While doing the research for my new online reference about Type One double eagles, I began to look for finest known examples for each specific issue. For some Type One double eagles this is easy as there is a clear finest known coin. For others, this is difficult as there might be a few examples bunched at the top of the Condition Census which are hard to separate.
It is my opinion that the highest graded coin is not always the best coin. That’s why you will see, from time to time, an MS63 on this list which is rated as a “better” coin (in my opinion) than one graded MS64. It should also be pointed out that this list contains the finest known specific coins of which I am aware. I haven’t seen everything and it is entirely possible that there a coin (or even coins) which is nicer than the one listed for a specific date below.
Please note that this list is for business strikes only; Proofs will appear in another article which is planned for 2015.
1850: There are some really outstanding 1850 double eagles known. The best that I have personally seen is an NGC MS65 which was last sold as Lot 3698 in the Heritage 1/07 sale (it realized $161,000). It is earlier ex Bowers and Merena 5/00 (Bass III): 757 ($62,100; as PCGS MS64) and it was obtained by Bass in the New Netherlands April 1972 auction. NGC shows a second coin graded MS65 in their population report but I am inclined to think it is the same piece.
1850-O: This is a difficult issue to definitively state which specific coin is the finest known. The highest graded at PCGS is an MS61 which sold for $111,625 as Heritage 6/14: 4890, but I have seen at least two or three others in lower grade holders which I liked better. Two PCGS AU58’s are real standouts: the example in the Crawford collection (likely ex Dallas Bank collection) and an example in a New England collection which was obtained from me via private treaty.
1851: There are two or three known which grade MS64 but the best of these, in my opinion, is the PCGS coin in the Crawford collection. The other PCGS MS64 is a coin in an Old Green Holder which is ex Bowers and Merena 8/10: 1811 ($34,500) and earlier Heritage 1/04: 3078 ($29,900).
1851-O: There are around four or five properly graded MS62’s known for this issue and a few are choice for the grade. The two which stand out to me are the Crawford coin (probably ex Stack’s 1/84: 835, Amon Carter collection), and a coin I sold to a New England collector which is ex Heritage 2006 ANA: 5576 ($48,875). NGC has graded one coin in MS63 which I haven’t seen in its current holder; it is almost certainly a coin which was upgraded from an MS62 holder.
1852: There are three or four known which grade MS64 but I think these can be ranked in order. The best 1852 double eagle I have seen is the Crawford coin which is in a PCGS MS64 and which has superb color and surfaces. The next best is the Heritage 2012 ANA: 5408 coin ($82,250) which is ex Bowers and Merena 9/08: 822 ($35,650). It is also in a PCGS MS64 and has been approved by CAC. The third best is an NGC MS64 with CAC approval which was sold as Lot 5241 in Heritage’s 2011 sale and it was from the Henry Miller collection. It realized $60,375. NGC has a population of one coin in MS65 and it is likely coin #3 on this list after an upgrade.
1852 Repunched Date: The finest known example of this variety is a PCGS MS63 which was in the Gilded Age collection; it was aggressively reserved and it did not sell at the auction. I sold a PCGS MS62 to a New England collector in September 2014, which is the second finest I have seen.
1852-O: The clear finest known for this date is the Henry Miller coin, graded MS65 by NGC, which was obtained privately from Stack’s in the 1970’s; it later brought $276,000 as Heritage 2011 FUN: 5243. The next best is an NGC MS63 from the Dallas Bank collection. There are four or five graded MS62. These include the Crawford coin (PCGS MS62) obtained from the Norweb sale, a PCGS MS62 which I sold to a New England collector which is ex Heritage 2006 ANA: 5580 ($48,815), and a PCGS MS62 which is ex Stacks Bowers 2014 ANA: 12005 ($94,000), ex Gilded Age collection, Bowers and Merena 5/00: 771 (Bass III), Harry Bass collection.
1853: The unquestionable finest known for this date is an NGC MS65 which last sold as Heritage 8/14: 5683 ($152,750); it was earlier Superior 5/05: 5333 ($66,700; as NGC MS64). The next best is a PCGS MS63 owned by Bill Crawford.
1853/'2': The highest graded coin for this variety is a single NGC MS62 (ex: Heritage 2004 FUN: 3082 at $41,400), but I don’t regard this coin as being any nicer than the three or four different PCGS MS61 examples which I have seen. The specific example which stands out as being slightly better is the CAC-approved PCGS MS61 last sold as Bowers and Merena 2012 ANA: 11752 ($46,000).
1853-O: The finest known 1853-O is, by a large margin, the PCGS MS63 owned by Bill Crawford. It was purchased as Stack’s 5/91: 1674, where it sold for $28,600. An NGC MS62 (pedigree unknown to me) is likely the second finest, but it likely doesn’t remotely compare to the remarkable Crawford example.
1854 Small Date: This is another date where the single finest known is head and shoulders finer than the next best. The William Crawford collection contains a splendid gem graded MS65 by PCGS.
1854 Large Date: The finest known is owned, again, by Bill Crawford and the coin is graded MS64 by PCGS. It was purchased, as an NGC MS64, as Bowers and Merena 9/08: 831 ($96,600) and it was earlier Heritage 8/07: 2010 ($80,500). The second best of which I am aware is an NGC MS62 that I sold to a Rhode Island collector; I bought it directly out of the Pittman I sale in 1997 where I paid $10,450.
1854-O: This is a frustrating date to reach a conclusion about a finest known example as there is no clear-cut “best coin.” The highest graded are four AU58’s at NGC (most likely two distinct coins) and three AU55’s at PCGS (likely two distinct coins). The best I have seen include the NGC AU58 owned by Bill Crawford, the PCGS AU55 in a New England collection (obtained from me as Bowers and Merena 8/07: 1906) and Heritage 10/08: 3012, a PCGS AU55 which set the current auction record for this date at $603,750. Until I have an opportunity to compare the best examples of this date in person, I am not able to conclude which is the finest.
1854-S: This is another date which is challenging when determining which is the finest known. This is due to the fact that many of the highest graded 1854-S double eagles have finely granular surfaces from exposure to seawater. Of these coins, the three best are two PCGS MS65’s (one is in the Crawford collection and the other brought $115,000 as Heritage 10/08: 3013) and a PCGS MS64 from the S.S. Central America (last sold as Stack’s Bowers 2014 ANA: 12010 and sold by me to a New England collector). There are three or four known in Uncirculated with non-seawater surfaces. The two best I know of include an example in a New England collection graded MS61 by PCGS which is ex Heritage 11/07: 61779 ($21,850), Bass III: 781 ($10,925) and an NGC MS61 owned by Connecticut collector. Both were purchased from me.
1855: This date has a clear finest known and it is the PCGS MS64 in the William Crawford collection. It is ex ANR 3/06: 1704 and it sold for $126,550. The next best is a PCGS MS63 which sold for $69,000 as ANR 8/06: 1607. It is an interesting coincidence that the two finest known 1855 double eagles appeared for sale within a few months of each other in 2006 and both were sold by the same firm.
1855-O: The highest graded 1855-O is an NGC MS61 which recently sold for $141,000 as Heritage 2014 FUN: 5517. However, I think that the PCGS AU58 coin in the Crawford collection is a nicer coin and I would rank it as the finest known without much hesitation.
1855-S: The unquestioned finest known 1855-S double eagle is the PCGS MS66 from the S.S. Central America which sold for $120,750 as Christie’s 12/00: 90. Interestingly, this coin has not been sold at auction since its one and only appearance in 2000, and it would be interesting to see what it would bring today.
1856: Two or three exist in MS63 and these are the highest graded 1856 double eagles. The best of these is probably Stacks Bowers 2014 ANA: 12013 ($41,125) which was obtained by the consignor from me in March 2002.
1856-O: The undisputed finest known 1856-O is the famous NGC SP63 which last sold for $1,437,500 as Heritage 5/09: 1989. The second finest known is a PCGS AU58 in the Crawford collection which is ex Eliasberg: 889. The third finest is a PCGS AU55 in a New England collection, which I sold in 2009.
1856-S: The finest known is a PCGS MS66 from the S.S. Central America which was last sold as Christie’s 12/00: 92 where it brought $57,500. The other PCGS MS66, last sold as Heritage 1/12: 5033 at $74,750 is not as appealing, in my opinion.
1857: I haven’t seen this coin in person but the finest known is likely the PCGS MS64 which was last sold as Stacks 10/08: 1464; it realized $40,250 and was then graded MS64 by NGC. The second finest is a coin I sold to a New England collector and it is ex Heritage 2013 ANA: 5899. It realized $47,000 and was graded MS63 by PCGS.
1857-O: The finest known is the PCGS MS63 in the Crawford collection. It is from the Bass III sale and was earlier in the Kaufman collection. The second finest is an NGC MS63 which is ex Heritage 2011 FUN: 5251 where it sold for $172,500 as an NGC MS62.
1857-S: Of the thousands of Uncirculated 1857-S double eagles found in the S.S. Central America treasure, it is virtually impossible to select a coin which is the clear single finest known. PCGS has graded 11 in MS67 with none finer. The only one of these to have been approved by CAC is ex Heritage 2014 ANA: 5692 where it sold for a remarkable $172,500.
In Part Two of this article, which will be published sometime in November 2014, we will look at the 1858-1866 Type One double eagles and list specific finest known pieces.
Do you know about any coins with claims to finest known that might not be known to me? I would appreciate your input, whether in a comment added to this article, or as an email sent directly to me at email@example.com.
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