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    1854-O Liberty Double Eagle, AU53
    Famous New Orleans Rarity
    A Specimen Rarely Offered

    1854-O $20 AU53 NGC. Variety 1. The New Orleans Mint was a hub for gold deposits during the height of the California Gold Rush. Shipments came from the West Coast primarily by paddlewheel steamboats along the Panama route, carrying dust, nuggets, and sometimes bars from miners and private San Francisco assayers. The eastward flood of California gold continued through 1853, until the San Francisco branch mint was made operational in early 1854. The chief recipient of this gold was the double eagle.

    When the New Orleans Mint was establish in March 1835, it was expected to coin chiefly silver and only some gold. At the time, most of the domestic gold being mined in the South was further east, in the Carolinas and Georgia; smaller branch mints were established at Charlotte and Dahlonega to exclusively service the gold coinage needs of the regions. By contrast, the New Orleans Mint received gold in mostly small shipments of foreign bullion and coin. That changed when gold was discovered in California. The vast quantities of the yellow metal being brought to the San Francisco seaport from the Sierra Nevada foothills spawned numerous local private assayers, many of whom were of low repute. As the closest federal branch mint to the region, New Orleans became the simplest way for West Coast miners to get their gold assayed, refined, and coined by a federal Mint. An excerpt from the Mint Director's Annual Report, 1850, reads:

    "Of the deposits of gold received, only about one thirty fifth part was in foreign coins or bullion. The remainder, amounting to $36,938,314, was of United States production, of which $36,273,097 were from California. The entire receipts from that source, from the discovery of the mines to the close of 1850, were $42,469,758."

    The report continued later:

    "At the New Orleans mint, difficulties analogous to our own have been sustained, with some others to which we have not been subjected. There is no reason, however, to doubt the competency of that mint to any coinage which is likely to be demanded of it."

    Some of the New Orleans Mint's challenges referenced likely had to do with its deteriorating building. The Louisiana facility began experiencing structural failures as early as 1845, when arch supports below the melting room were reinforced for fear of them crumbling. In May 1854, additional repairs were recommended, which including fireproofing the entire building -- a procedure that would require suspended coinage operations while wooden floor beams were replaced with iron. When the San Francisco Mint opened for deposits in early 1854, deposits of California gold plummeted at New Orleans, allowing the branch mint to start addressing its new structural issues. Double eagle coinage became an afterthought in the course of things. In 1854, New Orleans produced only 3,250 examples of this denomination, after striking some 315,000 coins just a few years before. The token-sized mintages continued for several years.

    For modern collectors, the low-mintage New Orleans double eagles of the 1850s, especially the 1854-O and '56-O, represent the Holy Grail of rarities. The entire 1854-O production was released into circulation, where some pieces were lost to attrition and others were likely destroyed just a few years later, during the Civil War, when the Confederacy shipped significant quantities of gold to Europe. Surviving coins all show some degree of wear and often have heavy abrasions. Many authors have speculated on the number of pieces extant, although most estimates are higher than we believe is accurate. Having compiled a detailed roster of known 1854-O twenties, we have been able to confirm the survival of just 24 pieces. In Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint, third edition, Southern gold specialist Doug Winter writes: "Examples are usually only sold at auctions which contain major 'name' collections. Ownership of an 1854-O is regarded as a hallmark of a truly great collection of Liberty Head double eagles."

    In this offering, we present one of the most attractive examples known. Barely a trace of wear is evident across the devices, and the fields retain semiprooflike reflectivity. Abrasions are light for New Orleans gold of this period, although a few small ticks are usable as pedigree markers. Color is bright straw-gold with some deeper peach-orange hues seen around the outer border. This piece came to light in the mid-1990s, and this is only the second time it has appeared at public auction within that last two decades. It is truly rare to have such a remarkable example of this Gold Rush-era New Orleans rarity become available.

    Roster of 1854-O Liberty Double Eagles
    The following roster was compiled with the assistance of Ron Guth, P. Scott Rubin, and Saul Teichman.
    1. AU58 NGC. Gilhousen Collection (Superior, 2/1973), lot 854; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/2000), lot 780; San Francisco Signature (Heritage, 7/2005), lot 10397.
    2. AU58 NGC. Auction '79 (Stack's, 7/1979), lot 934; ANA Building Fund Sale (Steve Ivy, 12/1981), lot 1560; Superior (2/1992), lot 2938; Superior (1/1993), lot 1484; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2002), lot 4011; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2004), lot 3087.
    3. AU58 NGC. Recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Republic; Monaco Rare Coins (privately, 2004); private collection.
    4. AU58 PCGS. Cicero Collection (New Netherlands, 12/1960), lot 8; H. Jeff Browning; Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's/Stack's, 10/2001), lot 10; Hansen Collection.
    5. AU55 NGC. Chicago Signature (Heritage, 8/2015), lot 4449; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2016), lot 4815.
    6. AU55 PCGS. Robert Marks Collection (American Auction Association, 11/1972), lot 1056; James and Margaret Carter Collection (Stack's, 3/1986), lot 528; Auction '88 (David Akers, 7/1988), lot 974; Cincinnati Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 8829; Pittsburgh Signature (Heritage, 10/2011), lot 5099; Central States Signature Sale (Heritage, 4/2014), lot 5793, realized $362,500.
    7. AU55 PCGS. Lester Merkin (10/1966), lot 372; Stack's (3/1990), lot 1362; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2001), lot 7079; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/2007), lot 1906; Dallas Signature (Heritage, 10/2008), lot 3012, realized a record $603,750; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2011), lot 5246.
    8. AU55 PCGS. Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 2246; Rarities Sale (Bowers, 8/2010), lot 1818.
    9. AU55 NGC. Bowers and Ruddy (6/1975), lot 1129; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/2014), lot 4897, realized $381,875.
    10. AU53 NGC. Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/1994), lot 5521; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/1999), lot 8414; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg Auctions, 2/2017), lot 1337. The present coin.
    11. AU53 PCGS. A specimen pictured on PCGS CoinFacts website that cannot be plate matched to any appearance on this roster.
    12. AU50 PCGS. Alex Shuford Collection (Abe Kosoff, 5/1968), lot 2412; John Jay Pittman; Pittman Collection, Part I (David Akers, 10/1997), lot 1128; Superior (6/1998), lot 2361; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2014), lot 5686, realized $329,000.
    13. AU50 PCGS. William Van Roden Collection (Stack's, 5/1968), lot 910; Eugene Detmer Collection (Stack's, 2/1983), lot 1078; Auction '89 (RARCOA, 7/1989), lot 450; Denver Signature (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5592; Baltimore Auction (Bowers and Merena, 11/2007), lot 4668; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2015), lot 5424.
    14. AU50 PCGS. Amon Carter Collection (1/1984), lot 841; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/1997), lot 7821; Mid-Winter ANA Signature (Heritage, 3/1998), lot 6507; Superior (9/1998), lot 2227; California Sale (Goldberg Auctions, 10/2000), lot 1142; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 1/2004), lot 7239.
    15. AU50 PCGS. Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 6/1979), lot 586; DEA and U.S. Marshals Service Sale (Heritage, 12/1988), lot 1370; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2003), lot 4873.
    16. AU50. Louis Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 883.
    17. AU50. R.L. Miles, Jr. (Stack's, 10/1968), lot 833; James and Margaret Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1986), lot 408.
    18. AU50. ANA Convention Auction (Paramount, 8/1974), lot 967; ANA Convention Auction (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 7/1979), lot 427; King of Siam Sale (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 2011; Charles Kramer Collection (Superior/Stack's, 11/1988), lot 730; Auction '90 (David Akers, 8/1990), lot 1947; James E. Haldan Collection (Sotheby's, 6/1996), lot 136; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/2008), lot 9111.
    19. AU50. Josiah K. Lilly Collection; Smithsonian Institution.
    20. XF45 NGC. From an old family collection, off the market for many years; Dallas Signature (Heritage, 3/2018), lot 3192, realized $204,000.
    21. XF40 PCGS. Peter J. Schemenauer Estate (Bowers and Merena, 7/2005), lot 2721.
    22. XF Details Cleaned NGC. Mann and Smedley Collections (Bowers and Merena, 9/1988), lot 549; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5515.
    23. VF30 PCGS. Two sisters with roots in Tennessee; Eldorado Sale (Stack's, 5/2009), lot 158. The previous lot in this sale.
    24. XF Details Cleaned Net VF30 ANACS. Bell Collection (RARCOA, 4/1963), lot 843; Tollett and Pryor Collections (Stack's, 4/1971), lot 884; James and Margaret Carter Collection (Stack's, 3/1986), lot 529; James A. Stack Collection (Stack's, 11/1989), lot 1494; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/1999), lot 1467; Houston Signature (Heritage, 12/2008), lot 2244.

    Additional Auction Appearances
    (Catalogs not available for comparison or lacking sufficient detail for plate matching.)
    A. Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2010), lot 829.
    B. ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/1998), lot 5733.
    C. Bullet Sale (Heritage, 4/1990), lot 596.
    D. Ronald Kessler Collection (Sotheby's, 3/1990), lot 374.
    E. Central States Auction (RARCOA, 4/1976), lot 420.
    F. Public Auction Sale (Abner Kreisberg, 6/1969), lot 1127.
    G. Arrowhead Collection (Sotheby's, 5/1987), lot 345.
    H. Pacific Collection (Hughes, 2/1978), lot 1378.
    I. Public Auction Sale (Abner Kreisberg, 1/1970), lot 1935.
    J. Fontani Collection (Kreisberg and Schulman, 3/1965), lot 182.
    K. Baldenhofer Collection (Stack's, 11/1955), lot 1511.
    L. Waldo Newcomer, inventory number 973; Colonel E.H.R. Green, via B. Max Mehl, circa 1931; King Farouk, via Stack's; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 180; Abe Kosoff.
    M. Stephen Allen Collection (Stack's, 12/1950), lot 110.
    N. Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 1955.
    O. Dr. Charles W. Green (B. Max Mehl, 4/1949), lot 806.
    P. Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 759.
    Q. Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 12/1947), lot 579.
    R. Public Auction Sale (Hollinbeck Coin Co., 11/1947), lot 10.
    S. Lee Collection (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 1775.
    T. William Cutler Atwater, before 1923; Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1336.
    U. F.C.C. Boyd (World's Greatest Collection, Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 938.
    V. J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 897.
    W. 444th Sale (J.C. Morgenthau, 6/1940), lot 68.
    X. 399th Sale (J.C. Morgenthau, 5/1939), lot 452.
    Y. Wheeler-Norton Collections (Thomas Elder, 9/1938), lot 1529.
    Z. 356th Sale (J.C. Morgenthau, 12/1935), lot 237.
    AA. McCaw-Bauer-Leech Collections (Thomas Elder, 1/1934), lot 1204.
    BB. Nickerson-Butler-Edwards Collections (Thomas Elder, 12/1933), lot 1124.
    From The Poulos Family Collection. (Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 268T, PCGS# 8912)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View all of [The Poulos Family Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    14th-18th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,202

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