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    Description

    1856-O Double Eagle, AU50
    Famous New Orleans Rarity
    Ex: Dallas Bank Collection

    1856-O $20 AU50 NGC. Variety 1. Following the dawn of the California Gold Rush, the New Orleans Mint became a hub for bullion deposits from the West Coast, and a steady flow of shipments from numerous individual depositors continued through 1853. In early 1854, however, California gold deposits largely shifted to the new San Francisco Mint, which was established in the building that once housed the U.S. Assay Office. The Assay Office of San Francisco operated from 1851 through 1853 and produced chiefly gold ingots to fill the need for a reputable assayer in the region until a federal branch mint was authorized by Congress. Standard federal coinage was not produced on the West Coast until the San Francisco Mint was established. Then, the favorite denomination of depositors was the double eagle.

    Gold deposits at New Orleans plummeted after the opening of the San Francisco Mint, although those that did trickle in still contained a significant percentage of gold from the West Coast, as well as "Cala coins," which may have referenced the gold coinage of various private San Francisco assayers. Gold coinage declined significantly as a result. Production that did take place favored the lower denominations since gold struck in New Orleans in the 1850s was intended to circulate, not just sit in Treasury vaults as was the case in later years in Philadelphia. New Orleans double eagle production dipped to just a few thousands coins per year.

    The lowest-mintage double eagle from New Orleans is the 1856-O. The branch mint coined most of the gold deposited there in 1856, but only $45,000 worth was converted into double eagles (2,250 coins). More than five times that much gold was struck into eagles, half eagles, and quarter eagles. Moreover, production was cut short in October of that year to allow for fireproofing repairs to the mint building, and it did not resume until 1857.

    Nearly the entire mintage of 1856-O double eagles has been lost. Over the years, individual coins have been discovered in unlikely places, including a coin buried in the cellar of a house in Baltimore, Maryland, apparently placed there between 1856 and the outbreak of the Civil War; a piece found in a safe deposit box in Ohio; and a coin discovered just last year in Europe, long lost in a store of bullion. These, plus coins from traditional numismatic channels, comprise a survivorship of only 25 documented 1856-O double eagles, two of which are housed in the Smithsonian Institution.

    This piece is the former Dallas Bank Collection coin, held in trust in a bank vault in Texas for decades. David Akers first saw this piece in 1981, some 20 years before its 2001 namesake auction (Sotheby's/Stack's, 10/2001). He later called it "certainly in the top two or three" examples of the issue that he had seen. Today, there are only seven finer privately held pieces, including the lone SP63 PCGS coin, which has not appeared at auction in more than a decade. The 1856-O is considered by many to be the Holy Grail of New Orleans gold issues, although it truthfully shares that heraldry with the equally rare 1854-O. Acquiring any surviving example is a feat of such measure that there is seldom room for selectivity about condition. The Dallas Bank Collection coin, however, presents an opportunity to obtain this O-mint rarity in a grade rarely possible.

    A short mark in the obverse field near star 4 serves as a ready pedigree marker, and while there are other scattered abrasions consistent with the AU50 designation, none are obtrusive. Surface quality is superior for an 1856-O, and the prooflike mirroring in the protected areas of the fields is especially pleasing. The strike is sharp and little-worn on this prestigious rarity.

    Roster of 1856-O Liberty Double Eagles
    1.
    SP63 PCGS. Purchased from the New Orleans Mint at the time of issue by Mint Superintendent Charles Bienvenu; passed to Bienvenu's heirs; purchased by Marc Emory of New England Rare Coin Galleries directly from Bienvenu's family in 1979; sold by James Halperin later that year to Larry Demerer for approximately $215,000; sold to Superior for a reported $312,500 in late 1980/early 1981; The Premier Auction Sale (Superior, 1/1995), lot 1645, realized $203,500; The Eagle Collection (Heritage, 1/2002), lot 4147, realized $310,500; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/2004), lot 6372, realized $542,800, Long Beach Signature Auction (Heritage, 5/2009), lot 1989, realized $1,437,500.
    2.
    AU58 PCGS. Amon Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 847; Public Coin Auction (Stack's, 10/1986), lot 967, realized $33,000; James A. Stack Collection (Stack's, 11/1989), lot 1500; AWA specimen, per Doug Winter.
    3.
    AU58 NGC. NASC Convention Auction (Paramount, 2/1965), lot 887; William Van Roden Collection (Stack's, 5/1968), lot 916, realized $6,500; James Dines Collection (Stack's, 3/1969), lot 856; Winner F. Delp Collection (Stack's, 11/1972), lot 816; James and Margaret Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1986), lot 414; ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/1997), lot 7824, realized $80,500; Dallas Signature (Heritage, 10/2008), lot 3018, realized $576,150; Los Angeles Signature (Heritage, 7/2009), lot 1316, realized $460,000.
    4.
    AU55 PCGS. Secure. ANA Convention Auction (Stack's, 8/1971), lot 2424, realized $5250; Duquesne Collection (Heritage, 8/2015), lot 4452; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/2016), lot 4843.
    5.
    AU55 PCGS. Cicero Collection (New Netherlands, 12/1960), lot 10; Jack Klausen; purchased by Harry W. Bass, Jr. on June 19, 1968; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 1711, realized $105,800; New York Signature (Heritage, 7/2002), lot 9472, realized $132,250; San Francisco Signature (Heritage, 7/2005), lot 10399, realized $431,250; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2015), lot 5428, realized $387,750.
    6. AU53 PCGS.
    R.L. Miles Collection (Stack's, 10/1968), lot 839; Auction '88 (Akers, 7/1988), lot 975; Auction '90 (David Akers, 8/1990), lot 1951, realized $24,200, Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2001), lot 7091, realized $94,875; Chicago Signature (Heritage, 8/2014), lot 5691, realized $425,937.50. The Winter/Crum plate coin, and the plate coin for Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins by Garrett and Guth.
    7.
    AU53 PCGS. European holding; New York Sale (NERCA, 3/1977), lot 935, realized $23,000; Baltimore Auction (Bowers and Merena, 3/2007), lot 5597, realized $356,500.
    8.
    AU53, per Garrett and Guth. National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution. This coin was discovered in the NNC in 1984 with no record of its provenance. It was not listed in the inventory Comparette compiled in the 1912-1914 era, but it may have been in the collection for some time.
    9.
    AU50 NGC. Dallas Bank Collection (Sotheby's/Stack's, 10/2001), lot 16, realized $92,000; Denver Signature (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5601, realized $345,000. The present coin.
    10. AU50 NGC.
    FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2018), lot 5097, realized $288,000.
    11.
    AU50 NGC. Charles Kramer Collection (Stack's/Superior, 12/1988), lot 736; Auction '89 (RARCOA, 7/1989), lot 453; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 1/2004), lot 7247, realized $143,750.
    12. AU50 NGC.
    Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 7/2004), lot 2252, realized $276,000.
    13.
    AU50 Prooflike. Louis Eliasberg, Sr.; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 889, realized $49,500; Manfra, Tordella & Brookes.
    14.
    AU Details NGC. John J. Pittman, purchased from Ed Bell (11/27/1961); John Jay Pittman Collection (David Akers, 10/1997), lot 1134, realized $35,750; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 8831, realized $138,000; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2014), lot 5795, realized $164,500. The previous lot in this sale.
    15.
    XF45 PCGS Secure. Atlanta Signature (Heritage, 4/2006), lot 2137, realized $161,000; Chicago Signature (Heritage, 8/2014), lot 5690, realized $164,500; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016), lot 5639; realized $235,000.
    16. XF45+ NGC.
    James Bullock before 1923; Bullock's heirs; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/2010), lot 5554, realized $345,000.
    17. XF45 NGC.
    Pre-Long Beach Sale (Superior, 5/1999), lot 3766, realized $67,850; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5518, realized $318,875.
    18.
    XF45 PCGS. FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 4131, realized $276,000; Los Angeles Signature (Heritage, 7/2009), lot 1315, realized $253,000; Pittsburgh Fall ANA Signature (Heritage, 10/2011), lot 5100, realized $276,000.
    19.
    XF45 PCGS. Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 3/1986), lot 534; King of Siam Sale (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 2017, realized $23,100; Broadus R. Littlejohn, Jr. Collection (Schuyler Rumsey, 2/2012), lot 1216.
    20.
    XF40 NGC. European collection; ANA Auction Sale (Superior, 8/1975), lot 1601, which realized $37,500; Arrowhead Collection (Sotheby's, 5/1987), lot 352; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2011), lot 5249; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2018), lot 5096, realized $216,000; the Akers plate coin.
    21.
    XF Details PCGS. Possibly Mike Brownlee; S. Gus and Louise Alexander Collection, before 1993; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2018), lot 4391, realized $132,000.
    22.
    XF. Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 11/1994), lot 1600, realized $35,200.
    23. XF Cleaned, per Garrett and Guth.
    Lilly Collection until 1968; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution. XF cleaned, per Garrett and Guth.
    24. VF30.
    D.E.A. and U.S. Marshals Service Sale (Heritage, 12/1988), lot 1377.
    25. VF20 PCGS.
    Alex Shuford Collection (Abe Kosoff, 5/1968), lot 2414; Gilhousen Sale (Superior, 2/1973), lot 860, realized $7,000; ANA Convention Auction (Paramount, 8/1974), lot 973; Central States Auction (RARCOA, 4/1975), lot 105; Eugene Detmer Collection (Stack's, 2/1983), lot 1084; Charmont Sale (Steve Ivy, 8/1983), lot 4387; Auction '85 (Superior, 7/1985), lot 974, realized $21,850; Century Sale (Superior, 2/1992), lot 2944; January-February Auction (Superior, 1/1993), lot 1477, realized $13,750, Dr. John Kardatzke Collection (Goldberg Auctions, 6/2000), lot 1719, realized $21,850; ANA Auction (Stack's Bowers, 8/2011), lot 7753.

    Additional Appearances
    A.
    J.H. Townsend; John Nickerson Collection (Thomas Elder, 12/1933), lot 1126. Fine.
    B.
    A specimen in the Col. Green Collection, sold to King Farouk via Stack's in 1943 for $135, called "Unc. Mint luster," Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 180, purchased by Abe Kosoff for 180 Egyptian pounds.
    C.
    A specimen in the Baltimore Hoard, Public Auction Sale (Perry Fuller, 5/1935), realized $105 to Samuel Glenn, of Boydton, Virginia (thanks to Len Augsburger for this information).
    D.
    J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 899, realized $320; possibly the coin in number 12 above, per the Eliasberg catalog. Uncirculated, full mint luster.
    E.
    George H. Hall Collection (Stack's, 5/1945), lot 2243. VF.
    F.
    William Cutler Atwater Collection (Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1338, realized $210; possibly number 12 above, per Eliasberg catalog. Strictly Very Fine, free from any nicks or dents.
    G.
    H.R. Lee Collection (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 1777. Strictly Very Fine.
    H.
    Dr. Charles W. Green Collection (B. Max Mehl, 4/1949), lot 808, realized $180; Strictly Very Fine.
    I.
    Adolphe Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 1957, realized $280. Very Fine.
    J.
    Thomas Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 888. Very Fine.
    K.
    J.F. Bell Collection (RARCOA, 4/1963), lot 849. XF obverse, AU reverse.
    L.
    Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 6/1979), lot 594.
    M.
    Pre-Long Beach Sale (Superior, 5/2001), lot 4170D. AU50 sharpness, Net XF45 due to harsh cleaning on both sides. Described on a tipped-in sheet at the front of the catalog.
    N.
    Two specimens reported as sold at private sale in the 3/1977 New England catalog. One in XF40 with a planchet defect sold in 1976 for $30,000. Another in XF45 sold in 1975 for $65,000.
    O.
    Another specimen referred to in the lot description of the Cicero catalog (number 5 above) "the miserable cleaned coin in one of our Numisma auctions some years ago."
    From The Genau Collection. (Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 268Z, PCGS# 8918)

    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 Genau Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    14th-18th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 23
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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