The 1854-S is a numismatically significant coin as it is the first double eagle made at the San Francisco mint. It is also an enigmatic issue. Because of the Yankee Blade shipwreck, it is fairly available in Uncirculated but with original, non-seawater surfaces it is rare in all grades and extremely rare in AU and above. I know of just two non-shipwreck Uncirculated 1854-S double eagles (both of which have been handled by my firm) and a handful of nice AU's. The present example is one of the two or three best circulated 1854-S double eagles I have seen. It is very well struck and has nearly full satiny luster. The color, a light orange-gold hue, is lovely and the surfaces are amazingly clean for the date and grade. Around four years ago, I paid close to $10,000 for an original surface 1854-S in PCGS AU55 when Trends was around $4,500 for this issue. This coin may be even nicer and with the market finally appreciating the rarity of original 1854-S double eagles, I think it is still a good value. If you are a serious collector of Type One double eagles, I urge you to give this coin your full consideration.
Old Green Label Holder. By today's standards I think this coin is right in the middle of the "line" between an AU55 and an AU58. The 1854-S is the first gold dollar struck at the new San Francisco mint and this makes it a very significant coin from a numismatic perspective. This lustrous example is sharply struck and very lustrous. It shows some minor areas of mint-made roughness on both the obverse and reverse which is understandable when one considers that this is the San Francisco mint's first attempt at striking the challenging Type One design. A small mark on the face appears to be the result of contact from another coin many years ago. It is not easy to find this date in the higher AU grades with good eye appeal and this is a nice coin for the date and grade. In my opinion, a very undervalued issue, given its historic importance.
The 1854-S is historically significant as the first gold dollar from the San Francisco. It is also a scarce, undervalued issue in Uncirculated that is seldom seen above the MS61 to MS62 range. This example is strictly "new" with nice light rose and orange-gold colors and an excellent strike. A few small, scattered marks on the obverse keep this at the 61 level but the reverse is quite choice and it grades at least a point higher on its own. The last auction price realized for an MS61 example of this issue was Heritage 4/11: 6265 (graded by NGC) that sold for $2,990. Only five MS61's have appeared at auction since the beginning of 2005.
Not many non-specialists are aware of this but the 1854-S is one of the hardest Type One double eagles to find with original color and surfaces. There are dozens of 1854-S double eagles graded AU55 and higher but virtually all are from the S.S. Yankee Blade shipwreck and have seawater surfaces. I have only personally seen or handled two or three Uncirculated 1854-S double eagles that were original (none were better than MS61) and the present example is one of the two or three best circulated pieces that I have seen or owned. It shows lovely deep green-gold color with darker highlights. My guess is that it was found in Europe and somehow has escaped the conservation that has befallen most of the non-shipwreck examples of this date. Yes, it's expensive (I had to really pay up for it!) but if you are a very savvy buyer of Type One double eagles you know how rare and important this coin is.
Although it isn't a rare coin, I have always liked the 1854-S eagle as it is the first year of issue for the San Francisco mint and it has great Gold Rush connotations. While dozens have been graded AU53 to AU55, few of these have original color and surfaces and this example is very pleasing for the grade with deep orange-gold and rose hues. Although a bit "ticky" from rough handling in commerce, this piece has quite a bit of sharpness and it has the appearance of a coin that grades higher. Even if you don't collect eagles, this is a neat issue to own and one that should be in any collection of branch mint gold.
As a rule, I like coins with real historic significance and the 1854-S eagle certainly falls into this category as it is the very first Liberty Head eagle struck at the San Francisco mint. Unlike the exceedingly rare quarter eagle and half eagle dated 1854-S, the eagle is a relatively obtainable issue although it is uncommon in AU55, rare in AU58 and extremely rare in Uncirculated. This example is clean for the issue with just a few small marks noted on the obverse. The light gold surfaces retain a bit of luster and the strike is very sharp for the issue.