What is the Rarest New Orleans Half Eagle?

What is the Rarest New Orleans Half Eagle?

A total of 17 half eagles were produced at the New Orleans mint between 1840 and 1909. Focusing on the No Motto Liberty Head issues (struck between 1840 and 1857) there are at least five issues which I would call “rare” (i.e., fewer than 100 examples known in all grades). These are the 1842-O, 1847-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, and 1857-O. Of these five, which is the rarest in terms of overall rarity and which is the rarest in high grades?

Read More

Sold by Douglas Winter Numismatics: Condition Census AU58 1860-O Double Eagle

Sold by Douglas Winter Numismatics: Condition Census AU58 1860-O Double Eagle

This regular DWN blog feature looks at some of the rare and interesting coins which we have sold in recent months. Most of these coins never made it to our website, and were quietly sold to collectors who we knew needed specific issues and who we had close personal relationships with.

Read More

New Orleans Half Eagles: An Updated Look

It has been a number of years since I’ve written about New Orleans Liberty Head half eagles and given the popularity of this series, I thought it would be nice to finish out 2014 with a fairly in-depth look at these coins. We will not only discuss the coins themselves but will also look at the market for New Orleans half eagles, with some personal observations about the coins and the series as a whole and some interesting statistics.

Some quick background is in order. New Orleans began producing half eagles in 1840 and continued to produce them, with interruptions, through 1857. The No Motto type includes thirteen coins (two distinct varieties of 1843-O exist, see below). Production resumed in 1892 and for just three years, the With Motto type was struck.

For many years, the popularity and price of the New Orleans No Motto Liberty Head half eagles lagged behind the Charlotte and Dahlonega issues. This is no longer the case. New Orleans half eagles are clearly more popular than their Charlotte counterparts and while not as popular (yet) as Dahlonega half eagles, prices are not yet at a par.

New Orleans half eagles have become widely collected and for good reasons. The set can be completed even by a collector on a fairly limited budget and it doesn’t go on for decade after decade like the Philadelphia and San Francisco half eagles. There is no single White Whale issue to make collectors go crazy, and for most, a set of 14 No Motto New Orleans half eagles can be assembled for a reasonable sum in a three to five year period.

How is the market for these coins? For some of the more common issues like the 1844-O and 1854-O, prices have not risen all that much in the last five years. For the rarer issues, especially the key 1847-O, prices have shown rather healthy increases. Demand is clearly high for these coins and I base this on the short period of time which nice New Orleans half eagles stay available on my website when I have a few for sale. Given these facts, I would have to say that the future looks bright for choice, attractive No Motto Liberty Head half eagles from the New Orleans mint.

Let’s take a look at each individual issue.

1840-O $5.00 NGC MS61

1840-O: 

This is clearly a numismatically significant issue but it doesn’t have the Multiple Levels of Demand that its counterparts the 1838-C and 1838-D half eagles do. Part of this is due to the fact that the 1840-O doesn’t have a unique design like the two Classic Head issues I just referenced; nor does it have the mintmark prominently placed on the obverse.

The 1840-O is actually among the most common No Motto half eagles from this mint and it is very easy to find in VF, EF and even low AU grades. In the higher AU grades, the 1840-O is scarce and undervalued and it is rare in Uncirculated with fewer than a dozen known. The finest remains the NGC MS65 which sold for $41,250 back in October 1997 as part of the Pittman collection.

One thing I have noticed about this date in the last few years is just how hard it is to find a nice, original AU coin with pleasing color, choice surfaces, and a sharp strike. I’d estimate that over 90% of all slabbed AU 1840-O half eagles are either cleaned or dipped, or they have negative overall eye appeal. At current price levels (around $3,000 for an AU55 and a bit over $4,000 for an AU58), the 1840-O half eagle is dramatically undervalued.

The 1840-O Broad Mill or Large Diameter is a variety which should be better known and more avidly collected but it isn’t yet recognized by PCGS (NGC has recognized it for years but seems inconsistent in their designations). The 1840-O Broad Mill is very rare and very obvious to the naked eye. I sold the only known Uncirculated coin (an NGC MS61) to a New England collector around five years ago. I know of two or three AU58’s as well.

1842-O $5.00 NGC MS63 CAC

1842-O: 

The 1842-O remains the second rarest half eagle from this mint. There are an estimated 75-85 known with nearly all in the VF-EF range. A properly graded EF45 is about the nicest available quality for the date; AU’s are rare and many of the slabbed AU50 to AU53 coins have issues. There are exactly three known in Uncirculated, all of which are coins I have sold in the last decade.

The 1842-O is rarer than nearly any Charlotte or Dahlonega half eagle but it still doesn’t get the respect it deserves from collectors. Prices for Extremely Fine examples have stayed fairly flat over the last decade and this date seems undervalued by 25-50%, in my opinion.

It has been a number of years since a nice slabbed AU55 or AU58 was sold at auction and it would be interesting to see what a quality coin (especially if it were PCGS graded and CAC approved) would bring.

One closing thought about this date. Some 1842-O half eagles are rather weakly struck at the centers. Should this affect the value of an otherwise choice example? I don’t think strike is an important factor in determining value for a rare 19th century gold coin so I would resoundingly say “no!”

1843-O Small Letters $5.00 PCGS AU50 CAC

1843-O Small Letters: 

This was the first of the two varieties made in 1843 at the New Orleans mint and it shares the reverse of 1842-O.

This is clearly the scarcer of the two 1843-O half eagle varieties and it appears less frequently at auction than such more heralded dates as the 1845-O, 1846-O and 1851-O. Most 1843-O SL half eagles are seen in the EF40 to AU50 range and rarely with original color and choice surfaces. On late die state issues, the detail on the reverse lettering appears weak from die lapping.

The finest known remains the PCGS MS65 which I bought a few years ago in a Stack’s Bowers auction for $69,000. It is the single finest of a small group of four Uncirculated pieces which were found in the South and later sold at auction in 2000.

This is a considerably scarcer coin than the 1843-C or 1843-D half eagles yet it still sells for less. There are an estimated 125-150 known. This variety becomes scarce in the medium to higher AU grades and I believe that there are just five or six extent in Uncirculated.

1843-O Large Letters $5.00 NGC AU55

1843-O Large Letters: 

At one time, I felt that this variety was close to the Small Letters in terms of its overall rarity but it is at least twice as available. There are an estimated 250-350 known and the 1843-O Large Letters is fairly common in lower grades. It is scarce in About Uncirculated and very scarce at the upper end of this range with original surfaces and nice color. There are at least 10-12 known in Uncirculated, and this includes a few really nice examples in the MS63 to MS64 range. I handled one of the NGC MS64’s earlier this year and sold it privately but, as far as I know, none of the other high grade 1843-O Large Letters half eagles have traded in at least five years.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed about this variety in the last few years is how unappealing the typical piece is. A decade ago, it was not uncommon to find a really wholesome 1843-O Large Letters in, say, AU55, with natural color and decent surfaces. Today, this same coin now likely grades AU58 but it has been stripped-n-dipped and the marks which may have been hidden by the former natural color are now obvious on the bright, dipped surfaces.

I’ve mentioned for some of these other issues how undervalued they are in comparison to their Charlotte and Dahlonega counterparts. Let’s use the 1843-O Large Letters as an example. A decent quality EF45 is going to cost you $1,250-1,500. A similarly graded 1843-C or 1843-D half eagle will run $2,250-2,750, depending on the holder and whether its CAC’d or not. The 1843-O Large Letters is common by the standards of New Orleans No Motto half eagles but it is still a scarcer coin than the 1843-D and only a little more available than the 1843-C. At around half the price, it seems like wonderful value to me.

1844-O $5.00 NGC MS64 CAC

1844-O: 

The 1844-O is by far the most common No Motto half eagle from this mint and it is actually as available as some of the Philadelphia issues from this decade. I estimate that at least 750-1000+ are known and if one includes all of the no grades or lower quality pieces which exist, the number clearly exceeds 1,000 total. The 1844-O is easy to find in any circulated grades, although a really nice AU58 with natural color and choice surfaces is scarcer than generally realized. In Uncirculated there are at least two to three dozen known and possibly more. In MS62, this is a scarce coin and it is rare in properly graded MS63. I am aware of three to five that grade MS64 (and have handled all of them) and one Gem, a PCGS MS65 which is ex Bass.

The 1844-O is a perfect type coin for the new collector who would like to own an appealing No Motto half eagle from this mint. $1,500 to $1,750 will buy you a very choice PCGS AU55 while $2,500 to $3,000 will buy you a great looking AU58. Since this date can still found with natural color, sharp strikes and choice surfaces, I’d suggest that you be fussy when it comes to an 1844-O. Spend a little extra time and a little extra money and you will be rewarded with a special coin; hopefully one which will motivate you to form a more comprehensive collection of New Orleans half eagles.

1845-O $5.00 NGC MS61

1845-O: 

The 1845-O is probably the only No Motto New Orleans half eagle whose rarity in 2014 is, at least in my experience, a bit less than I believed five or ten years ago. Part of this is happenstance as there were clearly some decent quality 45-O half eagles which I didn’t see when I compiled my old(er) rarity levels. And part of this is new discoveries including a few nice Uncirculated examples from the S.S. New York  treasure. I regard the 1845-O as clearly less scarce than the 1846-O and comparable to the 1851-O but more available in higher grades.

My best current estimate for total surviving population for this date is around 125-150 coins and that might be a bit on the low side. The 1845-O is relatively available in VF and EF grades and it is just a bit scarce in the lower AU range. High-end AU’s, especially with natural color and surfaces, are much scarcer than their crazy high PCGS/NGC populations would suggest (30 AU58’s at NGC alone….yikes!). I believe that there are 10-12 known in Uncirculated including three in MS63.

Quality for the grade is finally being felt for this (and other) No Motto New Orleans half eagles. As an example, a nice CAC approved NGC AU58 1845-O sold for $6,463 as Heritage 12/13: 3845. The same date in the same grade but not CAC approved and appearing less choice sold for just $4,406 as Heritage 4/14: 6360.

1846-O $5.00 NGC MS63

1846-O: 

I have long lumped the 1846-O half eagle with the 1845-O and 1851-O but at this point in time, I believe that the 1846-O is the scarcest of the three. There are an estimated 100-125 known with most in the VF-EF range. Properly graded AU50 to AU55 examples are scarce and this date is rare in full AU58. I am aware of six or seven in Uncirculated including a solitary MS63 at NGC and three or four MS62’s.

This is another issue whose overall level of appearance seems to have really diminished in the last few years. A decade ago, it was possible to find O mint gold which had escaped the clutches of those individuals who’ve seemed to destroy much of the remaining Charlotte and Dahlonega coinage. Today, it’s not so easy and most 1846-O half eagles now have that bland, lifeless zombie appearance which many of their southern counterparts shuffle through their coin lives. Sad.

1847-O $5.00 NGC MS60

1847-O:  

The unquestioned King of the New Orleans half eagles, this issue has finally been recognized for its rarity and it appears to have demand outside of the community of specialists who collect these coins. A nice NGC AU53 sold for $14,100 as Heritage 1/14: 6658 and this may be an indication of higher prices to come in the future for this key issue.

But a case can be made that the 1847-O is still highly undervalued. As an example, the PCGS Price Guide suggests a value of $30,000 for an 1847-O half eagle graded MS61. What the Price Guide doesn’t state is that this date is currently unique in Uncirculated (at PCGS) and it is very rare even in grades as low as AU55 (just three in this grade at PCGS and none in AU58). I, for one, would be thrilled to purchase a PCGS graded MS61 1847-O half eagle for $30,000 and I think the true value is more like $50,000 to $60,000.

To offer a further comparison, let’s compare the 1847-O to the King of the Charlotte half eagles, the 1842-C Small Date. In terms of overall rarity, these two dates are fairly comparable while the 1842-C is clearly more available in AU55 and above (PCGS has graded only two in AU55 but they have graded no fewer than eight higher than this; compare this to the PCGS population figures for the 1847-O listed above). The 1842-C Small Date is currently worth around $30,000 in AU55 and an accurately graded PCGS MS61 is worth close to $100,000. Given the fact that the 1847-O is a rarer coin and it is priced at half of the less popular 1842-C Small Date, I know which issue I regard as the better value.

1851-O $5.00 PCGS MS62 CAC

1851-O: 

A few interesting new higher grade examples of this date have appeared on the market in the last few years. One of them caused me a case of coin angst the like of which I can still recall clearly even though it happened nearly four years ago.

Heritage 6/11: 5113, graded MS62 by PCGS, was a coin I clearly “needed” to buy for inventory. It was fresh, it was properly graded and it had a lovely appearance. Except for one big “but.” The coin had a major mint made lamination on the obverse from the rim at 7:30 through the neck down to the 85 in the date. This wasn’t a “slight” lamination; it was huge and in a noticeable place. It wasn’t so severe that I thought it might drop off the coin someday (don’t laugh; this has happened to me before) but it was detracting. I really wanted the coin but the lamination scared me off and I decided to pass. Did I do the right thing? I think so and I got a chance to buy an even nicer PCGS MS62 example of the same date in January 2013 which lacked the lamination.

1854-O $5.00 PCGS MS61

1854-O: 

Repeat after me: This is not the common date everyone thinks it is. This is not the common...

By the rigorous standards of the No Motto series, the 1854-O is more available than most of its New Orleans counterparts. In higher grades, this date is far scarcer than most people realize and I believe it is scarce and significantly undervalued even in AU55. The availability of this date in VF and EF grades seems to hurt its reputation in higher grades; a situation more often seen with Philadelphia No Motto half eagles than coins from New Orleans.

There are probably fewer than 10 true Uncirculated examples of this date and unlike sexier dates like the 1846-O and 1851-O, a nice higher grade 1854-O half eagle hasn’t appeared at auction for many years.

1855-O $5.00 NGC MS61, ex Pittman

1855-O: 

The final three No Motto New Orleans half eagles are typically lumped together but in my experience the 1855-O is the scarcest. I believe that there are around 80-90 known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range.

I’d like to claim that this date remains a “secret” known only to specialists but two things lead me to believe that it isn’t. The first is the fact that a decent but, in my opinion, not upgradable NGC AU58 example sold for $10,575 in Heritage’s March 2014. The second is that I recently listed a nice PCGS EF45 example on my website and received no less than five orders for it within three hours of listing it.

1856-O $5.00 PCGS AU58

1856-O: 

I regard this date to be almost exactly the same rarity as the 1857-O, but it is harder to find with original color and choice surfaces. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I’ve handled a totally original EF or AU example of the 1856-O half eagle.

There are around 100 known with most in the VF-EF range. This date tends to be the least well struck of the 1855-O to 1857-O triumvirate and of the five or six coins which have been graded Uncirculated by the two services, I think only one or two are truly, unquestionably “new.”

Quick thought: it is interesting to note that some of the New Orleans dates from the 1840’s (1843-O Small Letters and Large Letters, 1844-O, 1845-O) are represented by small numbers of obviously Uncirculated, fresh coins in the MS62 to MS64 range. The dates from 1854-O through 1857-O do not come as nice and it appears that while some very small hoards from the 1840’s exist, by the mid-1850’s, these New Orleans coins were not being saved.

1857-O $5.00 PCGS MS62 CAC

1857-O: 

As I just mentioned, the 1857-O is similar in rarity to the 1856-O. I have actually handled more 1857-O half eagles in relatively high grades. This date tends to come “nicer” than the 1855-O and 1856-O with better overall detail and a few more non-stripped coins known.

I’ve written about the finest known 1857-O half eagle before. Graded MS63 by PCGS, this coin is a Numismatic Orphan, having bounced from dealer to collector to dealer to auction for more than a decade. Ironically, its next attempted sale is this Friday.

1892-O $5.00 PCGS MS62

1892-O: 

For years, this was the ultimate sleeper amongst New Orleans half eagles; a date regarded as only slightly rare but which was, in reality, comparable to some of the higher priced No Motto issues. In the last few years, prices have risen for this date. I recently sold two nice PCGS AU58 examples with CAC approval for around $4,000 and as recently as five years ago, I would have had a hard time getting $3,000 for these. That said, I still think the 1892-O is excellent value.

1893-O $5.00 PCGS MS62

1893-O: 

An interesting situation—the result of gradeflation—has occurred with this date. A decade ago, population figures for the 1893-O in MS63 were very low. This was a hard coin to make and, if I recall, the population was around four or five in MS63 at PCGS with one finer. Today, PCGS alone has graded 13 in MS63 and prices have dropped in MS63 as a result. This is a phenomenon which occurs routinely with 20th century issues but rarely with New Orleans half eagles. It will be interesting to see how prices hold up as more are graded MS63.

1894-O $5.00 PCGS MS61 CAC

1894-O: 

One of the things that’s interesting to see about CAC populations is how few New Orleans half eagles, especially in comparatively higher grades, get the coveted sticker. I recently bought an 1894-O in PCGS MS62 with CAC approval and was pretty surprised to learn that only two MS62’s had CAC stickers. I was even more surprised to learn that the PCGS population for this date remains at a low six coins in MS62 and only two finer. I think that the 1894-O suffers from being compared with the 1893-O. The 1894-O is many times scarcer and it remains a truly hard coin to find in properly graded MS62 and higher.

 

So there you have it: my take on the New Orleans half eagle series. I find these coins to be endlessly fascinating and I hope some of my enthusiasm has rubbed off on you.

 

Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.

The Ten Most Marketable New Orleans Gold Coins

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.

1849-O $1.00 PCGS MS63

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.

1855-O $1.00 PCGS MS61 CAC

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.

1839-O $2.50 NGC MS61

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.

1845-O $2.50 NGC AU58 CAC

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.

1854-O $3.00 NGC AU58+ CAC

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!

1840-O $5.00 NGC MS61

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.

1893-O $5.00 PCGS MS62

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.

1909-O $5.00 PCGS MS61 CAC

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).

1879-O $10.00 PCGS AU55 CAC

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.

1850-O $20.00 NGC AU58

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 dwn@ont.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 dwn@ont.com.

Collecting No Motto New Orleans Half Eagles

If you have a numismatic budget of $2,000-10,000 per coin and you want to explore a series that is reasonably short in duration but long on challenges, I'd strongly suggest No Motto half eagles from New Orleans. Let's take a brief look at this area of collecting and see if it is for you. The New Orleans mint opened in 1838 and began producing silver coins. The first gold issue from this facility was the 1839-O quarter eagle. The next year, coinage of half eagles would begin. Half eagles would be struck, intermittently, until 1857 with a total of twelve issues (thirteen if you count the two varieties of 1843-O). Production did resume in 1892 and three With Motto issues were produced but we are not going to discuss them at this time.

To my way of thinking, No Motto New Orleans half eagles are a great collector-based series for a variety of reasons. These include the following:

*The coins are scarce and undervalued but they are affordable. If you can budget around $5,000 per coin for most of the issues (and $7,500-10,000 for the two keys) you can assemble a really nice group of coins with most of the pieces in the AU grades.

*The coins are well made. Unlike the sometimes poorly produced half eagles from Charlotte and Dahlonega, the New Orleans issues tend to be very well made. If you are a collector who finds strike to be a critical issue, this is going to be an important factor for you.

*There are no unobtainable issues. In both the Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagle series you have at least one very expensive issue (the 1842-C Small Date and the 1861-D). In the New Orleans series, there is nothing that will bust the budget of an average collector.

*There is a great book available on these coins which just happens to have been written by yours truly.

As I mentioned above, there are a total of thirteen different No Motto half eagles from this mint. There are two issues which I would call very scarce to rare, two issues which I would call common to somewhat scarce and nine which are scarce-ish to scarce but which can prove to be challenging if the collector is picky to very picky.

1842-O $5.00 (graded NGC AU55)

The two really challenging No Motto half eagles from New Orleans are the 1842-O and the 1847-O.  The former has a mintage of 16,400 while the latter has a mintage of 12,000. Both have well under 100 known in all grades and both are usually seen in low grades. Despite the rarity of these two issues, they are still relatively affordable..

As an example, a presentable PCGS VF20 1842-O half eagle sold at auction for just $2,300 in Heritage's 8/11 auction. In 2010, two PCGS EF45 examples brought $3,881 and $3,738. While neither of these coins was what I'd call "PQ" for the grade, they represent amazingly good value at less than four thousand dollars for a date which has not been sold at auction in any AU grade since 2004.

1847-O $5.00 (graded NGC MS60)

The 1847-O is even rarer than the 1842-O and it is actually less available in higher grades than the far more pricey 1861-D half eagle.  A nice, wholesome NGC VF35 brought $4,025 in the Heritage 12/11 sale and two PCGS EF examples (one in 40 and the other in 45) sold for $7,475 and $8,052 in Heritage's January and August 2011 auctions. In my opinion, a pleasing original EF or AU example of this date at current levels is a terrific value.

The next category of dates--the ones I called "scarce-ish to scarce" include the 1843-O Small Letters and Large Letters, 1845-O, 1846-O, 1851-O, 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O. These can actually be sub-divided into the classes: the dates in the 1840's (scarce-ish) and the dates in the 1850's (scarce).

The 1840's dates are all very affordable in the EF grades. The collector is looking $2,000-3,000, on average for nice quality pieces. In AU grades, the collector is looking at $3,000-6,000 depending on quality.

Here are some very brief comments on each of these dates:

*1840-O:  This is the most common of the three first-year-of-issue half eagles from the southern branch mints. Varieties exist with a narrow mill (common) and a wide mill (rare).

*1843-O Small Letters:  The rarer of the two varieties struck this year. Often seen with weakness at the borders from die lapping. Very hard to locate with original surfaces and color.

*1843-O Large Letters:  The more common of the two. A reasonably available issue in EF; available in the lower AU grades but becomes rare in AU55. Generally well struck with good luster.

*1845-O:  Available in EF grades but harder to find than many more expensive C+D half eagles of this era. Generally well struck but often very abraded. Worth a good premium with natural color.

*1846-O:  Harder to find than the 1845-O but comparable in rarity below AU. For some reason, nice AU coins have become much more difficult to find than in the past. A really tough issue in crisp, wholesome AU55 and AU58.

*1851-O:  Similar in rarity to the 1845-O and 1846-O so included with the 1840's issues. Not quite as well struck as the last two but the luster tends to be good. Often seen dipped and worth a strong premium with natural color.

Given their lower mintage figures, one would expect the 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O to be scarcer than their counterparts from the 1840's. All three of these are hard to find and, in my opinion, very undervalued in relation to Charlotte and Dahlonega issues from this era.

These three issues are comparable in rarity but I would rank them in this order: 1855-O, 1857-O and 1856-O.

The 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O are hard to find in problem-free, original EF grades but, when available, they can still be had to under $3,000 a coin. As an example, look at the 1855-O. Since 2009, there have been four EF45's sold at auction. Prices for these have ranged from a low of $2,302 to a high of $2,700. In my opinion, that is very reasonable for a coin as rare as this.

The two common date No Motto half eagles from this mint are the 1844-O and the 1854-O. The 1844-O had a mintage over 364,600 and it is reasonably easy to locate in grades up to AU55. The 1854-O had a much lower mintage of 46,000. It is less rare than the 1851-O (which has a mintage of 41,000) and can be found in the EF40-AU50 range. In properly graded AU55 and AU58, it is scarce and undervalued.

My ideal set construction for this series would be as follows:

For the collector with a budget of $2,000-3,000 per coin, I would focus on obtaining EF40 to EF45 examples of the scarce dates and AU50 to AU55 examples of the more available ones. The 1842-O is going to require an outlay of at least $3,000-4,000 for a decent high end VF to EF coin. The 1847-O will be a bit more expensive but it is possible, with some patience and luck, to find one for around $5,000-6,000.

For the collector who has a budget of $5,000-10,000 per coin, I'd look at AU55 to AU58 examples of all the dates with the exception of the 1844-O (where I would stretch for an MS62 at $6,00-7,000) and the 1847-O (where I'd hope I can find a nice AU50 or AU53).

For the collector with a big budget of $10,000+ per coin, the focus would be on Uncirculated coins. The majority of the No Motto issues from New Orleans have fewer than a dozen known in Uncirculated. Two issues, the 1842-O and the 1847-O, are exceedingly rare and might not be available above AU55 to AU58 while the final three (1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O) are not as impossible but are not exactly slouches.

As I mentioned above, this is a series that I think has a ton going for it. It doesn't have the level of popularity which enshrouds the double eagles but it is easier to collect than the No Motto eagles from this mint and far more interesting than the gold dollars or quarter eagles.

No one--and I mean no one!--has handled more interesting No Motto New Orleans half eagles than I have. If this is a series which you want to collect, you should contact me by email at dwn@ont.com and we can discuss it.

 

 

 

The Great RYK/DWN Mashup Redux: Two Numismatists, Nine Questions, Eighteen Answers

One of the most popular blogs that has appeared on this website was entitled "The Great RYK/DWN Mashup" and it appeared around two years ago. In it, I volleyed back and forth with collector Robert "RYK" Kanterman and discussed gold coins, the coin market and more. After much pleading from our respective fan clubs (OK, actually from me pleading with him to help me come up with another popular blog...) we've decided to agree to disagree, 2012 style. And away we go!

Note: For each answer, "RYK" represents Robert Kantertman while "DWN" represents Douglas Winter Numismatics.

1. If you could own any shipwreck gold coin, which would it be?

RYK: I have a strong preference for the SS Central America coins. In my opinion, they were the best preserved and best conserved. Even though I am a "dirty gold" guy, I would choose the nicest 57-S $20 I could afford, and these are available in a range of price points. I would be tempted to find one of the branch mint gold specimens, a territorial piece, or even a 55-S or 56-S $20, if I wanted to get a little more exotic.

DW: Agreed. I've become a fan of nice, natural-appearing 1857-S SSCA double eagles in the MS64 and MS65 grades. But, and this is a big but, I caution buyers to be highly selective and stick with PCGS coins in original gold foil holders that haven't changed. The coins were conserved; some very successfully and some not so successfully. Take a look at any Heritage sale and you'll see coins caked with white gunk from conservation gone awry. Yuck....

2. Should established US gold coin collectors consider territorial gold?

RYK: I would say a resounding "Yes!" A nice Bechtler piece or set complements a southern gold collection nicely, and some of the California private mint or assay gold pieces go well with any set that includes early San Francisco gold. The Colorado, Oregon, and Utah gold pieces are also a good fit for 19th century gold enthusiasts. One drawback is that they are generally fairly expensive, and might burn coin money required for the big hole in the set.

DW: I like Territorials but am not sure that I share RYK's enthusiasm for them in a rare date gold set. Now, if you are collecting Charlotte gold dollars than a C. Bechtler and A. Bechlter dollar makes sense. Or, if you collect Liberty Head double eagles from the No Motto era a Moffat double eagle makes sense. But I'm not sure how an Oregon or a Mormon piece fits into a regular issue set. And as RYK said, the big bucks that such a coin costs might take away needed funds from a regular issue that is more integral to your set.

3. What is your favorite Dahlonega coin for someone wanting just one for their collection?

RYK: In the sub-$2500, an original, choice VF or XF quarter eagle or half eagle from the mid-1840's would be my choice. They are generally well-produced, nearly 170 years old, and made from gold mined in the southeast.

At the next price level, there are two choices that I see: going up in grade from my lower price point selection or choosing a more interesting coin. I would do the latter, like an 1839-D $2.50, 1838-D $5 or 1839-D $5 in original XF-45.

If money is unlimited, I would wait for on of the super high-grade pieces that come on the market once a year or so. The most recent was the 1855-D quarter eagle in 63.

Overall, unless I was a half dime or trime collector, I would avoid the gold dollars as a consideration.

DW: For a first purchase in the $1,750-3,000 range its hard to argue with a nice EF half eagle. Look for an original coin with nice surfaces and color. They still only command a 15% premium over the junky coins I see daily.

For a "tier two" coin, I like Robert's idea of buying something snazzy like a one-year type or a first-year issue. Coins like this have become very popular and the value isn't quite as good as it used to be but the liquidity of, say, a nice EF45 1838-D half eagle is better than ever.

If you are lucky enough to have the budget for a five figure "exotic" issue, I'd look for a high grade example of something really rare, not a high grade example of a common date. I like coins like 1856-D quarter eagles, 1854-D threes, 1842-D Large Date half eagles, etc because they are so seldom seen in high grades.

I disagree with RYK about gold dollars. Don't hate on the little guys, RYK. Gold Dollars are a great series to collect and the 1849-D is a wonderful first coin for the collector. Plus its hard to not like rare dates such as the 1855-D, 1856-D, 1860-D and, most of all, the coveted 1861-D.

4. Is New Orleans gold more popular than Charlotte gold?

RYK: Ten years ago, I would have said that Charlotte gold is more popular, but today, I would say the opposite. One thing that favors New Orleans gold over Charlotte including is that more denominations are available, including the immensely popular $20 Liberty gold and the increasingly popular $10 Liberty gold. I think that the desirability of the New Orleans quarter and half eagles has increased and the scarcity of some of these issues is now more widely appreciated. In Charlotte, there is just not much new, and there appears to be a relatively steady march of coins on the market.

DW: RYK, you ignorant slut...Oh wait....

I'm afraid Robert is correct. As someone who has really helped to "create" the New Orleans market, I'm wowed at how popular these coins have become and much they have appreciated price-wise since, say, the late 1990's. And how Charlotte hasn't.

Charlotte gold is somewhat in the dregs although collector-quality coins are strong. I put an 1841-C half eagle in nice PCGS EF45 on my website the other day and got seven orders for it in less than a five or six hours. But, that's the exception and not the rule. There are alot of good Charlotte coins available right now and if a few heavy hitters decided to get serious, they could put together great sets over the course of a few years.

5. What gold coin or coins is/are currently in greatest demand from rare date gold collectors?

RYK: I think that the single coin that is in greatest demand among rare date gold coin collectors is the 1861-D $5. I recently told Doug that if he had a dozen XF-45s, he could quickly sell them all and for strong money. Honorable mention would go to the 1861-D $1, better date $5's and $10's from the 1860's, 1870-CC $10, and the 1861-O and 1879-O $20's.

DW: Ah, Grasshopper, you have learned well. Oh and where are those dozen 1861-D half eagles?

The market is very rarity-oriented right now and people are looking to buy sexy, low mintage coins with alot of "oomph." Other coins I would add to RYK's list include the 1855-D dollar, 1854-S quarter eagle, 1864 quarter eagle, nearly any pre-1800 half eagle, 1864-S half eagle, 1875 half eagle and eagle, 1841-O eagle, 1883-O eagle, etc.

6. Is collecting San Francisco gold on the rise/falling/stable?

RYK: San Francisco gold is, in my opinion, gaining in popularity. The market demand for the better date coins was evident in th e recent Littlejohn sale, and there was a very interesting San Francisco gold collection in the Heritage FUN sale that did very well, too. It would be great if a rare date gold specialist (ahem) or Western gold specialist would publish a book on SF gold (1854-1880) as I think that this could give these coins some much-needed publicity among potential collectors.

DW: Hey, thanks RYK. Make me do another book, huh?

Actually I have thought about doing a book on SF gold for many years and if I could get a partner to assist me I would (ahem, potential partner, you know who you are...). I think this would help the market for these coins. For years and years, this was a dead area. The popularity of SF double eagles, brought on by the shipwreck discoveries of the last two decades, has spurred demand for smaller denomination coins as well.

I think you have to look at SF coins as two distinct markets: the 1854-1879 coins and the post-1880 cons. The first group is suddenly doing pretty well and I personally am selling alot more interesting SF coinage today than I was two or three years ago. The second group seems dead but I can see the potential for coins like an 1888-S eagle in MS63 (to pick a random date in a random grade) with premiums so low over generic issues.

7. Should coin collectors bother with coin shows?

RYK: Absolutely! Aside from seeing lots of coins, the ability to view auction lots in person, view exhibits at the bigger shows, meet other collectors, and network with dealers makes any coin show worthwhile. I have often said that even if I were broke and had no coins to sell, I could have a great time at a coin show.

DW: To me, coins shows are somewhat of a necessary evil. With the exception of FUN and Summer ANA, most coin shows are too long and aren't always productive. But I'm jaded and have been going to 15-20 shows a year for nearly three decades.

For the collector, shows are great. You can't beat the ability to look at coins, to view auction lots, to look at exhibits, etc. I'd say you have to fine-tune your BS detector as you are going to hear alot of Newspeak.

8. Are auctions good venues to buy in?

RYK: Yes, with an asterisk. It depends a lot on factors including specifically which auction venues, have you viewed the coins, are you using an agent, are you bidding live or by proxy, etc. If you are playing sight-unseen with proxy bids over the internet, you are going to get burned a lot. If you are bidding in person or with a specialty dealer, there may be some opportunities.

I would add is that some coins that are purchased at auctions could be bought outside the auction venue for less money, less risk, and less hassle. If you are considering a 1901-S $10 in 64 in an auction, it makes no sense to bid sight-unseen and compete with others for the coin. If it is lovely and undergraded, someone smarter who has seen the coin will know that and outbid you. If the coin is a pig, you will win it. It's a classic "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" situation.

DWN: The whole auction market has changed so much in the last five years. The simple way to put this is that they have transitioned from wholesale environments to retail environments.

Many new collectors feel safe buying at auction as they figure that "if there was an underbidder, I'm safe having paid just 5 or 10% more." This is wrong on many levels. And it is even more wrong when you consider that most collectors are bidding at auction on a sight-unseen basis and relying on images.

It's just a matter of time before buyer's premiums at sales rise to 17.5% or even 20% and at that point, I'd say that auctions might not be the best venue to buy in. You have to take this with a grain of salt coming from a dealer who is essentially competing against the auction firms both for product and for buyers but I know that I am now much less reliant on auctions both as a buyer and and a seller than I was a few years ago.

9. What makes a coin desirable?

RYK: This is a very personal thing, and if you ask ten collectors, you will get eleven different answers (because at least one collector will change his mind). The factors that go into desirability include, but are not limited to, design, condition, value, metallic composition, age, scarcity, history, provenance, originality, and market demand. I tend to rank scarcity, numismatic history potential for price appreciation and originality in the more important category, and design, condition, and value in the less important group.

DWN: As a dealer, my answer is bound to be different from RYK's. I am looking for coins that I think will sell well and that I will be excited about handling again and again down the road.

To me, the factors that make a coin desirable include: its level of value (is it a good deal or a bad deal?), its degree of absolute rarity (is its price predicated solely on its grade?), its degree of originality (has it been cleaned, processed or dipped in recent years?), its eye appeal (is it pretty?) and its level of liquidlity (if the market pulled another 2008 contraction, could I sell this coin in 30 days or less?).

Robert and I will be taking our show on the road and expect to see us at a Holiday Inn near your town sometime soon.

Do you more questions that you would like to see answered by the RYK/DWN mashup team? If I can persuade RYK to take some time away from his busy Fantasy Baseball schedule, perhaps we can have a Round Three of the Great Debate sometime soon. Email your questions to me at dwn@ont.com