Civil War Eagles: A Rarity Study with Condition Census Information

This is the first of potentially many articles which focus on rarity and Condition Census information in the Liberty Head eagle series. The first sub-group I’m going to focus on is the 11 Civil War issues. These coins are, with one exception, rare in all grades and a number of them are either unknown or excessively rare in Uncirculated.

1861

The 1861 is by far the most common Civil War eagle and it is among the more plentiful No Motto issues of this denomination. The mintage of 113,164 is many times more than all the other Civil War eagles combined and the number of survivors for this date (in excess of 750 coins) is also greater than the number of all the other Civil War eagles combined.

 1861 $10.00 NGC MS62 CAC

1861 $10.00 NGC MS62 CAC

There are likely three to four dozen known in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS61 range. The 1861 is scarce in MS62, rare in properly graded MS63, and extremely rare higher than this. Most Uncirculated examples show numerous abrasions and scuffs from handling and many of the lower-end pieces in this range have been sourced from Europe.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS MS66: ex Gaston DiBello collection-Stack’s 5/70: 1072-Harry Bass collection- Bass III: 679 (Bowers and Merena 11/00) at $50,600. This is among the single finest No Motto eagles of any date which I have seen.
  • PCGS MS64+. Illustrated in PCGS CoinFacts
  • NGC MS64. Pedigree unknown
  • PCGS MS63+: Nevada Collection ex Heritage 8/13/5818 ($25,850), Numismatic Financial Corporation

1861-S

The 1861-S is the most available Civil War eagle from the San Francisco mint. Of the 15,500 struck there are as many as 100 known with many of these in the VF-EF range. Low-end About Uncirculated 1861-S eagles are a bit more plentiful than one might expect, but choice, pleasing pieces are rare and this date is very rare in properly graded AU55 to AU58. The current NGC population figures in these two grades (19 and 15, respectively) are highly inflated by resubmissions. I am aware of just one or two 1861-S eagles which grade AU58 by my standards and no more than five or six properly graded AU55’s.

 1861-S $10.00 NGC AU53 CAC

1861-S $10.00 NGC AU53 CAC

In Uncirculated, the 1861-S eagle is unique. This piece “gradeflated” from PCGS AU58 to NGC MS61 but I believe it is a truly Uncirculated coin by today’s standards.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • NGC MS61: Warren Miller Collection – Heritage 10/1995:6322 (as PCGS AU58), $15,400 – Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part II – Bowers & Merena 10/1999:1484 (as PCGS AU58), $19,550 (plate-matched to the following) – Heritage 1/2012:4977 (as NGC MS61 570581-006), $54,625 (cert-matched to the following) - Heritage 8/2012:5390 (as NGC MS61 570581-006), $67,562.50
  • PCGS/NGC AU55: There are a number of examples known; I estimate around five or six accurately graded pieces in total.

1862

This is the second most available Civil War eagle. An estimated 125-150 are known from the original mintage of 10,960 business strikes. I have noticed enough nice quality AU53 to AU55 examples in the market during the last few years to wonder if there wasn’t a small hoard which was found; these pieces tend to have nice natural color with a suggestion of a European or overseas provenance.

 1862 $10.00 NGC MS60

1862 $10.00 NGC MS60

This date is usually seen with abraded surfaces and slightly subdued luster, but some nice pieces exist and the Civil War eagle collector can be more selective with this date than the rare to very rare 1863-1865 Philadelphia issue.

I am aware of at least four 1862 eagles in Uncirculated, as well as five to seven in properly graded AU58.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • NGC MS64: ex Bowers and Merena 4/05: 2004 ($41,975), S.S. Republic
  • NGC MS63: ex Bass IV (Bowers and Merena 11/00): 681 ($12,650; as PCGS MS62)
  • PCGS MS61: Heritage 10/15: 3549 ($18,900)
  • NGC MS60CAC: Private collection
  • PCGS AU58CAC: Heritage 3/14: 10666 ($28,200)

1862-S

The 1862-S is rarer than the 1861-S and comparable in overall rarity to the 1863-S. As with all of the San Francisco Civil War-era eagles, the 1862-S is seen most often in VF and EF grades, and it is quite rare in AU. There are an estimated 70-80 known overall from the original mintage of 12,500. This date is very rare in the higher AU grades, and it is currently unique in Uncirculated with the sole piece known having been found in 2010-2011.

 1862-S $10.00 PCGS AU55 CAC

1862-S $10.00 PCGS AU55 CAC

The typical 1862-S is softly-struck, very heavily abraded due to extensive use in local commerce, and is almost never seen with deep, natural color.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS MS61: California Collection, ex Simpson/Hall Collection, ex Heritage 4/11: 5427 ($103,500; as NGC MS61)
  • PCGS AU58: Midwestern Collection, ex Douglas Winter Numismatics, Heritage 10/14: 5017 ($21,150)
  • PCGS AU55CAC: Nevada Collection
  • (tie): A small number of coins graded AU58 by NGC and AU55 by PCGS

1863

The 1863 is the second rarest Civil War eagle after the 1864-S, and it is the second rarest Liberty Head eagle from this mint after the 1875. There are only 30-40 business strikes known from an original mintage of 1,248. When available, the typical 1863 is found in Extremely Fine, and the lower About Uncirculated grades come with excessively abraded surfaces, a distinct lack of original color, and limited eye appeal.

 1863 $10.00 NGC AU50

1863 $10.00 NGC AU50

There are two known in Uncirculated as well as another eight or nine in About Uncirculated. The finest known has been off the market since 2000.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS MS63: ex Bass IV (Bowers and Merena 11/00): 683 ($52,900) ex Harry Bass collection, Mid American 8/91: 755 ($104,500), Heck Dodson collection
  • NGC MS62: California collection, ex SS. Republic
  • PCGS AU58
  • PCGS AU55: ex Bass II (Bowers and Merena 10/99); 1491 ($23,000), ex Harry Bass, ex Miles collection
  • NGC AU58: Heritage 1/05: 30496 ($28,750)

1863-S

The mintage figure for this issue is a low 10,000 coins and it is clearly a rarer issue in all grades than the 1861-S and the 1862-S. There are an estimated 50 to 60 known with most in the VF-EF range. Properly graded AU 1863-S eagles are very rare with around 10 or so known. There are two or three known in Uncirculated as well as a very small number of Choice About Uncirculated examples.

 1863-S $10.00 NGC AU53

1863-S $10.00 NGC AU53

As with all San Francisco eagles made during the Civil War, this issue is characterized by well-worn and numismatically abused coins. The strike tends to be a bit sharper than that seen on the 1861-S and the 1862-S, but nearly all pieces show numerous abrasions and have poor eye appeal as a result.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS MS61: Bass IV: 684 (Bowers and Merena 11/000: 684 at $18,400, ex Harry Bass collection, Heritage 10/95: 6330 ($27,500), Warren Miller collection
  • NGC MS61: Goldberg 2/09: 1535 ($37,950)
  • PCGS MS60: Likely ex Norweb II: 2188 (Bowers and Merena 3/88) at $7,700
  • NGC AU58: Superior 5/08: 134 ($33,350), ex S.S. Republic
  • PCGS AU55: Douglas Winter Numismatics inventory, January 2016

1864

The 1864 is the rarest Civil War eagle produced at the Philadelphia mint. It also lays claims to being the second rarest Liberty Head eagle from this facility, after the 1875. Of the 3,530 business strikes made, there are likely no more than 45-55 known. The typical 1864 eagle is well-worn with extremely “marky” surfaces. I have not seen more than a few with choice, original, surfaces and even the few higher grade pieces known have either been dipped or have poor overall eye appeal.

 1864 $10.00 NGC AU53

1864 $10.00 NGC AU53

There are fewer than a dozen properly graded About Uncirculated 1864 eagles known, and most are in the lower range of this grade. This date is extremely rare in properly graded AU55 and I know of only one coin which is fully Uncirculated.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS MS61: Possibly ex Goldberg 5/07: 1655 ($16,100; as NGC MS61)
  • PCGS MS60: Unseen by me and never sold at public auction
  • NGC MS61: Heritage 3/05: 11514 ($16,766), ex Heritage 4/02: 7156 ($10,350)
  • PCGS AU55: A small number of coins exist at this grade level; none appear to be choice

1864-S

The 1864-S is the rarest Civil War eagle and it is the rarest coin of this denomination from this mint. For many years, it was an undiscovered rarity, known mainly to a small group of specialists. As the Liberty Head eagle series became more popular with collectors, the prestige of this date increased and today it is a famous rarity, known outside of the specialist community.

A small hoard of 1864-S eagles came on to the market a few years ago as part of the Bentley collection and these were widely dispersed; and at record prices. I know of at least three lower grade pieces which have come onto the market in the last two years from non-collector sources.

 1864-S $10.00 PCGS VF30 CAC

1864-S $10.00 PCGS VF30 CAC

There are an estimated 25-35 pieces known with most in lower grades. A comparatively high percentage of the surviving 1864-S eagle are in low grades, i.e., Fine to Very Fine. A properly graded Extremely Fine is very rare and this date is extremely rare in About Uncirculated with no more than three to five currently known. There are no examples known in any grade higher than AU55.

The 1864-S is the rarest Civil War eagle and it is the rarest coin of this denomination from this mint. For many years, it was an undiscovered rarity, known mainly to a small group of specialists. As the Liberty Head eagle series became more popular with collectors, the prestige of this date increased and today it is a famous rarity, known outside of the specialist community.

A small hoard of 1864-S eagles came on to the market a few years ago as part of the Bentley collection and these were widely dispersed; and at record prices. I know of at least three lower grade pieces which have come onto the market in the last two years from non-collector sources.

There are an estimated 25-35 pieces known with most in lower grades. A comparatively high percentage of the surviving 1864-S eagle are in low grades, i.e., Fine to Very Fine. A properly graded Extremely Fine is very rare and this date is extremely rare in About Uncirculated with no more than three to five currently known. There are no examples known in any grade higher than AU55.

The 1864-S is the rarest Civil War eagle and it is the rarest coin of this denomination from this mint. For many years, it was an undiscovered rarity, known mainly to a small group of specialists. As the Liberty Head eagle series became more popular with collectors, the prestige of this date increased and today it is a famous rarity, known outside of the specialist community.

A small hoard of 1864-S eagles came on to the market a few years ago as part of the Bentley collection and these were widely dispersed; and at record prices. I know of at least three lower grade pieces which have come onto the market in the last two years from non-collector sources.

There are an estimated 25-35 pieces known with most in lower grades. A comparatively high percentage of the surviving 1864-S eagle are in low grades, i.e., Fine to Very Fine. A properly graded Extremely Fine is very rare and this date is extremely rare in About Uncirculated with no more than three to five currently known. There are no examples known in any grade higher than AU55.

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS AU55: Bass III (Bowers and Merena 5/00): 656 at $36,800
  • PCGS AU55: California collection, pedigree unknown
  • PCGS AU50: Stacks 10/98: 1604 at $19,800
  • NGC AU53: Heritage 3/14: 30366 at $146,875

1865

The 1865 used to be regarded as a rarer issue than the 1864 but this is not the case. Of the 3,980 business strikes produced, there are an estimated 60-70 known. It should be stressed that most of these are low end for the grade with excessive abrasions and little—or no—original surface remaining. A properly grade Extremely Fine 1865 eagle is scarce and an About Uncirculated example is rare. There are at most two or three known in Uncirculated and the supposed finest known (a PCGS MS63) has never been seen by me or offered at public auction.

 1865 $10.00 PCGS AU55

1865 $10.00 PCGS AU55

The Condition Census, as I am aware of it, is as follows:

  • PCGS MS63: does this coin exist?
  • NGC MS60: ex S.S. Republic
  • PCGS AU58: Heritage 4/06: 2000 ($13,800), ex Heritage 6/02: 1741 ($9,488)