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    Description

    1859-O Liberty Double Eagle, AU58
    Low-Mintage Branch Mint Issue
    Condition Census Example

    1859-O $20 AU58 NGC. Variety 1. Ex: Eagle Collection. From a small mintage of 9,100 pieces, the 1859-O is the fourth rarest New Orleans double eagle, narrowly trailing the 1855-O. The surviving population numbers 75-85 examples in all grades and conditions. Of these, perhaps 15-20 specimens are in AU grades, with the population data slightly inflated by resubmissions and crossovers. The typical AU 1859-O shows excessive abrasions on the obverse and reverse, with prooflike surfaces that tend to accentuate these flaws. Doug Winter estimates 15 coins are known in impaired condition.

    There was little numismatic interest in double eagles in general, and branch mint issues in particular, in the 19th century. As a result, auction appearances of the 1859-O were almost unheard of before the 1930s. A few Western collectors, like B.W. Smith in California and Charles W. Cowell in Denver, collected date runs of New Orleans double eagles, which they culled out of circulation in the hard-money economy of the region, but they were almost alone in this pursuit. A few Eastern collectors, like the Clapps and Virgil Brand, also began collecting branch mint double eagles in the late 19th and early 20th century, purchasing coins from the various Mints every year, but they were too late to purchase double eagles from the New Orleans Mint, which struck its last twenty dollar coin in 1879. Large denomination gold coins from the branch mints were seldom seen in dealer's stocks. As a result, the 1859-O is extremely rare in Mint State today. One very early auction appearance of the 1859-O was in lot 506 of the Charles W. Cowell Collection (B. Max Mehl, 11/1911), where Mehl's terse description reveals both the rarity of the coin and the scant attention it received in that era. Cowell had a run of seven New Orleans twenties and the description of the 1859-O was typically brief, "1859 Very fine. Rare." Of course, all this changed after the Gold Recall of 1933, when collecting gold coins became one of the few legal ways to invest in gold in this country. Early branch mint double eagles are in great demand in today's market, with recent sales including the AU58 PCGS example in lot 3027 of the Dallas Signature (Heritage, 10/2008), which realized $97,750.

    This attractive near-Mint specimen shows numerous small abrasions on each side but the only mentionable surface flaw is a vertical mark between the neck of Liberty and star 1. Some diagnostic clashmarks are evident above and below Liberty's ear and on the nape of her neck. The fields of this piece show a combination of semi-prooflike reflectivity and light mint frost. Only two 1859-O double eagles are currently graded finer than this coin, the Ex: Harry Bass specimen in MS60 at PCGS and an MS61 Prooflike piece at NGC (7/16). This lovely AU58 is certainly one of the three or four finest pieces known and it is definitely the nicest currently available to collectors.
    Ex: Eagle Collection (Heritage, 1/2002), lot 4025.
    From The Twelve Oaks Collection.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 269B, PCGS# 8927)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    9th-12th Friday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,205

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