Gold coins were made at the New Orleans mint from 1839 through 1909. A total of six denominations were made and these are as follows:
- Gold Dollars (1849-1855). A total of six issues were produced.
- Quarter Eagles (1839-1857). A total of 14 issues were produced.
- Three Dollars (1854). A total of one issue was produced.
- Half Eagles (1840-1894 and 1909). A total of 17 issues were produced.
- Eagles (1841-1860 and 1879-1906). A total of 37 issues were produced.
- Double Eagles (1850-1861 and 1879). A total of 13 issues were produced.
There are a grand total of 88 different issues struck. This includes major varieties such as the 1843-O Small Date and Large Date quarter eagles, the 1843-O Small Letters and Large Letters half eagles, etc. These coins range from common to very rare and run the gamut in terms of price; literally from a few hundred dollars to over $250,000.
There are a number of ways to collect the gold coins from New Orleans. Given the prohibitive cost of assembling an 88 coin set (see below), most collectors either assemble a type set or they focus on a specific denomination and work to finish the date run.
We are going to look at the more obvious way to collect New Orleans gold and also touch on some more obscure ways. But before we do this, let’s take a quick overview of the New Orleans gold market as of the end of 2017.
In my personal experience, I find New Orleans gold coins to be more popular with collectors than at any time in my long career as a professional numismatist. They are clearly more popular than Charlotte and San Francisco coins, and nearly as popular as Dahlonega and Carson City issues. Prices have risen accordingly in some instances; especially for larger-sized coins such as No Motto Eagles and Type One Double Eagles.
Let’s take a look at collecting New Orleans gold as a type set. Here is a list of the 13 types which constitute a set.
- Type One Gold Dollar (1849-1853)
- Type Two Gold Dollar (1855 only)
- Classic Head Quarter Eagle (1839 only)
- Liberty Head Quarter Eagle (1840-1857)
- Three Dollar Gold Piece (1854 only)
- Liberty Head Half Eagle, Small Letters Reverse without Motto (1840-1843)
- Liberty Head Half Eagle, Large Letters Reverse without Motto (1843-1857)
- Liberty Head Half Eagle with Motto (1892-1894)
- Indian Head Half Eagle (1909 only)
- Liberty Head Eagle without Motto (1841-1860)
- Liberty Head Eagle with Motto (1879-1906)
- Liberty Head Double Eagle Type One (1850-1861)
- Liberty Head Double Eagle Type Three (1879 only)
A quick perusal of this list shows that of the 13 major types, no less than five are distinct one-year issues. Any United States gold coin which has a one-year issue is bound to be popular and these five coins are no exception. Luckily, four of the five are reasonably available in collector grades and the most challenging of these types is the 1879-O double eagle of which just 2,325 were struck. A nice example of this popular Type Three date is going to cost in the $50,000-100,000 range and it will be, by far, the most expensive single coin in the 13 piece New Orleans type set.
In the Very Fine-About Uncirculated range, this set is very completable and by today’s levels, a collector is looking at spending around $125,000. In higher grades, this set could easily double or triple in price.
Could a well-heeled collector assemble a complete 13 coin New Orleans type set in Uncirculated? Such a set would be expensive and difficult to assemble but it is definitely possible. The key issues would be the 1854-O Three Dollar (of which only 5-10 are known in Uncirculated) and the aforementioned 1879-O Double Eagle (of which only four to six exist in Uncirculated). If the collector decides to limit himself only to PCGS/CAC coins, this set is currently incompletable.
Now, let’s look at collecting the individual denominations from this mint.
This is a popular set due to be short-lived and easy to complete. The key issue is the 1850-O but the most expensive is the 1855-O due to its one-year type status. All five of the Type One gold dollars can be found in Uncirculated for low to mid-four figure sums. Many collectors opt for a nice About Uncirculated 1855-O, but an MS61 or even an MS62 is feasible for the collector with a larger budget.
A nice Uncirculated set of Type One New Orleans gold dollars can be assembled for less than $15,000. With the addition of an Uncirculated 1855-O, the cost would rise to at least $25,000.
Over the years, this set has shown ebbs and flows in its popularity with collectors. It is easy to complete and none of the 14 dates in the set are terribly rare in circulated grades. The undisputed key is the 1845-O which is exceedingly rare in Uncirculated (only three are known). Other dates which are rare to very rare in Uncirculated include the 1840-O, 1842-O, and 1856-O. Due to its status as a one-year type, the 1839-O is an expensive date in Uncirculated and it will prove extremely challenging in grades above MS62.
A nice circulated set of New Orleans quarter eagles can be assembled in the $25,000-35,000 range. A set which includes coins in the AU58 to MS62 range will likely cost $75,000-100,000.
Only one date of this design was ever struck in New Orleans, the popular 1854-O. This issue can be located in any circulated grade but it is very rare in Uncirculated; PCGS has only graded two in Mint State and they are both in tightly-held collections.
While only 17 half eagles were issued at New Orleans, these constitute no less than four different design types. If I were collecting New Orleans gold by denomination, the half eagles would likely be my first choice as there are no ultra-expensive rarities but the set is challenging and fun. Due to the extreme rarity of the 1842-O and the 1847-O, this set is just about impossible to complete in Uncirculated. But a nice circulated set is realistic for many collectors.
In the VF-EF range, a set of New Orleans half eagles can be completed for $45,000-50,000+. A nice set consisting of mostly AU coins (with a few Uncirculated pieces thrown in) will cost in the area of $100,000, and I believe that such a collection has real upside if the coins are carefully selected.
The No Motto eagles from New Orleans tend to be more popular than their With Motto counterparts. Every No Motto New Orleans eagle is very scarce to rare in Uncirculated and a number are very rare even in the higher AU grades. The two key dates are the 1841-O and the 1859-O which will be impossible to locate above AU55. A number of other dates are rare in the higher AU grades; this includes the 1849-O, 1852-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, and 1857-O.
In the VF-EF range, a complete set of No Motto New Orleans eagles will cost around $100,000. An AU set with the common dates grading AU55 to AU58 and the better dates grading AU50 to AU55 could easily run $200,000+. A set which contains Condition Census quality coins could run well in excess of $750,000. In my extensive experience, this is an extremely challenging set to build.
The With Motto eagles contain two very rare dates (1879-O and 1883-O) and 14 which run the gamut from very common to scarce. Many collectors pretend the 1879-O and the 1883-O don’t exist and focus on the other 14 issues in AU and Uncirculated grades. An AU55 to MS62 14-coin set should be completable for around $40,000. A set with all 14 coins in Uncirculated is feasible but more challenging; look to spend $90,000 or so on such a set. If you wish to add nice AU examples of the two keys, figure on spending an additional $100,000-125,000.
New Orleans double eagles are very popular but to form a complete set of 13 issues, you have to be very well-heeled. Two dates (the 1854-O and the 1856-O) each cost in the $300,000-500,000 range and a number of others approach six figures for choice examples. It really doesn’t make sense to do a budget version of this set (i.e., VF-EF grades) so the bare minimum most collectors seek are coins in the EF-AU range. You might be able to put together a presentable set for $1,000,000 but I think this figure is not entirely realistic.
The typical New Orleans collector begins with one or two of the denominations listed above and after finishing these, might decide to work on a complete set of 88 coins. I personally know of at least four complete or virtually complete set of New Orleans gold coins, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few others which I am not aware of.
I’d like to suggest a few other ways to collect New Orleans gold coins. Many of these ideas are in play right now with customers of my firm; others are more wishful thinking.
1. First and Last Year of Issue Sets
As the title suggests, this set contains New Orleans coins made in the first and last year of issue for each denomination. For the gold dollars, it would include an 1849-O and an 1855-O. For the quarter eagles, it would include an 1839-O and an 1857-O. The half eagles would include an 1840-O and a 1909-O (or it could include an 1894-O), while the eagles would include an 1841-O and a 1906-O. Finally, the double eagles would include an 1850-O and an 1879-O.
This set contains two very tough issues: the 1841-O eagle and the 1879-O double eagle.
2. One Year Types
As I mentioned above, there are five one-year types amongst the various gold issues from the New Orleans mint. These are the 1855-O gold dollar, the 1839-O quarter eagle, the 1854-O three dollar, the 1909-O half eagle, and the 1879-O double eagle.
All five of these are very popular and have multiple levels of demand. The key issue is the 1879-O double eagle which has become a very hard coin to locate in recent years. However, this is a completable set and if all five coins are carefully selected for high cosmetic appeal, it would be very liquid when it comes time to sell.
3. Year Set(s)
There is no one-year during which all six denominations of gold coins were struck at the New Orleans mint. The closest year is 1851 during which five different denominations were made: gold dollar, quarter eagle, half eagle, eagle, and double eagle. Fortunately, none of these five coins is rare and all five can be located without great difficulty in grades through AU55. The half eagle, eagle, and double eagle are rare in Uncirculated but not impossible to locate.
Three other years saw four different gold denominations at the New Orleans mint: 1850, 1852, and 1855.
In my opinion, there are two New Orleans gold coins which I would consider Classic Rarities: the 1854-O and 1856-O double eagles. I would consider the following eight issues to be well-known enough that they have demand outside of the specialist community:
- 1845-O quarter eagle
- 1841-O eagle
- 1859-O eagle
- 1879-O eagle
- 1859-O double eagle
- 1860-O double eagle
- 1861-O double eagle
- 1879-O double eagle
A complete set of these eight issues would make an impressive foray into New Orleans gold. And anyone of these issues would make an interesting date to take a position in by assembling a small hoard of nice quality examples.
I have a love affair with New Orleans gold coinage which dates back to the early 1980’s. When my coin budget was small, I appreciated the value which these coins provided me; back in the day you got a lot of bang for your buck in this market. Today, New Orleans gold is far more popular and far more expensive, but it still provides collectors with all range of budgets the opportunity to purchase well-made, scarce and historically important issues.
Would you like to collect New Orleans gold coinage? Contact Doug Winter, the world’s leading expert, to discuss your goals and to begin a set of choice, original pieces. Doug can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (214) 675-9897.