For many collectors New Orleans gold dollars are a perfect set to assemble. They are within reach of nearly any budget and with only six pieces required to assemble a complete set they do not require years and years of patience to complete. The New Orleans mint produced six different gold dollars between 1849 and 1855. Two design types are found in the series. The first five issues employ the familiar Type One design while the final (1855) one uses the popular Type Two or Indian Head design.
The keys to the series are the 1850-O and the 1855-O. The beauty of these two dates are that while both are popular and desirable, neither is so rare or expensive that they can not be obtained by the collector of average means.
The 1849-O is a favorite among collectors due to its status as a first-year-of-issue. It is common in circulated grades and a nice AU example can be obtained for under $500. Many collectors try to purchase an MS60 to MS62 piece which is typically valued in the $1000-2000 range. This date does not really get expensive until the higher MS grades and a Gem will run in the $13,000-16,000 range.
The 1850-O is the rarest date in the series and it is much undervalued in my opinion. I typically sell nice AU pieces in the $1500-2000 range and an Uncirculated piece in the MS60 to MS62 range should be available for $3000-5000. This date becomes rare in MS63 and it is very rare above this. The best pieces I have handled are a pair of MS64’s and I am not currently aware of a Gem.
The 1851-O is one of the more common dates in the series. It is very easy to find in AU grades and a nice piece can be purchased for under $500. A collector seeking a nice entry-level Uncirculated coin can purchase a solid MS62 for $1200-1400 and an MS63 will run around $2100-2300. Due to a small hoard some Gems do exist and I have sold some pieces graded MS65 in the $13,000-16,000 range.
The 1852-O is the second scarcest New Orleans gold dollar and it is the hardest Type One to find with a good strike. A high quality circulated piece can be obtained for under $1,000 while an MS60 to MS62 example will cost $1,250-2,500 depending on the quality. This date becomes scarce in MS63, rare in MS64 and extremely rare in MS65.
The 1853-O is the most common date in the series and a very nice AU is easily located at less than $500. A very presentable Uncirculated piece can be found with some searching for $600-1,200 and even an MS63 is a good value at $2,500-3,000. This date is much harder to find in MS64 and higher than typically assumed and a Gem, if available, will sell for as much as $15,000.
The 1855-O is the only Type Two gold dollar from this mint and it is an exceptionally popular issue. It has appreciated quite a bit in price in the last few years but it is still a good value. The collector searching for a nice AU example should be prepared to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 while an MS60 to MS62 will require an outlay of between $7,000 and $18,000. In any grade above MS62, the 1855-O is rare and expensive but is always an easy issue for a specialist-dealer such as myself to sell.
In my opinion, an ideal beginner’s set of New Orleans gold dollars would contain AU55 to AU58 examples of the 1850-O and the 1855-O plus MS61 to MS62 examples of the other four dates. The more advanced collector should shoot for a set with all six coins grading Uncirculated. The former set could be completed for under $10,000 while the latter could require as much as $100,000+ depending on the quality of each piece.