Condition Census 1859-O Twenty Dollar, AU58
1859-O $20 AU58 NGC. New Orleans was at the height of her
global importance shortly before the Civil War, at the time this
elusive issue was struck. The Queen of the Delta and her venerable
Greek Revival-style mint would assume a somewhat lesser prominence
in the decades following the great conflict. Transcontinental
railroads (the first was completed in 1869) diminished the
importance of steamship commerce, the abolition of slavery made
cotton farming and shipping less profitable, and therefore less
prominent--and the Civil War would shutter the New Orleans Mint for
coinage purposes from February 1861 until 1879.
Historic Antebellum New Orleans Issue
The 1859-O double eagle was produced to the extent of only 9,100 pieces. Such a small production puts the issue, according to the 2006 second edition of Doug Winter's Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1838-1909, in a tie (with the 1879-O) for fourth place as the overall rarest of the O-mint double eagles, behind the 1855-O (third), the 1854-O (second), and the coveted 1856-O. In high-grade rarity, Winter ranks the coin sixth out of 13 issues in the series.
Q. David Bowers says more simply, "In any and all grades, the 1859-O is important and rare." Even including the couple of coins recovered from the S.S. Republic, AU58 is basically the top end of the certified population, save for a single MS61 Prooflike at NGC. PCGS has graded two AU58 coins as the finest (8/09).
With only 9,100 coins produced, it is unsurprising that quite a few have semireflective surfaces (as does this piece), since the initial die polish had no chance to wear off. The surfaces are otherwise orange-gold and devoid of any mentionable abrasions. The strike is sharp in the centers, but there is a bit of peripheral softness, especially noticeable on the obverse stars.
From The Vegas 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.
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