Exceptional 1854-O Twenty, AU55
1854-O $20 AU55 PCGS. The 1854-O and the 1856-O are the two
key issues in a collection of twenty dollar Libertys. As Winter
states in Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1830-1909
(2006), "Ownership of an 1854-O double eagle is considered a
hallmark of a truly great collection of New Orleans coinage." For
years there was dispute among experts about which was rarer, but it
now is settled that the 1856-O is the number one issue in the
series. But not by much. The estimated number of survivors in all
grades of the 1856-O is only 20-30 pieces, and the 1854-O has a
similarly low estimate of only 25-35 coins known. Each coin is
impossibly rare in high grades. The only coin certified above AU58
between the two issues is a branch mint proof 1856-O. The finest
examples certified of the 1854-O are a pair of PCGS AU58s (the same
coin submitted twice?).
One of the Finest Examples Known of This Key Issue
There is considerable disparity between the number of coins certified, or more accurately stated "submission events" and the number actually believed known. When the numbers certified in AU50-58 are added together from both PCGS and NGC the total is a surprisingly high 22 events. Only 5-7 actual coins are believed to exist in all grades of AU, which leads one to the conclusion that most of the AU coins known have been submitted multiple times without being dropped from the population data.
A coin of such rarity has certain die characteristics that are seen on all genuine examples. This piece has all the characteristics including: small digits in the date which slant up to the right, die lines in the area of TY of LIBERTY on the coronet, and a tiny, raised die lump on Liberty's neck in front of the largest curl. While striking characteristics generally are of no concern on an 1854-O, they are consistent on this piece just as are die characteristics. Slight softness is seen on the hair curls closest to Liberty's face, and on the reverse some weakness can be found on the eagle's tail feathers and the banner. As usual, the denticles are sharply defined and the peripheral stars show significant definition on the centrils.
As with all known high grade 1854-O twenties, each side retains a significant amount of prooflikeness. On this lightly handled example, reflectivity is limited to the more protected areas surrounding the devices. The surfaces are unusually clean for this normally heavily abraded issue, and both obverse and reverse have a noticeable accent of reddish patina with yellow-gold clinging to the areas around the devices and further accenting the prooflikeness. The only marks that could be used for pedigree purposes are a short, diagonal abrasion below Liberty's ear, a short mark above the 54 in the date, and a short bagmark between stars 6 and 7.
The chance to acquire an 1854-O in any grade is an opportunity to be considered by the specialist. The availability of such a high grade piece such as this one, one of the finest examples known, should give the advanced collector pause to consider the overall and conditional rarity of this extraordinary coin.
From The Baltimore Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 268T, PCGS# 8912)
Weight: 33.44 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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