In my opinion, Type One double eagles have become popular enough with collectors that it is time for some of the more interesting varieties in this series to come into their own. I am beginning to notice that these varieties are growing in popularity and that prices are beginning to appreciate as well. What are the most significant varieties in the series, how rare are they and what sort of price premium do they merit? 1852/1852 Double Date: This variety is one of the most obvious double dates that I have seen on a United States gold coin. It can easily be detected with the naked eye due to the heaviness of the date. The original date was punched slightly too high and then corrected with a second full punch placed slightly below.
In the last three years I have looked at over one hundred 1852 double eagles and fewer than ten have been of this variety. Nearly all have been in lower grades (EF45 and below) and I do not believe that I have ever seen an 1852 double date double eagle in Uncirculated.
This variety is recognized by NGC but it is not currently recognized by PCGS. I think it should sell for a 25-50% premium over a normal date 1852 and the premium in AU55 and higher grades should be even more than this.
1854 Large Date: This variety uses a date logotype from the silver dollar. The same anomaly occurs on 1854-O eagles. The 1854 Large Date is easy to recognize as the date is significantly larger than on the Small Date. I have spoken with collectors who have been confused by these varieties and I think it might be a bit easier to think of the Small Date as a Medium Date. In addition, remember that on the Large Date the 1 in the date in the date nearly touches the truncation; on the Small Date it is distant.
This variety has become widely accepted with collectors in the last five years and it is recognized by both PCGS and NGC. Prices have risen considerably and a nice AU now sells for close to $10,000 when available. The finest that I am aware of was the NGC MS64 sold by Heritage as Lot 2010 in their 2007 ANA auction. It brought an impressive $80,500.
It is still possible to cherrypick this variety despite its relative popularity. I have seen at least five or six in older NGC or PCGS holders without designations.
1858-O Blundered Die: This is probably the least well known of the varieties listed in this article but it is among the more visually impressive. Under magnification it is possible to see another 8 protruding from the bottom of the left part of the lowest curl into the field below. One of the reasons that people do not know about this variety is that it was not well-described by Breen when he mentioned it on page 565 in his Encyclopedia. Another reason is that yours truly has not done a good job publicizing this variety in his New Orleans books and his Type One book.
To view a nice blow-up image of the 1858-O Blundered Die double eagle, I suggest going onto Heritage’s website and looking at the close-up that provided for the example they sold as 12/08: 2256.
There are probably fewer than ten 1858-O Blundered Die double eagles known and the Heritage cataloger was able to account for just four. The finest appears to be Heritage 12/04: 6843, graded MS61 by NGC.
This variety is very high on the coolness scale of Type One double eagle varieties but the rarity and current high price of the 1858-O make it the least likely of the varieties that I’ve mentioned so far to begin to sell for a premium. It is not currently designated by either PCGS or NGC.
1859-S Double LIBERTY. This variety has been known for at least a few decades but it remains reasonably unheralded. It is among my favorite Type One varieties and it is very easy to see with light magnification. The final five letters in the word LIBERY show pronounced doubling.
NGC designates this variety while PCGS does not. The current NGC population includes five coins (the finest of which grades MS60) and another six from the S.S. Republic.
I have personally looked at close to two hundred 1859-S double eagles and I’ve seen around five or six with the double LIBERTY. I think this variety is very impressive visually and it should command a significant premium in all grades. I would suggest around 50% in EF40 to AU55 grades and as much as a 100% premium in AU58. It is hard to figure what this coin is worth in Uncirculated given its rarity.
San Francisco Mintmark Variations: The final group of Type One varieties is less likely to catch on with collectors given the fact that these varieties are not as impressive. This could change if either NGC or PCGS were to start designating them but even if this were to happen, I doubt if they will catch fire collectors.
The 1857-S is known with a Medium S mintmark and with a Large S. The latter is much scarcer.
The 1863-S is known with a Medium S mintmark and a Small mintmark.
It is possible that other mintmark varieties will be discovered as time progresses.
As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, collecting gold coins by variety remains a reasonably obscure area of focus for most numismatists. But I could really see some of these Type One varieties becoming readily accepted in the coming years (as the 1854 Large Date already has) and their values rising accordingly.