Even though the population figures have increased over the years, the 1854-O quarter eagle is still a scarce and undervalued issue in Uncirculated. Of the few dozen accounted for in this range, most grade MS60 to MS61 and few show the rich luster and natural green-gold hues that this piece possesses. A few scuffs can be seen in the fields and the strike is slightly weak at the centers. In the last five years, only seven examples graded MS61 have appeared at auction.
While common compared to such issues as the 1846-O and 1851-O half eagles, the 1854-O is far scarcer than the 1844-O. But the 1854-O is much harder to locate in higher grades than is generally realized and it is a genuinely scarce coin in the higher AU grades. This example has lovely delicate light green-gold color atop very lustrous surfaces and it is high end for the date and grade. I think this is a very undervalued issue, as are all choice No Motto half eagles from this mint.
Small Date variety. This choice, original coin shows deep, attractive green-gold color and there is a good deal of dirt in the recesses. I purchased this coin from a dealer who imports American gold coins from Europe and this piece had never seen the light of day in the American coin market until now. It is high end for the grade and as nice as examples that I have seen in AU55 holders. While typically regarded as the more common of the two varieties of 1854-O eagle, I actually see fewer choice Small Dates than I do of the more photogenic Large Date.
Large Date Variety. As most collectors know, any No Motto eagle in MS63 or higher is rare. New Orleans eagles in this grade range are all but unheard of. Only two dates are sometimes seen in this grade, the 1847-O and 1851-O and even those are very rare. But to find an 1854-O Large Date in MS63 is almost unheard of. There are approximately seven to nine known in Uncirculated but this includes some pieces from the S.S. Republic and at least a few in MS60 to MS61 that I think are marginally "new." There are exactly two known in MS63 and none finer. PCGS has graded a single example which I sold to a California collector in 2005; it is originally ex Heritage 1/99: 8181 and it sold for $31,050 back then. This second example is also a coin that I handled before and it is listed as coin #2 in the Condition Census in my 2006 book "Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint, 1838-1906." It has been off the market for at least a decade and I was able to reacquire it at the recent Long Beach show. It has an amazing naked-eye "look" with glittering semi-prooflike surfaces that are free of chatter or friction and which show rich yellow-gold color. There are a few light lines on the surfaces and a touch of mint-made planchet roughness on the reverse but this piece has an amazing appearance that is unlike nearly any other example of this variety that I can recall seeing. Usually, the texture of this date is frosty and it has a sunken, slightly concave appearance. This piece has a great strike and its "look" suggests that it is one of the very first struck of this variety. Coins of this quality and rarity are seldom available these days and when they are they typically appear at auction where they tend to bring crazy prices. If you are a serious collector of New Orleans gold, Liberty Head eagles or you just want something special to put away, give this coin some serious consideration.
Large Date variety. This extremely original coin is probably sourced from Europe as it has a distinctive "Euro" appearance with very rich orange gold surfaces accentuated by darker contrasting hues on the high spots. This coin has seen very little in the way of actual circulation but it does have some scattered scuffs on the surfaces including a small vertical line in the cheek of Liberty. This fascinating variety employs a silver dollar date logotype that is way too big for the available space. Many die varieties exist and on this piece, there is a significant die crack between the 18 in the date going up to the base of the neck. The 1854-O Large Date eagle is moderately scarce in properly graded AU55, rare in AU58 and very rare in Uncirculated. At under $3,000 for a nice AU example, I think this coin is great value.
Small Date variety. Evenly worn and attractive with pleasing deep green-gold and orange hues on the obverse and reverse. The strike is sharper than usual for the issue and the surfaces are very clean with no detracting abrasions. A small dirt spot can be seen at the back of the base of Liberty's neck. This is the scarcer of the two varieties of 1854-O eagle even though the Large Date is generally accorded more respect due to its visual appearance. An affordable, numismatically interesting No Motto eagle from the New Orleans mint.