Extremely Rare 1856-O Double Eagle, AU50 PCGS, A Mid-Condition Census Coin1856-O $20 AU50 PCGS. Many later-date P and S-mint twenties have mintages that exceed 1 million pieces. Here is a number to keep in mind: 831,441. That is the total number of New Orleans twenties produced. That is correct. Not one issue, but the total number produced from 1850 through 1879. The coin in question here has a mintage of only 2,250 pieces--not much of a contribution to the 831,441-piece total.
It is not difficult to imagine why New Orleans coinage in general is so popular with collectors. The history associated with the city of New Orleans and its importance as a commercial hub to the South, give these coins an undeniable link to the monetary activity of the region. Unlike many later-date issues, New Orleans gold was struck to be used, not held in a bank as a storehouse of value. The extensive use in the channels of commerce of these pieces accounts for their status as absolute rarities rather than condition rarities. For example, any 1856-O or 1854-O is a noteworthy coin. Condition is a secondary consideration. From the collector's perspective, it is more important to be able to just locate one of these key issues, any one, rather than hold out for a coin that will match the other pieces in a high grade set.
Fortunately this coin is both a representative of this key issue and also one of the finest examples known. The Condition Census for the 1856-O tops out at the AU58 grade, with the possible exception of the Specimen 63 coin that Heritage sold in January 2002 and again in June 2004, but that may be an unfair comparison as that coin is generally considered to be a proof. If one considers all coins in a given grade to be equal in quality (always a tricky assumption), then this piece is tied as fourth finest among coins certified. If we assume the PCGS and NGC coins certified are representative of the finest coins known, and excluding theabove-mentioned Specimen, then the C.C. currently reads: 35 (1), 45 (3), 50 (2), 53 (1), 55 (5), 58 (3).
In an article Doug Winter wrote in conjunction with the sale of the Eagle Collection of double eagles in 2002, he ranked the 1856-O at the top of both overall rarity and condition rarity. This opinion is not universally held, though, and David Bowers mildly disagrees. He states in his recent book on double eagles that more high grade 1856-Os are known than 1854-Os, but there are more lower grade 1854-Os than 1856-Os. He sums up the situation well by stating: "The situation may be moot, for both are key issues, both are famous, and both are eminently desirable."
This particular coin is a textbook example of an 1856-O. The striking attributes of this coin can best be summed up by quoting the Winter/Crum reference on Type One twenties: "The curls around the face are well detailed but those beneath the ear are weak. The hair at the top of Liberty's head is always weak as is the bun. The stars are sharper with some higher grade pieces displaying full radial lines. The central reverse is well detailed with the exception of the wing tips and tail feathers which are not fully formed." What is not a textbook description for this coin are the abrasions. Most 1856-O twenties are heavily abraded. This particular piece shows only one noticeable mark, which is located in the field by star 4. The surfaces, as always, are bright and semi-reflective with light friction evident in the fields and over the devices. This coin has the usually seen green-gold coloration with no variation in hue on either side. Probably no more than 20-25 examples remain of the 1856-O in all grades, and the majority of those coins grade no better than VF. As stated above, the specialist cannot afford to be picky when seeking an example of this issue; however, this particular coin has all theattributes one could desire: high grade, minimally abraded surfaces, and a textbook strike for the issue. Sure to bring an impressive price when sold, knowledgeable gold collectors will recognize the offering of this coin as the true opportunity it is.
From The Wyoming Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 268Z, PCGS# 8918)
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