The 1863 Eagle: An Unheralded Rarity

One of my favorite American coins is the 1863 eagle. I had a lovely NGC EF45 pass through my hands recently and it inspired me to write a blog about what I think is one of the absolute rarest Liberty Head eagles. Production of this issue was limited to a scant 1,218 business strikes, and I rate the 1863 as the third rarest Liberty Head eagle after the 1875 and the 1864-S. There are probably fewer than 30 known in all grades, with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. There are very likely as few as six or seven known in AU grades and two in Uncirculated; more about these a little further down the page.

1863 $10.00 NGC EF45 CAC

A quick search of auction records shows that no problem-free 1863 eagles have sold since October 2010, and only seven records exist for problem-free coins in the last decade. My records show that I have handled exactly two pieces in the last five years: an NGC EF45 and a PCGS AU53.

When available, the 1863 tends to be bright from having been cleaned or dipped and it is invariably very heavily abraded. This piece shown above is one of the very few circulated pieces that I have seen with natural color. There are a few small abrasions on the surfaces, but they are much cleaner than usual.

There are two high-grade 1863 eagles known. The finest is the Bass IV: 683 coin which sold for $52,900 in 2000; a price which, at the time, I thought represented possibly the single biggest bargain all of the three Bass sales which featured gold coins. Bass had, through an agent, bought this exact coin in August 1991 for $104,500. Harry didn't lose money on many coins but he got spanked — and good — on this one; all the more remarkable considering that it is the finest known example of a truly rare issue and it is exceptional for the grade. Today, it would bring considerably more than in either of its previous auction appearances.

The other Uncirculated 1863 eagle is an MS62 that was found as part of the S.S. Republic treasure. I have never personally seen this coin, but it is in the collection of a western specialist along with many other finest known or Condition Census pieces from this shipwreck.

Civil War gold coins have been very popular in recent years as a result of the sesquicentennial of the war plus promotions/popularization by dealers such as myself. While it is not well-known outside of the specialist community, it is my belief that there are currently many collectors who would appreciate a nice 1863 eagle in their holdings.

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Contact Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 or by email at