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    1857-O Liberty Head Twenty, MS62
    Low-Mintage New Orleans Issue
    Second Finest Known

    1857-O $20 MS62 NGC. CAC. A coin of exceptional quality and probably the second finest known 1857-O double eagle, this example is the number two coin in Doug Winter's list of Significant Pieces Known. This 1857-O is one of only two specimens certified in MS62 by NGC, with none finer, while PCGS has graded no coins at the MS62 level, with only the Harry Bass specimen finer, at MS63 (11/10). The present coin has been certified in its current grade since the early 1990s, establishing its claim as a Condition Census example before the appearance of the "saltwater Unc" specimens from the S.S. Republic. Certainly, no charge of grade inflation can be attached to this offering.
    The 1857-O is an elusive issue in all grades, from a tiny mintage of 30,000 pieces. The mintage was widely distributed at the time of issue, and it is doubtful any coins were saved for numismatic purposes. The 1857-O is usually seen in VF or XF grades, while AU coins are quite scarce, and Mint State examples are very rare. The supply of circulated coins was augmented in the 1990s, when a hoard of several dozen pieces came on the market. Most of those coins graded in the XF40-AU50 range, with many specimens showing heavy abrasions. Only four examples were saved from the wreck of the S.S. Republic, but they were high-grade specimens. Even after the new discoveries, the 1857-O remains a scarce issue, with Winter estimating a surviving population of 175-200 pieces in all grades. Q. David Bowers postulates a slightly lower figure of 150 coins. Current population data from the grading services coincides well with those estimates, as NGC has certified 110 examples in all categories, while PCGS has graded a total of 86 specimens across the grading spectrum (11/10). The 1857-O continues to be very rare in Mint State grades, with only six to eight specimens known.
    While the rare New Orleans twenties, including the 1857-O, are prized by collectors today, they held little appeal for numismatists of the 19th and early 20th century. The high intrinsic value of the coins mitigated against holding a large number of pieces for an extended period of time, and there was no widespread interest in mintmarked varieties of any denomination. Things changed in the 1930s, when the Gold Recall of 1933 made collecting large-denomination gold coins an attractive means of legally investing in gold. An early auction appearance of an 1857-O was in lot 3060 of the Sloane, Lenz, and Other Collections (Thomas Elder, 1/1936). Elder simply stated "1857. $20. O. Mint. Fine and rare." Interestingly, this sale also included examples of six other dates in the New Orleans double eagle series, an indication of their growing popularity at the time. Later auction appearances have enjoyed increasing success down to the present day. When the MS63 Bass coin was sold in May 2000, it realized $97,750.
    The present coin is one of the finest examples from this storied branch mint. The strike is bold, with fine detail on Liberty's hair and the star centrils. The mintmark is a little weak, as seen on almost all specimens of this date. The pleasing surfaces are attractive greenish-gold, with reflective, prooflike fields. Close inspection reveals a pair of minute rim bruises and a few insignificant abrasions in the obverse field that explain the grade. This coin possesses stunning eye appeal, and will be a highlight in the finest collection of Southern gold.
    Ex: Adolphe Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 1958, per Walter Breen; Public Auction sale (Stack's, 6/1995), lot 846.
    From The Henry Miller Collection.(Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2694, PCGS# 8921)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Henry Miller Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2011
    5th-9th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,012

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