Type One Philadelphia Double Eagles: A Date By Date Analysis

The Philadelphia mint struck Type One double eagles between 1850 and 1865. This is an extremely interesting group of sixteen dates (plus varieties), which run the gamut from common to rare. In my opinion, they are the best value among Type One double eagles. They are much more affordable than their New Orleans counterparts and far scarcer than the issues from San Francisco. This is a set that can be completed in reasonably high grades by the collector of average means but it will prove challenging to find nice, original examples of most of these dates. 1850: A very popular issue due to its status as a first-year-of issue date. The 1850 is known for having a very good strike and nice luster. Original pieces exhibit attractive orange-gold or deep rose-gold coloration. This date has risen considerably in price in the past three years but is still a good value in the mid-level AU grades and above. It is sometimes seen in MS-60 to MS-62 but it becomes quite rare in MS-63 and is extremely rare above this.

1851: The most available date from this decade along with the 1852 but still not a common coin in higher grades. There are a number of decent AU's around but properly graded Uncirculated 1851 double eagles are quite scarce and any that grades MS-62 or better is rare. Higher grade examples often have nice color and good luster but exhibit numerous wispy hairlines. Circulated pieces are prone to show bagmarks or deep abrasions. This is an issue that the collector would do well to be patient and wait for the right piece for his collection.

1852: The 1852 is similar in rarity to the 1851. It is common in lower grades and only moderately scarce in AU-55 to AU-58. In Uncirculated it is quite scarce and rare in MS-62 or better. Most are well struck and have good luster but are prone to display heavy bagmarks. As with the 1851's, a number of higher grade 1852 double eagles have great color and luster but show fine hairlines on the surfaces. An interesting variety in known that shows strong doubling on the date. If you want a single "type coin" from the 1850's, this is probably the best choice.

1853: The 1853 is not a rare date but it is much harder to locate than the 1851 or 1852. In the higher AU grades, it is scarcer than most people realize and it is rare and very underrated in Uncirculated. I have not seen more than a handful that grade MS-62 and just one or two that were better than this. As a rule, the 1853 is found with minor weakness of strike at the centers and heavily marked surfaces. The natural coloration is medium to deep orange-gold. There are varieties known with repunching on the 3 in the date (common) and with noticeable repunching on the entire date (rare).

1853/2: The only unquestioned overdate in the entire Liberty Head double eagle and one of the key issues in higher grades. Easily identifiable by the presence of a raised die dot below the RT in LIBERTY. Usually found in Extremely Fine grades and very scarce in the lower range of AU; very rare in AU-55 to AU-58 and extremely rare in Mint State. I have only seen three Uncirculated pieces, all of which graded MS-61. Every 1853/2 double eagle I am aware of is extensively abraded and very few have not been cleaned or dipped. If you have a chance to buy a piece that grades AU-50 or better and is clean for the grade, I would highly suggest you "go for it."

1854: The 1854 is one of the more common Philadelphia type one issues in terms of its overall rarity but it is much harder to find in high grades than the 1851 or the 1852. In AU-58, the 1854 is very scarce and it is quite rare in Uncirculated. I have only seen one or two that I graded MS-63 and none better. As a rule, the 1854 is very heavily abraded and is characterized by dull grainy luster. A number of pieces have mint-made planchet problems. Most show a small date. A rare and undervalued variety has a large date punch. The large date is extremely rare in Uncirculated and is grossly undervalued in AU-50 and above.

1855: The 1855 ushers in a quintet of scarce, underrated double eagles from this mint. While available in lower grades, this date is very scarce in properly graded AU-55 to AU-58 and very rare in Uncirculated. Most of the few available Mint State coins are low-end and have extensive deep abrasions. The typical 1855 is relatively wells truck with deep green-gold color. Many have been dipped or cleaned and most are riddled with bagmarks. Attractive, original pieces are undervalued at current levels.

1856: My favorite "sleeper" issue from the 1850's. While fairly common in lower grades, the 1856 is very scarce in the higher AU grades and very rare in Uncirculated. In the past five years, I have only seen three Uncirculated examples of this date and not all that many nice AU-58's. Most 1856 double eagles have heavily marked surfaces and grainy, dull surfaces. A number have mint-made planchet problems. At current price levels, this date is very good value.

1857: The 1857 is not as scarce as the 1854-1856 issues, especially in higher grades. However, this is still far from being a common date and most are seen in lower grades. Nice AU-55 to AU-58 examples are scarce and Uncirculated pieces are rare. This is generally a well struck and lustrous date but many higher grade pieces have serious mint-made planchet problems. A number have been cleaned and the few that show original color are worth a substantial premium over the typical example.

1858: Generally regarded as a fairly common issue but actually quite scarce in any grade above AU-50. This is a very rare coin in Uncirculated and most of the higher grade pieces have mint-made planchet problems or noticeable marks. Often found with heavy abrasions and unappealing deep coloration or very bright from overzealous cleanings and/or dippings. I think the 1858 double eagle is a great value at current price levels, especially in the AU-55 to MS-62 grade range.

1859: This is the rarest Philadelphia double eagle from the 1850's and it is one of the rarest of all the Type One issues in high grade. Nearly every one I have seen has extensively abraded surfaces and most have been cleaned at one time. Any piece with minimal detracting marks and original color is extremely desirable. The 1859 is very rare in the higher AU grades and it is an extreme rarity in Uncirculated. I have only seen three or four Uncirculated coins and none were better than MS-61.

1860: The 1860 is among the more available Type One issues from this mint, although it is considerably more scarce than the 1861. It is often seen with a good strike and nice luster. The natural coloration is often an attractive rose-gold shade. There are some very high grade examples known (MS-63 to MS-65) and these are similar enough in appearance to suggest a small hoard many have existed at one time. Nice MS-60 to MS-62 1860 double eagles remain an excellent value at current levels.

1861: In anticipation of the approaching Civil War, the mintage figure for double eagles skyrocketed in 1861. This is the most common Type One double eagle and before the discovery of the S.S. Central America, it was the most available date in higher grades. The 1861 is fairly easy to find in MS-60 to MS-62 grades but it remains rare in MS-63 and very rare in any grade higher. There are some extremely nice pieces available with great luster and color but most offered for sale have been cleaned and are extensively abraded.

1862: The 1862 has long been one of my favorite double eagles of any type. This is a scarce date in all grades and it is the rarest Type One issue in higher grades (AU-50 and better). I feel it is extremely undervalued and it generally trades and substantial premiums above current published price guides. Most have inferior luster and are "baggy." A few very nice higher grade coins are known and these have good color and luster. They trade for very strong premiums among knowledgeable collectors.

1863: The 1863 is a bit less rare than the 1862 and it is slightly more available in premium quality grades. It is still a very scarce and undervalued coin that appears on many collector's want list. It is generally a well-made issue with good overall detail and attractive satiny to semi-prooflike luster. The natural coloration is medium to deep green-gold or orange-gold. Nearly every known example shows significant marks on the surfaces. The few nice 1863 double eagles I have seen in recent years have sold at levels exceeding "Trends" and "Quarterly Bid" so the collector should be willing to "step up" if the right coin becomes available.

1864: The 1864 is another very scarce Civil War date although not as much so as the 1862 and the 1863. It is generally seen in Extremely Fine and it is quite scarce in the lower to mid AU grades. The 1864 is quite rare in properly graded AU-58 and very rare in Uncirculated. Many show dark, unappealing coloration and most have poor eye appeal due to heavy surface marks. At current price levels ($4500-5000 for a nice AU-58) this date is a wonderful value, especially given the fact that it is essentially unobtainable in any Uncirculated grade.

1865: This is the final Type One double eagle from the Philadelphia mint. It is scarce, although not nearly as much as the 1862-64 issues. The 1865 is usually seen in EF-40 to AU-50 and it is very scarce in the higher AU grades. It is very rare in Uncirculated and the few that are known in this range are generally in the MS-60 to MS-61 range. This date tends to have better eye appeal than the 1862-64 and there are some nice, original 1865's available from time to time. An interesting variety is known with a noticeably repunched date. This is another issue that is a great value at current levels ($3000-3500 for a nice AU-58).

Type One Double Eagle Buying Tips

    Look for coins that are as original as possible. It is my opinion that, in the coming years, nice original examples of Type One Philadelphia double eagles will bring strong premiums over dipped, "typical" quality examples.

    Stretch on the rarities. The perfect Type One set would have very high end examples of dates such as the 1853/2, 1859, 1862 and 1863 and average to above-average examples of the 1851, 1852, 1853, and 1861.

    Don't pay a premium for varieties that are not yet recognized. The only Type One varieties that are widely recognized are the 1853/2 and the 1854 Large Date. Other varieties may become recognized in the future but they do not currently requite a premium to buy them. Become familiar with these and learn how to "cherrypick" them.

    Buy the coin and not the holder. There are PCGS and NGC Type One double eagles that are outstanding for the grade and there are those that are very low end.

Rarity Charts Overall Rarity

This chart ranks the Philadelphia Type One double eagles in terms of their overall rarity; i.e. the total number known to exist in all grades combined.

1. 1853/2

2. 1862

3. 1859

4. 1863

5. 1864

6. 1856

6 (tie). 1865

8. 1855

8 (tie). 1858

10. 1857

11. 1851

12. 1860

13. 1850

13 (tie). 1852

13 (tie). 1853

13 (tie). 1854

17. 1861

Premium Quality Rarity

This chart ranks the Philadelphia Type One double eagles in terms of their overall rarity; i.e. the total number known to exist in all grades combined.

1. 1862

2. 1853/2

3. 1863

4. 1859

5. 1856

6. 1864

7. 1855

8. 1858

9. 1857

10. 1865

11. 1854

12. 1850

13. 1853

14. 1851

15. 1852

16. 1860

17. 1861