high Condition Census standing of the Ashland City specimen. In fact, this coin is listed as the # 3 example on the Condition Census in Winter's 1992 book New Orleans Mint Gold Coins: 1838-1909. With the exception of the bottom of the digits in the date, every feature is sharply detailed. There is little evidence of wear, and the number of light to moderate abrasions is consistent with an O-mint Double Eagle at this grade level. Remnants of a prooflike finish are readily evident as the coin rotates under the light. A moderate scrape in the left obverse field inside stars 3 and 4 is a worthwhile pedigree marker. Clearly, this coin is one of the most important Double Eagles in the Ashland City Collection, and we anticipate significant bidder competition. It may be of interest to some that our January 2002 sale of the Eagle Collection of Double Eagles included an 1861-O that graded only XF45.
Ex: Miles Collection (Stack's, 10/1968), lot 854; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/2000), lot 807, where it realized $18,400. The coin was certified AU55 by PCGS at the time of the latter sale.
From the Ashland City Collection. (NGC ID# 269J, PCGS# 8934)

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