Here's yet another reason why I love being a coin dealer: after a couple of years of not handling an example of this very rare double eagle, I have now bought two in less than than three weeks. I just sold the Pittman 1855-O (also graded EF45 and approved by CAC) and am now pleased to offer what I believe to be the single nicest piece that I have ever seen in an EF45 holder. This is a very original 1855-O with superb deep color on the obverse and reverse. Both sides are a rich green-gold with pronounced reddish shadings at the right obverse border and across nearly all of the reverse periphery. The surfaces are choice and exceptionally clean for the issue with no marks of note except for a tiny shallow mint-made planchet flake to the left of the 1 in the date. Interestingly, the Pittman coin that I just sold also had an obverse flake; this time below the 55 in the date. This example has really marvelous overall eye appeal and I doubt if you could find a piece with a better appearance in today's market. As I said when describing the Pittman coin, the 1855-O is the rarest collectible New Orleans double eagle and I think it is considerably undervalued in relation to issues such as the 1859-O, 1860-O and 1879-O.
I have handled at least a dozen EF45 1851-O and 1852-O double eagles (combined) in the past year and I'd have to say that this example may be the most attractive, at least from the standpoint of originality. The obverse and reverse show lovely deep original green-gold color with no lightened areas from prior dippings or cleanings. The surfaces are remarkably choice for a New Orleans double eagle of any date with a near-total lack of marks. My guess is that this coin was recently found overseas but it doesn't have the too dark/too splotchy color that many of the O mints that are found in these sources display. The "+" designation from NGC was certainly the result of this coin's great eye appeal and I think a collector would be hard-pressed to find a nice New Orleans double eagle of any date for less than $5,000.
Pittman Collection Pedigree. The 1855-O is the third rarest New Orleans double eagle, after the 1854-O and the 1856-O. Given that nice examples of either of these dates is a $200,000++ expenditure, for most collectors the 1855-O is the most important double eagle from this mint that they will purchase. The 1855-O is a nearly impossible issue to find with original color and nice surfaces and this coin is far above-average in both regards. It is very well detailed and it has not been scrubbed or dipped as shown by its warm greenish-gold patina. Most amazingly, it shows only a few very light abrasions in the fields. This example is immediately recognizable by a small natural planchet flaw on the obverse rim below the 55 in the date. This actually adds character to the appearance, in my opinion, and in no way detracts. While not identified on the holder by NGC, this is clearly the Pittman coin and it is one of the last major double eagles that he acquired in his storied collecting career. The last EF45 to sell was Heritage 7/11: 4993 (graded by PCGS) that realized $34,500. That coin had numerous abrasions in the fields and it was not accorded a sticker by CAC. In fact, only three 1855-O double eagles in EF45 have been approved by CAC and none above this. A very important coin for the Type One collector and a piece that combines beauty, rarity and numismatic history in one neat package.
Ex Pittman: 1131, Merkin 10/66: 374
If you want to buy a nice quality New Orleans double eagle and you have less than $5,000 to spend you basically have two choices: the 1851-O and the 1852-O. Of the two dates, the 1851-O is a bit harder to find. This very attractive example shows natural green-gold color with areas of reddish toning at the borders. There is some luster present and the surfaces are nice for the date and grade. A shallow mint-made planchet flake between the two final stars on the obverse does not detract and the reverse is clean, choice and lovely. You won't find many nicer EF examples of this date than the present coin.