I’m basically an old school coin dealer. I market coins all the time but am not really a “marketer” in the numismatic sense of the word—although I deal with firms which are marketers. These companies are always looking for angles and if there is one thing I am pretty cognizant of its coin angles.
So as a coin dealer who handles a lot of New Orleans gold coins, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the ten most marketable gold issues from this mint.
Notice, I didn’t say the ten rarest New Orleans gold coins. Nor did I say the ten most expensive. This list is about coins which are easy to sell and fun to collect. These are coins with multiple levels of demand, and the sort of coins which are easily understood by beginning and advanced collectors alike. These are coins which the purist might call “overvalued” but the marketing-savvy dealer knows are great sellers in nearly any grade.
Without further ado, the list.
1. 1849-O Gold Dollar
This is a first-year of issue and it is interesting for a variety of reasons. The Type One gold dollars from New Orleans were made for just five years, and only one date (the 1850-O) is remotely scarce. It is a great set to collect and it is one which the collector of average means can complete in comparatively high grades (MS62 and above).
The 1849-O dollar is very easy to locate in circulated grades, and a presentable AU example can be had for less than $1,000. In the lower MS grades, the 1849-O can be found with some degree of frequency, and even MS63 examples are not terribly rare or expensive with average quality specimens currently selling in the $3,250-4,250 range. In MS64, this date becomes scarce and the collector can expect to pay at least $5,000 for a decent example. In MS65, this is a very rare coin with just three or four known. The last to appear at auction was a PCGS example that brought a very strong $29,900 in Heritage’s 10/11 sale.
It would be hard to accumulate a substantial number of 1849-O dollars in grades above MS62 but it is likely that a decent position of AU58 to MS62 coins could be assembled.
2. 1855-O Gold Dollar
The 1855-O gold dollar has been a favorite of mine for many years. It has two great things going for it: it is a distinct one-year type, and it is the only New Orleans gold dollar struck which uses the short-lived, popular Type Two design (made only from 1854 to 1856). A total of 55,000 were made, and it is not really a rare coin but it is extremely popular and become g harder to find every year.
The 1855-O dollar is most readily available in EF and AU grades. It becomes scarce in the AU55 to AU58 range, although it is available at most major shows or auctions. In Uncirculated, it has become a very hard coin to find with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. It is very rare in properly graded MS63, and it is essentially unknown above this. The popularity of this issue is apparent in its surge in price over the five+ years. In 2008, I can remember selling average quality AU58’s for around $3,000 and choice examples for closer to $4,000. Today, an average quality AU58 will cost more like $4,250-4,500 and a choice coin with CAC approval might bring as much as $5,500-6,000.
It would be challenging to accumulate a quantity of 1855-O gold dollars although a group ranging in grade from EF45 to AU55 could likely be assembled. The number of 1855-O gold dollars in Mint State that have been graded appears plentiful according to PCGS and NGC – statistics but this is misleading due to resubmissions and coins placed in long-term collections. I have only handled four Uncirculated 1855-O gold dollars in the last two years (two in MS61 and one each in MS62 and MS63), and even if I wasn’t the picky buyer I am, I doubt whether more than three to five could be found in a year’s time.
3. 1839-O Quarter Eagle
This is another of my favorite New Orleans gold coins. It is extremely popular and there are a number of great factors which make it so: it is a one-year type, it is a first year of issue, and it is the only New Orleans gold coin with the mintmark placed on the obverse. And one more thing…can you say “first gold coin of any denomination struck at the New Orleans mint?”
The comments that I made above for the 1855-O gold dollar apply (mostly) to the 1839-O quarter eagle. The mintage for this issue is much lower (17,781) but the survival rate is reasonably high with VF and EF coins available from time to time. In AU, the 1839-O is moderately scarce and it is rare in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS61 range. In MS62 and above, this issue is quite rare.
The price performance for this issue rivals or exceeds that for the 1855-O gold dollar. In 2008, I would routinely sell an AU55 in the $4,000-4,500 range. Today, a nice CAC quality AU55 will bring close to $6,000.
This is another issue which might be hard to stockpile for a promotion unless a wide range of grades was acceptable. I’ve seen the availability of this issue really dry up in the last two or three years, and I’ve gone from almost always having a nice 1839-O in stock to now having one every three or four months.
4. 1845-O Quarter Eagle
This is hands-down the rarest coin on this list and it is an unlikely candidate for promotion, but I’m going to include it anyway. What makes this coin so interesting is its low mintage (only 4,000 were struck) and its relative affordability. (More on this in a second…)
There may be as few as 100-125 known in all grades which, obviously, makes this a hard issue to corner the market on. That said, it is a date that I handle on a reasonably regular basis. As a marketer, I’d think about this as a White Whale issue which is the key to the Liberty Head quarter eagle set; a short-lived and very completable run of 13-14 coins which should be more actively collected by date.
The 1845-O has increased in value over the past few years at the same pace as many of the other popular issues mentioned in this article. A presentable EF example can still be had in the $2,500-3,000 which I feel is one of the great values in all of New Orleans gold. AU examples, which are available more often due to gradeflation, can cost as much as $12,500-15,000 for a choice 58 coin and are hardly what I would call promotable.
If I were marketing New Orleans gold, I would put away every single 1845-O quarter eagle I could find, promote the hell out of the more common quarter eagles, and then sell these coins as “set finishers.” As I mentioned above, this is a set with potential and one with a number of great values at current levels.
5. 1854-O Three Dollar Gold
This is an issue which is absolutely ideal for marketing purposes. It has a great story (it is a one year type and it is the only three dollar gold piece ever made at the New Orleans mint), it is reasonably plentiful (especially in comparison to other issues mentioned in this article), and it is actually fairly affordable with decent quality examples still available in the $3,000-6,000 range.
The 1854-O three dollar has a reasonably low mintage of 24,000. As with its counterpart the 1854-D, this issue is more available than one might assume, and there are hundreds known in the EF and lower AU grades. The 1854-O becomes scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58, and it is very rare in Uncirculated with fewer than ten known.
Three dollar gold pieces have been out of favor for close to a decade, and this has tended to drag down prices on the 1854-O. Another factor is grading: many examples are conspicuously overgraded and few are choice and original. But I think at current price levels, nice 1854-O three dollar gold piece are a bargain and they could increase nicely if properly marketed.
Could a savvy marketer stash away a decent amount of these? Probably so and certainly with less effort than, say, an 1845-O quarter eagle. Put me down as someone who would love to jump-start the market for this interesting issue!
6. 1840-O Half Eagle
In the last few years this issue’s counterparts, the 1839-C and 1839-D half eagles, have seen huge price increases. The 1840-O is also a first-year-of-issue coin but, unlike the 1839-C and 1839-D, it isn’t a one year type. And, most importantly, unlike the other two southern half eagles, it is still highly undervalued and much overlooked.
The obvious problem with marketing 1840-O half eagles is availability, especially in high grades. The 1840-O is a truly rare coin but it is not offered for sale with a great degree of frequency. A quick perusal of auction records over the last decade shows an average of four or five 1840-O half eagles per year available for sale. I have handled seven in the last two to three years. So unless a marketer got lucky, it would be very frustrating to try and include this date as a key item.
And yet…this is such a perfect coin to promote. It’s the first half eagle from this mint, it is reasonably affordable (a decent AU can be had for $2,000-4,000) and it is scarcer than the higher priced 1840-C and 1840-D half eagles.
Like I said, for the promoter, the 1840-O half eagle is probably a pipe dream. But that doesn’t keep me from putting it on my list of the ten most promotable gold issues from this mint.
7. With Motto Half Eagles (1893-O and 1894-O)
The No Motto half eagles design was made at the New Orleans mint through 1857 and it was then discontinued. It was not resumed until 1892 and then for just three years. The 1892-O is a very scarce issue and way too hard to promote, but the 1893-O and 1894-O are more available.
The 1893-O is the more common of these two dates with an original mintage of 110,000. It is fairly easy to find in circulated grades and available from time to time in MS60 to MS62. Nice circulated 1893-O half eagles can still be found for around $1,000 while a very presentable Uncirculated coin is available for around $2,000.
The 1894-O is more of a challenge. Only 16,600 were made and this issue is hard to find in Uncirculated although it is available in decent quantities in AU grades.
These issues are instantly promotable as short-lived representatives of the With Motto type. Pairing the 1893-O and 1894-O in AU and lower Uncirculated grades is certainly feasible. An ambitious project would be to add an 1892-O (generally priced in the $4,000-6,000+ range) and form a complete three-coin With Motto set.
8. 1909-O Half Eagle
This is probably the most obvious coin to put on this list, and it is an issue which has been subject to a number of promotions in the past. The 1909-O is a distinct one-year type coin which is immediately recognizable as the only Indian Head half eagle from New Orleans. In addition to being a one-year type, it is also a last year issue (how cool would a set of first year/last year half eagles be with an example of an 1840-O and a 1909-O?).
The 1909-O half eagle is one of the ultimate condition rarities. A total of 34,200 were made and from the pattern of grade distribution which exists for this date, it is plain to see that it did see a good deal of local circulation. Most 1909-O half eagles are seen in EF45 to AU55 grades and properly graded AU58’s are scarce. In Uncirculated, the 1909-O is very scarce with most seen in the MS60 to MS61 range. In MS62 and above, this issue is very rare. The finest known is a PCGS MS66 which I recently purchased in the 2014 Heritage FUN auction for $646,250 and immediately sold to a collector who is assembling the finest all-time set of New Orleans gold.
The great story and comparable availability of this coin make it perfect to promote. It is not an inexpensive coin with average quality examples typically selling in the $8,000-15,000 range. But it is possible to accumulate a decent position (although it is likely that any new promotion would run up against existing promotions creating a battle for the supply).
9. With Motto Liberty Head Eagles in Mint State
The With Motto design eagle was first struck in New Orleans in 1879. This issue is very rare and the next issues (1880-0, 1881-O, 1882-O and 1883-O) range from scarce to very rare. After a brief hiatus, production resumed in 1888 and during the next two decades, a total of 11 different New Orleans eagles were struck. The mintage figures for these dates weren’t that high but many issues were shipped overseas and now exist in reasonable quantities.
For a marketer, there are some interesting options with these later date New Orleans eagles. On a single coin basis, they are affordable (lower quality Mint State coins can be had for less than $1,500 each) and they have a relatively small premium when compared to more common “generics” of this era. I have personally assembled a number of 11 coin sets of New Orleans Liberty Head eagles from 1888 through 1906 in MS61 and MS62 grade and I can think of few other affordable collections of gold coins which can be completed this easily yet offer as much satisfaction for the owner.
Three issues (1901-O, 1903-O and 1904-O) can even be found in MS63 with comparable frequency and they are not only reasonably affordable (typically in the $2,500-3,000) range, they have dropped in price over the last five years and have become more available due to lack of demand. At one point in time, a coin such as a 1901-O eagle in MS63 sold for around four times the price of a common date 1901-S in this grade. Today, this ratio is more like three to one and I think the 1901-O in MS63 is great value as a high grade, affordable With Motto eagle from this mint.
10. Type One Double Eagles (1850-O, 1851-O, and 1852-O)
Few gold coins from New Orleans have shown as much price appreciation as Type One double eagles. This means that most of the issues from this dozen coin group are priced well into five figures; some, like the 1854-O and 1856-O are six figure coins. This leaves the first three issues, the 1850-O, 1851-O and 1852-O, as the most affordable and the only ones with some potential to be marketed.
To me, the neatest of the three issues is the 1850-O and for obvious reasons: it is the very first double eagle made at this mint. Of the three, it is the scarcest and it is quite rare in AU55 and above. I would think that it would be possible to accumulate a small position of these in EF grades but it is not likely to find more than a few in the lower AU range. The 1851-O and 1852-O are seen from time to time in EF and a nice example is now priced in the $4,000-6,000+ range.
In my experience, Type One double eagles from New Orleans are extremely popular and very easy to sell. They are the largest coins from this mint and among the most “valuable.” This makes them in demand with both new collectors and savvy, long-term specialists. As recently as five years ago, you could find these coins in enough quantity to justify a promotion; today, this is probably not as likely but it is certainly an interesting proposition.
For coin marketers, there are few coins with as many “slam dunks” as the gold issues from New Orleans. These are coins with great stories: one year types, low mintage pieces, coins with Civil War connections, etc. Some of these coins are no doubt being accumulated even as you read this for possible future promotions. Others are being avidly collected by an ever-growing cadre of specialists.
If you have any questions about New Orleans gold coins, please feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com.
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