Cool Coins from Long Beach: 1851-O $20.00

I always like to share some of the interesting “secret” coins that I buy at shows and I recently realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve written a “Cool Coins” Blog. At the recent Summer 2016 Long Beach show, I purchased a number of special coins which never made it on to my website.

One of my favorite purchases was a stunning 1851-O $20 from an old-time, fresh collection which was sold by Goldberg in their pre-show auction. There were three great Type One double eagles in the sale: a borderline Gem 1850, this 1851-O, and an 1857 in PCGS/CAC MS64 which is likely tied for the finest known. I bid on all three but my primary target was this lovely PCGS MS63 1851-O for reasons which I will share in just a moment.

  1851-O $20.00 PCGS MS63

1851-O $20.00 PCGS MS63

As you might imagine, any New Orleans double eagle is extremely rare in MS63 or higher. The following chart shows all the O mint double eagles graded MS63 (or finer) by PCGS:

First, a little about the date.

The 1851-O is, along with the 1852-O, the most common New Orleans double eagle. This date is very easy to find in VF and EF grades, and AU’s are generally available in grades up to an including AU55. In Uncirculated, the 1851-O is a rare issue with an estimated 15-20 known, nearly all of which are in the MS60 to MS61 range. There are a very small number known in MS62 and just this one brand-new coin is currently graded MS63 by PCGS.

Now, a little about the coin.

Most higher grade 1851-O double eagles are frosty with a slightly satiny texture. This example is more prooflike with considerable reflectiveness on both sides. This coin is clearly not a “Specimen” striking as evidenced by its flatness of strike on some of the obverse stars but it has a special appearance unlike any other 1851-O I’ve seen. The surfaces show a few very fine wispy lines—especially on the left obverse—but are almost entirely free of contact.

How did this coin survive and where is it from?

My best guess is that this coin traces its origin from the Baltimore Find; a group of higher grade double eagles dated 1850 through 1856 which were uncovered by two teenagers while excavating an old house in Baltimore ca. 1934-35. From what I know about this hoard, there were some exceptional pieces included and many of the higher grade 1851-O and 1852-O double eagles known are from this source. The new MS63 1851-O has a similar appearance to that seen on other coins likely from the hoard and this leads me to believe that this is where it’s from. It was likely “put away” in the 1930’s and was well-preserved and properly cared-for by its owner(s) until it re-surfaced in 2016.

I immediately sold this coin to a New England collector who not only has, by a large margin, the finest set of New Orleans gold ever assembled, but is also quietly assembling one of the best sets of Type One Liberty Head double eagles.

This is not the rarest New Orleans double eagle I’ve owned, but it is the single highest grade example to ever pass through my hands. Although I owned it just briefly, it is a coin which I am likely to long remember.

Do you collect great New Orleans gold or Type One double eagles? Why not work with the coin market’s leading expert in these areas and get expert advice from an uncompromising connoisseur? Call Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 and ask how he can help you build an important collection of great coins.