The No Motto type of Liberty Head eagle was produced at the New Orleans mint from 1841 through 1860. By using CAC population figures, we can get an idea of which dates display condition or appearance rarity. CAC is a service which is rewards good eye appeal, unlike the grading services which are grading more from a technical standpoint. In other words, a coin can technically be correctly graded as an AU55 but it may have below average overall eye appeal due to a combination of factors (dipped surfaces, detracting marks, questionable color). While CAC isn’t perfect, it does give us a good metric to determine if a coin is not only accurately graded but if it possesses good eye appeal.
The following chart lists each No Motto New Orleans eagles along with its high-grade population at CAC (high-grade, in this case, refers to coins which grade AU55 and finer) and the total population of coins, for each date, approved by CAC.
a: includes both Normal and Repunched Dates which are accorded separate figures by CAC
b: includes both 1846-O and 1846/’5′-O varieties
From this chart, we can deduce the following:
1. The Five Rarest No Motto New Orleans Eagles Based on Overall CAC Populations
- 1859-O (3)
- 1841-O (5)
- 1855-O (5)
- 1857-O (6)
- 1852-O (7)
2. The Five Rarest High-Grade No Motto New Orleans Eagles Based on CAC Populations
- 1855-O (0)
- 1859-O (0)
- 1849-O (1)
- 1852-O (1)
- 1841-O (2)
Before I go any further, there are two important caveats to know before we take these figures as being completely accurate.
The first is that, as with NGC and PCGS, the CAC figures are not completely accurate due to resubmissions. This doesn’t affect rare issues such as the 1841-O as much as it might a more generic issue like the 1851-O in AU55.
The second is that a number of important collections of New Orleans eagles have not yet been to CAC. I can think of two; one owned by a California collector and the other by a New England collector, which contain numerous Condition Census and Finest Known eagles from New Orleans which have yet to be seen by CAC.
Now, let’s look at these findings and see how they play out against my 30+ years of experience in specializing in New Orleans eagles.
The five conditionally rarest New Orleans eagles, according to CAC populations, correspond well to the five which I ranked as the rarest in the last edition of my book “Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint, 1838-1909.” The 1841-O and the 1859-O are obvious condition rarities and have been recognized as such for years. The fact that two high-grade (AU55 and AU58) examples of the 1841-O have been sent to CAC is happenstance; the two highest grade 1859-O eagles I know of (AU55 and MS62) have yet to be sent to CAC but likely would sticker. The condition rarity of the 1852-O, 1855-O, and 1857-O is not as well known. These three dates have comparatively high NGC/PCGS populations in AU55 and AU58, but very few of these coins qualify as “stickerable” by CAC standards.
Will the high-grade population figures for these five dates continue to stay so low? For the 1841-O and the 1859-O, as I just pointed out, the answer is a resounding “yes.” For the other three, probably so, but not as much as now.
I find the low high-grade populations at CAC to be somewhat surprising for the 1852-O and 1855-O eagles, but not as much so for the 1857-O. My best estimate is that there are fewer than 10 known high-grade examples of these two dates which might be approved if sent to CAC. The number of potential CAC approved 1857-O eagles is even lower with an estimated six to eight known to me. All three of these dates are either unknown in Uncirculated or, in the case of the 1852-O and 1855-O, exceptionally rare with no more than two pieces known.
What about the most common high grade and overall rarity No Motto New Orleans eagles? What does the chart above tell us and are the findings a surprise?
1. The Five Most Available No Motto New Orleans Eagles Based on Overall CAC Populations
- 1851-O (65)
- 1843-O (27)
- 1847-O (25)
- 1844-O (21)
- 1854-O Large Date (21)
2. The Five Most Available High-Grade No Motto New Orleans Eagles Based on CAC Populations
- 1851-O (42)
- 1843-O (13)
- 1847-O (13)
- 1858-O (12)
- 1844-O (10)
There are some interesting conclusions which can be reached from these two charts. Remember, though, that this is an admittedly small sample size and these numbers aren’t really “gospel” for at least a few more years.
I am pretty surprised at how much more available the 1851-O is than any other No Motto New Orleans eagle. It is an admittedly common date in nearly all circulated grades but nice, CAC-worthy AU55’s and AU58’s are not as plentiful as the comparatively large population figures suggest. And I certainly didn’t expect to see more than three times as many 1851-O eagles in CAC-approved AU55 and above than its closest counterpart the 1847-O.
The 1843-O is a bit of a surprise as well. It is a relatively available date but choice, original AU55 to AU58’s are pretty hard to find. I certainly didn’t expect to see exactly the same number of high grade 1843-O eagles as 1847-O eagles (both at thirteen) as I find the former to be many times scarcer than the latter.
The 1858-O may seem surprising as the fourth most available high grade No Motto O mint eagle with CAC approval, but this is a hoard date with some very attractive pieces known in the AU55 to MS60 range.
A date which seemingly falls under the radar but which is a true appearance rarity is the 1846-O. It barely misses qualifying for Tier One status but, in my experience, there are only a handful known in AU55 and higher grades which will ever qualify for stickering at CAC should they not have already been sent.
One final date which I also think falls under the radar is the 1856-O. Prices for this date in AU55 and AU58 have declined in recent years but this is mostly a reflection of how ugly the coins offered have been; not that the frequency of appearance has increased. I have seen very few 1856-O eagles in AU55 and higher which were choice and original, and I think it is every bit as rare in higher grades as more heralded dates in the No Motto series.
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