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    Description

    1861-O Twenty, Rare and Prooflike MS60
    Remarkable Civil War Era Gold Piece

    1861-O $20 MS60 PCGS. Variety 1. While the Philadelphia Mint was busy turning out nearly 3 million double eagles in 1861, the New Orleans Mint struck a mere 17,741 twenty dollar gold pieces for the year in which the federal government yielded control of the Southern Mint to the State of Louisiana. Similar to the 1861-O half dollar, the 1861-O double eagle was struck under three different authorities -- first, when the New Orleans facility was under federal (Union) control, then under the auspices of the State of Louisiana, and finally when under Confederate control. The 1861-O was the final double eagle produced by the New Orleans Mint until 1879.

    From January 1 through January 25 in 1861, 5,000 double eagles were struck for the federal government, followed by 9,750 pieces produced for the State of Louisiana, and 2,991 pieces for the Confederacy. Most researchers believe that a single die pair was used for the entire production, albeit in different die stages. The large majority of 1861-O double eagles have a date weakened at the bottom from die lapping, most of which show an attempted strengthening of the 8 and 6 in the date by crude reworking of the numerals (i.e. the Patched 8 die stage.)

    One plausible scenario suggests that the initial pieces struck by the federal government used a perfect obverse die with a strong date, which soon cracked at the rim above star 2 and into the field opposite Liberty's chin before branching toward star 3. Many (if not all) of the die-cracked coins show a degree of die clashing with evidence of shield bars near the ear of Liberty. The die was then lapped and polished. Soon thereafter, the numerals were strengthened by hand-engraving the working die at the base of 8 and 6, with further polishing of the die.

    This is the die stage shown by the present coin. It is a remarkably sharp Mint State example, prooflike throughout both sides with strong definition on the curls around the face and below the ear. The star centers are fully formed and needle-sharp. Likewise, the eagle's neck feathers are individually defined far beyond the norm. Light field abrasions are less numerous than expected for a MS60 coin, with only a few minor blemishes on the portrait and no heavy marks anywhere else.

    Rich, sun-gold color shows hints of orange across the reflective, lustrous surfaces. This exceptional Uncirculated New Orleans double eagle stands above any 1861-O twenty we have offered from an aesthetic perspective, including a nice MS60 NGC example that brought $146,875 in our January, 2014 FUN Signature event. PCGS and NGC have combined to certify just seven Mint State examples - all at the MS60 grade, with the exception of two MS61 coins and none finer (9/17).
    From The Collection of Maj. Eugene Neal "Red" James, USMCR. (Registry values: N7079) (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.

    View all of [The Collection of Major Eugene Neal "Red" James, USMCR ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2018
    3rd-8th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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