I’m basically an old school coin dealer. I market coins all the time but am not really a “marketer” in the numismatic sense of the word—although I deal with firms which are marketers. These companies are always looking for angles and if there is one thing I am pretty cognizant of its coin angles.
So as a coin dealer who handles a lot of New Orleans gold coins, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the ten most marketable gold issues from this mint.
Notice, I didn’t say the ten rarest New Orleans gold coins. Nor did I say the ten most expensive. This list is about coins which are easy to sell and fun to collect. These are coins with multiple levels of demand, and the sort of coins which are easily understood by beginning and advanced collectors alike. These are coins which the purist might call “overvalued” but the marketing-savvy dealer knows are great sellers in nearly any grade.
Without further ado, the list.
1. 1849-O Gold Dollar
This is a first-year of issue and it is interesting for a variety of reasons. The Type One gold dollars from New Orleans were made for just five years, and only one date (the 1850-O) is remotely scarce. It is a great set to collect and it is one which the collector of average means can complete in comparatively high grades (MS62 and above).
The 1849-O dollar is very easy to locate in circulated grades, and a presentable AU example can be had for less than $1,000. In the lower MS grades, the 1849-O can be found with some degree of frequency, and even MS63 examples are not terribly rare or expensive with average quality specimens currently selling in the $3,250-4,250 range. In MS64, this date becomes scarce and the collector can expect to pay at least $5,000 for a decent example. In MS65, this is a very rare coin with just three or four known. The last to appear at auction was a PCGS example that brought a very strong $29,900 in Heritage’s 10/11 sale.
It would be hard to accumulate a substantial number of 1849-O dollars in grades above MS62 but it is likely that a decent position of AU58 to MS62 coins could be assembled.
2. 1855-O Gold Dollar
The 1855-O gold dollar has been a favorite of mine for many years. It has two great things going for it: it is a distinct one-year type, and it is the only New Orleans gold dollar struck which uses the short-lived, popular Type Two design (made only from 1854 to 1856). A total of 55,000 were made, and it is not really a rare coin but it is extremely popular and become g harder to find every year.
The 1855-O dollar is most readily available in EF and AU grades. It becomes scarce in the AU55 to AU58 range, although it is available at most major shows or auctions. In Uncirculated, it has become a very hard coin to find with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. It is very rare in properly graded MS63, and it is essentially unknown above this. The popularity of this issue is apparent in its surge in price over the five+ years. In 2008, I can remember selling average quality AU58’s for around $3,000 and choice examples for closer to $4,000. Today, an average quality AU58 will cost more like $4,250-4,500 and a choice coin with CAC approval might bring as much as $5,500-6,000.
It would be challenging to accumulate a quantity of 1855-O gold dollars although a group ranging in grade from EF45 to AU55 could likely be assembled. The number of 1855-O gold dollars in Mint State that have been graded appears plentiful according to PCGS and NGC - statistics but this is misleading due to resubmissions and coins placed in long-term collections. I have only handled four Uncirculated 1855-O gold dollars in the last two years (two in MS61 and one each in MS62 and MS63), and even if I wasn’t the picky buyer I am, I doubt whether more than three to five could be found in a year’s time.
3. 1839-O Quarter Eagle
This is another of my favorite New Orleans gold coins. It is extremely popular and there are a number of great factors which make it so: it is a one-year type, it is a first year of issue, and it is the only New Orleans gold coin with the mintmark placed on the obverse. And one more thing…can you say “first gold coin of any denomination struck at the New Orleans mint?”
The comments that I made above for the 1855-O gold dollar apply (mostly) to the 1839-O quarter eagle. The mintage for this issue is much lower (17,781) but the survival rate is reasonably high with VF and EF coins available from time to time. In AU, the 1839-O is moderately scarce and it is rare in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS61 range. In MS62 and above, this issue is quite rare.
The price performance for this issue rivals or exceeds that for the 1855-O gold dollar. In 2008, I would routinely sell an AU55 in the $4,000-4,500 range. Today, a nice CAC quality AU55 will bring close to $6,000.
This is another issue which might be hard to stockpile for a promotion unless a wide range of grades was acceptable. I’ve seen the availability of this issue really dry up in the last two or three years, and I’ve gone from almost always having a nice 1839-O in stock to now having one every three or four months.
4. 1845-O Quarter Eagle
This is hands-down the rarest coin on this list and it is an unlikely candidate for promotion, but I’m going to include it anyway. What makes this coin so interesting is its low mintage (only 4,000 were struck) and its relative affordability. (More on this in a second…)
There may be as few as 100-125 known in all grades which, obviously, makes this a hard issue to corner the market on. That said, it is a date that I handle on a reasonably regular basis. As a marketer, I’d think about this as a White Whale issue which is the key to the Liberty Head quarter eagle set; a short-lived and very completable run of 13-14 coins which should be more actively collected by date.
The 1845-O has increased in value over the past few years at the same pace as many of the other popular issues mentioned in this article. A presentable EF example can still be had in the $2,500-3,000 which I feel is one of the great values in all of New Orleans gold. AU examples, which are available more often due to gradeflation, can cost as much as $12,500-15,000 for a choice 58 coin and are hardly what I would call promotable.
If I were marketing New Orleans gold, I would put away every single 1845-O quarter eagle I could find, promote the hell out of the more common quarter eagles, and then sell these coins as “set finishers.” As I mentioned above, this is a set with potential and one with a number of great values at current levels.
5. 1854-O Three Dollar Gold
This is an issue which is absolutely ideal for marketing purposes. It has a great story (it is a one year type and it is the only three dollar gold piece ever made at the New Orleans mint), it is reasonably plentiful (especially in comparison to other issues mentioned in this article), and it is actually fairly affordable with decent quality examples still available in the $3,000-6,000 range.
The 1854-O three dollar has a reasonably low mintage of 24,000. As with its counterpart the 1854-D, this issue is more available than one might assume, and there are hundreds known in the EF and lower AU grades. The 1854-O becomes scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58, and it is very rare in Uncirculated with fewer than ten known.
Three dollar gold pieces have been out of favor for close to a decade, and this has tended to drag down prices on the 1854-O. Another factor is grading: many examples are conspicuously overgraded and few are choice and original. But I think at current price levels, nice 1854-O three dollar gold piece are a bargain and they could increase nicely if properly marketed.
Could a savvy marketer stash away a decent amount of these? Probably so and certainly with less effort than, say, an 1845-O quarter eagle. Put me down as someone who would love to jump-start the market for this interesting issue!
6. 1840-O Half Eagle
In the last few years this issue’s counterparts, the 1839-C and 1839-D half eagles, have seen huge price increases. The 1840-O is also a first-year-of-issue coin but, unlike the 1839-C and 1839-D, it isn’t a one year type. And, most importantly, unlike the other two southern half eagles, it is still highly undervalued and much overlooked.
The obvious problem with marketing 1840-O half eagles is availability, especially in high grades. The 1840-O is a truly rare coin but it is not offered for sale with a great degree of frequency. A quick perusal of auction records over the last decade shows an average of four or five 1840-O half eagles per year available for sale. I have handled seven in the last two to three years. So unless a marketer got lucky, it would be very frustrating to try and include this date as a key item.
And yet…this is such a perfect coin to promote. It’s the first half eagle from this mint, it is reasonably affordable (a decent AU can be had for $2,000-4,000) and it is scarcer than the higher priced 1840-C and 1840-D half eagles.
Like I said, for the promoter, the 1840-O half eagle is probably a pipe dream. But that doesn’t keep me from putting it on my list of the ten most promotable gold issues from this mint.
7. With Motto Half Eagles (1893-O and 1894-O)
The No Motto half eagles design was made at the New Orleans mint through 1857 and it was then discontinued. It was not resumed until 1892 and then for just three years. The 1892-O is a very scarce issue and way too hard to promote, but the 1893-O and 1894-O are more available.
The 1893-O is the more common of these two dates with an original mintage of 110,000. It is fairly easy to find in circulated grades and available from time to time in MS60 to MS62. Nice circulated 1893-O half eagles can still be found for around $1,000 while a very presentable Uncirculated coin is available for around $2,000.
The 1894-O is more of a challenge. Only 16,600 were made and this issue is hard to find in Uncirculated although it is available in decent quantities in AU grades.
These issues are instantly promotable as short-lived representatives of the With Motto type. Pairing the 1893-O and 1894-O in AU and lower Uncirculated grades is certainly feasible. An ambitious project would be to add an 1892-O (generally priced in the $4,000-6,000+ range) and form a complete three-coin With Motto set.
8. 1909-O Half Eagle
This is probably the most obvious coin to put on this list, and it is an issue which has been subject to a number of promotions in the past. The 1909-O is a distinct one-year type coin which is immediately recognizable as the only Indian Head half eagle from New Orleans. In addition to being a one-year type, it is also a last year issue (how cool would a set of first year/last year half eagles be with an example of an 1840-O and a 1909-O?).
The 1909-O half eagle is one of the ultimate condition rarities. A total of 34,200 were made and from the pattern of grade distribution which exists for this date, it is plain to see that it did see a good deal of local circulation. Most 1909-O half eagles are seen in EF45 to AU55 grades and properly graded AU58’s are scarce. In Uncirculated, the 1909-O is very scarce with most seen in the MS60 to MS61 range. In MS62 and above, this issue is very rare. The finest known is a PCGS MS66 which I recently purchased in the 2014 Heritage FUN auction for $646,250 and immediately sold to a collector who is assembling the finest all-time set of New Orleans gold.
The great story and comparable availability of this coin make it perfect to promote. It is not an inexpensive coin with average quality examples typically selling in the $8,000-15,000 range. But it is possible to accumulate a decent position (although it is likely that any new promotion would run up against existing promotions creating a battle for the supply).
9. With Motto Liberty Head Eagles in Mint State
The With Motto design eagle was first struck in New Orleans in 1879. This issue is very rare and the next issues (1880-0, 1881-O, 1882-O and 1883-O) range from scarce to very rare. After a brief hiatus, production resumed in 1888 and during the next two decades, a total of 11 different New Orleans eagles were struck. The mintage figures for these dates weren’t that high but many issues were shipped overseas and now exist in reasonable quantities.
For a marketer, there are some interesting options with these later date New Orleans eagles. On a single coin basis, they are affordable (lower quality Mint State coins can be had for less than $1,500 each) and they have a relatively small premium when compared to more common “generics” of this era. I have personally assembled a number of 11 coin sets of New Orleans Liberty Head eagles from 1888 through 1906 in MS61 and MS62 grade and I can think of few other affordable collections of gold coins which can be completed this easily yet offer as much satisfaction for the owner.
Three issues (1901-O, 1903-O and 1904-O) can even be found in MS63 with comparable frequency and they are not only reasonably affordable (typically in the $2,500-3,000) range, they have dropped in price over the last five years and have become more available due to lack of demand. At one point in time, a coin such as a 1901-O eagle in MS63 sold for around four times the price of a common date 1901-S in this grade. Today, this ratio is more like three to one and I think the 1901-O in MS63 is great value as a high grade, affordable With Motto eagle from this mint.
10. Type One Double Eagles (1850-O, 1851-O, and 1852-O)
Few gold coins from New Orleans have shown as much price appreciation as Type One double eagles. This means that most of the issues from this dozen coin group are priced well into five figures; some, like the 1854-O and 1856-O are six figure coins. This leaves the first three issues, the 1850-O, 1851-O and 1852-O, as the most affordable and the only ones with some potential to be marketed.
To me, the neatest of the three issues is the 1850-O and for obvious reasons: it is the very first double eagle made at this mint. Of the three, it is the scarcest and it is quite rare in AU55 and above. I would think that it would be possible to accumulate a small position of these in EF grades but it is not likely to find more than a few in the lower AU range. The 1851-O and 1852-O are seen from time to time in EF and a nice example is now priced in the $4,000-6,000+ range.
In my experience, Type One double eagles from New Orleans are extremely popular and very easy to sell. They are the largest coins from this mint and among the most “valuable.” This makes them in demand with both new collectors and savvy, long-term specialists. As recently as five years ago, you could find these coins in enough quantity to justify a promotion; today, this is probably not as likely but it is certainly an interesting proposition.
For coin marketers, there are few coins with as many “slam dunks” as the gold issues from New Orleans. These are coins with great stories: one year types, low mintage pieces, coins with Civil War connections, etc. Some of these coins are no doubt being accumulated even as you read this for possible future promotions. Others are being avidly collected by an ever-growing cadre of specialists.
If you have any questions about New Orleans gold coins, please feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world’s leading expert with you assembling a set of coins?
Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In many series, collectors are slaves to the holder. By this, I mean, they make purchases which aren’t always prudent based on what a PCGS or NGC holder says. This is most prevalent in Registry-oriented 20th century series such as Lincoln Cents and Washington Quarters (amongst others) - series in which a single grading point can inflate the value of a coin by 5, 10 or even 20 times.
This tends not to be the case with classic 19th century gold coins, but every now and then a situation arises in which a coin which is theoretically the highest graded may not be the best purchase for an advanced collector.
A situation involving this scenario emerged at the recent Baltimore Stacks Bowers auction and I’d like to share my thoughts.
Please note that this is not meant to be a negative rant about the following coin, and the buyer of this coin is, no doubt, happy with his or her purchase.
The 1876-S eagle has long been a favorite issue of mine. It has a small mintage of just 5,000 coins, and I think five or six dozen exist, with most in the VF to EF grade range. I have never seen an 1876-S which grades higher than AU53 to AU55, and my best estimate is that there are around six or seven properly graded AU examples known. Until recently it was an unloved and generally undervalued coin.
In the recent Stacks Bowers Baltimore show, a newly graded PCGS AU55 example of this date was offered. In theory, this is the “finest known” example as it is a population one, none finer, coin. It sold for $22,325. I examined the coin and, in my opinion, it was sub-par for the grade. (Had it been a very choice coin for the grade, I think it would have brought closer to $30,000).
While $10 Libs are not a typical Registry Set series, there are a few advanced, deep-pocketed collectors who are specializing in these coins. And the opportunity to acquire a PCGS finest known coin—with the “points” this would add to such a set—is an unusual opportunity to say the least.
But what if a cheaper example of this same date was actually a “better” coin? What if an 1876-S eagle graded AU50 by PCGS were more original, more appealing (in my opinion), and a fraction of the price?
Back in their 2011 ANA auction, Stacks Bowers sold a PCGS AU50 example of an 1876-S eagle. I didn’t buy it even though, in retrospect, I probably should have.
Take a look at this coin:
I think it compares favorably to the PCGS AU55 shown above. It is a bit less “meaty” but it is more original, less “baggy,” and has comparable—if not better—overall eye appeal.
Most intriguingly, it sold for just $6,325 - or around a quarter of what the AU55 brought.
Here is an instance where Registry-mania caused a so-so coin to sell for a lot of money but didn’t have an impact on a nice, slightly lower grade coin because it wasn’t “the finest known.”
Examples like this are becoming more and more prevalent in the area of 19th century United States gold coins.
The moral of the story? Don’t always trust the plastic you buy to equate with the best value in your series. There is no substitute for knowledge and, in many cases, this knowledge will save you money and provide you with a better overall collection.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have gold coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world’s leading expert working directly with you when assembling a set?
Contact Doug Winter at 214.675.9897 or by email at email@example.com.
With a mintage of just 18,000, the 1855-O is a scarce date in all grades. It is tied with the 1856-O as the fifth rarest No Motto eagle from New Orleans and it is really hard to find in choice, original EF. This example was sold by me to a collector around a year ago and he traded it back to me to acquire a nice PCGS AU50 1855-O eagle. It has lovely medium green-gold color that is accentuated by splashes of reddish-gold at the obverse periphery. In addition to showing nice color, this piece has very clean surfaces with just a few inconsequential marks scattered about the fields. There is a small rectangular planchet flaw on the reverse below the beak that is mint-made. An affordable but truly scarce coin that is a great value for the eagle collector.
Large Date variety. There are two varieties of eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1842: the Small Date and the Large Date. The former is the scarcer of the two but the Large Date is more challenging to locate than its mintage figure of 62,884 would suggest. This date is usually seen in the EF40 to AU50 grade range and it becomes very scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58. In Uncirculated, it is a really rare coin and it is an issue that I have not handled in Mint State since the early 1990's. This fresh example shows no real wear but does display some abrasions from having been transported in a bag. The color is a lovely fiery orange-gold hue with some contrasting reddish shades about the devices. There have been no AU58 1842 Large Date eagles sold at auction since 2008 and the last MS60 (a PCGS coin) sold for $10,925 in the Heritage 3/09 sale despite its funky orange coloration. There are many great opportunities for the value-conscious collector in the Liberty Head eagle market and these early dates from Philadelphia offer some of the best value out there.
Coinage of the eagle denomination at the New Orleans mint didn't begin until 1841 and given the fact that the first year of issue is rare and expensive, for most collectors the 1842-O is the first available issue. The 1842-O has a mintage of 27,400 and it is only marginally scarce in lower grades but it becomes very scarce in properly graded AU53 and higher. Nearly all the examples that I see graded AU53 to AU55 are heavily abraded and show no originality. This example is a nice exception to the rule(s) as it is very clean and shows nice deep green-gold color with underlying flashes of reddish-gold at the date and borders. The strike is very sharp with just a bit of weakness on the curl above the ear and the fields are smooth. This piece has really good eye appeal for the date. Scarce and attractive.
Recently found in Europe and graded by PCGS at their Paris facility. It is not often that I purchase this date due to the fact that it is so common by the standards of Carson City eagles. But this is such a choice, high end and fresh 1891-CC eagle that I felt I had to add it to my current inventory. It is from the same little group of CC eagles that featured the 1883-CC and 1893-CC listed above and below and it merits special consideration for its dazzling frosty luster, rich natural golden-orange color and overall eye appeal. This piece is as well made as any Philadelphia or San Francisco eagle of this era with all details up and bold. The surfaces show just a few light, well-dispersed ticks and were it not for a small cluster of abrasions in the left obverse, it would receive strong consideration at the 64 level. The 1891-CC eagle is common in MS60 to MS62 but it is scarce in MS63 and rare above this. Given the fact that it is a "generic" issue in the CC eagle series, most advanced collectors are happy to have an example in MS63 in their set, especially as properly graded MS64's seem expensive at $15,000+ for a properly graded example.
Recently found in Europe and graded by PCGS at their Paris facility. The 1893-CC is numismatically significant as the final eagle produced at the Carson City mint. Only 14,000 were struck and it is way, way scarcer than any other of the CC eagles made during the 1890's. In fact, the 1893-CC is very rare in Uncirculated and properly graded AU55 to AU58 examples are rare. This choice piece has virtually no wear but it is slightly abraded in the fields from being transported loose in a bag. The color is very pleasing with deep green-gold highlighted by strong peripheral flashes of fiery reddish-gold; the obverse is a bit less deeply toned than the reverse. The surfaces are semi-prooflike and show no signs of having ever been brightened or "improved." Some marks in the left obverse field are all that keep this choice piece from an AU58 grade. A very nice coin and a really hard issue to find as original as this.
Recently found in Europe and graded by PCGS at their Paris facility. This totally original piece has attractive medium to deep orange-gold color with some deeper hues on the high spots. There is a good deal of underlying luster and the body of this coin is such that a grade of AU55 wouldn't be out of the question. There are a few scuffs in the fields on both sides with the most noticeable seen in the left obverse and the right reverse. The 1883-CC is the scarcest CC eagle produced after 1879. There were 12,000 struck and most survivors are well worn with VF-EF being typical for the date. The 1883-CC is often poorly produced with flatness at the centers and is almost never found with natural color. This example is notable for a great strike and the aforementioned natural color. In the last decade, only one PCGS AU53 has appeared at auction: Heritage 10/09: 1538 which sold for $2,760. A great value at less than $3,000!