Rare 1861-O Double Eagle, Choice AU
1861-O $20 AU55 PCGS. Struck under three different governing
authorities to the extent of a meager 17,741 pieces during the
course of the year, the 1861-O double eagle would become a historic
rarity, the last O-mint double eagle produced until the 1879-O.
Historic Civil War Issue Struck Under
Three Different Governments
The Civil War and its geographic ramifications were to blame, of course. During the year 1861, the New Orleans Mint was under the control of three different political entities:
--From January 1 to January 25, the New Orleans Mint was a facility of the U.S. government;
--Louisiana seceded from the Union on January 26, 1861, making the mint the property of the State of Louisiana, through March 20; and, finally,
--Louisiana joined the Confederated States of America ("the Confederacy") on March 21.
Walter Breen writes in his Complete Encyclopedia that the mintage included 5,000 coins for the Union, 9,750 for the State of Louisiana, and 2,991 pieces for the Confederacy, but adds, "these cannot be told apart with certainty." Doug Winter, in an interesting discussion on PCGS CoinFacts, identifies three die states for the obverse:
--Weak date with scribe lines beneath the date, partially restoring the 8; and
--Strong date with die crack from star 2 into the obverse field near the chin.
Winter writes on CoinFacts:
"When one considers that the Confederacy is said to have struck approximately 17% of the original mintage figure of this issue (2,991 of the 17,741 struck) this is almost exactly the percentage of the coins that exhibit the strong date with the crack. It is my belief that these are the coins produced by the Confederacy."
This conclusion is contrary to some other researchers (such as Bowers) who believe that the CSA strikes might be those with the weak date and scribe lines beneath the date, indicating that "at the New Orleans Mint no numeral punches were on hand for such work; otherwise a complete 8 could have been punched into the working die."
The 1861-O double eagle is a Type One issue that is rare in any grade -- and die state. This Choice AU example is far finer than the norm and shows the typical weak date of 75% of all examples. Deep orange-gold color dominates most of each side with tinges of lilac over the high points. The reverse still retains partial mirroring around the devices from die polishing. Save for the bottom of the date, the strike is sharp. Small- to medium-sized marks scattered about include one notable scrape at the top of obverse, above the hair of Liberty. Population: 16 in 55, 6 finer (11/12).(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 269J, PCGS# 8934)
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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