Coins I Never See With Good Eye Appeal Part One: Gold Dollars

As I was viewing auctions lots for Heritage's 2012 FUN sale in Dallas the other day, I got to thinking about a topic that I think most gold coin collectors will find interesting: which issues are really hard to find with good eye appeal. I've decided to begin a multi-part study of this and the first featured series is gold dollars. Eye appeal is a combination of factors that makes a coin visually pleasing. These factors include strike, luster, color and surface preservation. For some collectors, original color is the key component; for others it is a sharp strike. But no matter which component is deemed most important, most sophisticated collectors will be able to agree if a coin has good overall eye appeal or not.

The concept of eye appeal doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with rarity. You can have a rare or very rare coin that, when available, tends to come with good overall eye appeal (an example of this would be an 1828 half eagle). Or, you can have a coin that is merely scarce but which, for a variety of factors, is seldom seen with good eye appeal (an example of this is a 1796 eagle).

Let's take a look at some of the gold dollars that, in my experience, are very difficult to find with good appeal.

In the Type One issues (produced from 1849 through 1854) there are a number of coins that are seldom seen with good eye appeal. The first that comes to mind is the 1852-D. Due to die clashing, this issue is frequently seen with multiple clashmarks that develop into a very "busy" area in the left obverse field. In addition to this phenomenon of strike, most 1852-D gold dollars have been cleaned or processed. I can't recall having owned more than a handful of 1852-D dollars that were cosmetically appealing.

Another Dahlonega issue that is very hard to locate with good eye appeal is the 1854-D. In the case of this issue it is not so much strike as it seems that nearly all known examples have been cleaned or dipped. I would be surprised if as many as ten nice examples were known and I have seen just a few in the last decade.

The Charlotte and New Orleans Type One gold dollars are easier to locate with good eye appeal than their counterparts from Dahlonega. The hardest Type One dollar to locate from Charlotte with good eye appeal is the 1850-C. While relatively well struck and well made, it seems that nearly every piece that I see offered either has inferior luster, "chewy" surfaces and poor color from having been recently cleaned or dipped.

The New Orleans Type One dollars tend to be well made and boldly detailed. Locating examples of virtually all the dates isn't a problem although finding a choice, orignal 1850-O with very good eye appeal can be somewhat of a challenge.

While issued only from 1854 to 1856, the Type Two issues tend to be hard to locate with good eye appeal. This is more true for the branch mint pieces than for the Philadelphia coins.

The 1855-D is the rarest Type Two gold dollar from a rarity standpoint but I have actually seen more nice 1855-D dollars in all grades than I have the 1855-C. The 1855-C is typically found with numerous planchet imperfections, poor strike and bright surfaces from dipping. In the Heritage sale, I saw a nice PCGS AU58 example (which was, in fact, sort of the impetus for the theme of this series of blogs...) and it got me to to thinking how long its been since I'd seen a nice, crisp, wholesome example. I'm not certain I have the exact answer but I do know that the 1855-C dollar in any grade with truly good eye appeal is a rare coin indeed.

The Philadelphia coins of the final type of this denomination (known to collectors as the Type Three) are generally seen with good eye appeal. There are a few issues, though, that can prove to be tricky to find as such.

The 1863 is an issue that was melted extensively. When found in circulated grades, survivors almost always seem to have poor eye appeal. There are a small number of really superb pieces known (around a half dozen Gems that grade MS65 to MS67) but these are off the market in tightly held collections.

While not as well known or as highly valued as the 1863, the 1865 is another issue that is not readily encountered with good eye appeal. As with many of the smaller denomination gold issues of this era, the 1865 typically comes either really nice or really wretched and coins that fall into the latter category seem to be what's available to collectors these days.

The 1875 is a date that most collectors believe is very rare and, from the standpoint of availability (or lack of it) I couldn't argue. But this is an issue that tends to have good eye appeal when it is available. Due to its low mintage figure of just 400 business strikes, all 1875 dollars are seen with prooflike surfaces. If an 1875 dollar hasn't been harshly cleaned or mishandled, it will have great eye appeal due to the depth of its reflectiveness and bold details.

The hardest Type Three issues to find with good eye appeal are, as one would expect, the coins from Charlotte and Dahlonega.

Only two Charlotte gold dollars were struck during this era (the 1857-C and the 1859-C) but both are hard to find with good eye appeal. This is especially true for the former as this is an issue that is typically seen with planchet waviness, roughness as made and really bad overall eye appeal. I recently sold an NGC AU58 with CAC approval to a collector and, as I told him, it was just about the only really attractive example of this issue that I could recall having seen.

Nearly all of the Type Three gold dollars from Dahlonega are hard to find with good eye appeal but I think the two that are the hardest are the 1857-D and the 1860-D. The former is hard to find due to a combination of quirky strike and hard commercial use. The latter is a much scarcer coin but it is almost always found softly struck and with poor, unnatural coloration.

The San Francisco Type Three issues are short-lived but do not lack for difficultly to locate with good eye appeal. I personally find the 1857-S and 1858-S to be the two hardest dates to find with good eye appeal. Both are typically found with a fair amount of wear and seldom show good color. I haven't seen or handled a nice Uncirculated example of either date in years.

Unlike other series, there are no impossible coins to find in the gold dollar denomination (not counting, of course, the excessively rare 1849-C Open Wreath), there are a number of specific issues that are extremely hard to find with good eye appeal. I'd say that the five toughest to find, in chronological order, are as follows:

-1850-D -1852-D -1854-D -1857-C -1860-D

The next article in this series will focus on Liberty Head quarter eagles. Pre-1834 and Classic Head issues will be covered in another article that focuses on early gold in all denominations.

Any questions about eye appeal and gold dollars? I can be reached via email at

The Market for New Orleans Gold

In many respects, I was one of the primary creators of the market for New Orleans gold. As recently as two or three years ago, I was one of the few dealers who maintained a good inventory of choice and rare gold from New Orleans and was certainly giving this market a bigger “push” than my compatriots. So how has the market fared for New Orleans gold in the last few years? Without a great deal of fanfare, I’d have to say that I did a very good job of helping to jumpstart this market. In some ways, it was maybe too good of a job. By this, I mean that I now have a lot of competition on the wholesale side of the market when interesting New Orleans gold becomes available at a show or at auction. The days that I could negotiate for these coins using the strategy that “no one else cares about this O Mint gold coin so you better sell it to me at my number” are long gone. If I pass on a neat coin, there are three or four other dealers in the wings waiting to swoop.

This is probably both good and bad for collectors as well. If you listened to my pleas to buy New Orleans gold a few years ago, you were probably able to purchase some coins at levels that could not be duplicated today. The bad news, though, is a sudden lack of availability.

If you look at what’s been available at major auctions this year in the area of important New Orleans gold, it’s been pretty slim pickings. There were some important half eagles and eagles in the January Stack’s sale and Heritage has sold its share of Condition Census pieces but impatient collectors have probably found 2007 to be a trying year.

I made a strong effort to purchase New Orleans gold at the recent 2007 ANA show in Milwaukee and came home with little to show for my efforts. What’s really frustrating is that I could have sold about ten times the number of New Orleans gold coins that I bought.

Unless I overlooked some hidden stashes of New Orleans gold, the only items that seemed to be available at the show were either common issues such as 1851-O eagles in grades up to and including AU55 or low-end Uncirculated examples of such uninspiring dates as 1893-O half eagles.

Another thing I noted is that price reporting for New Orleans gold is really out of whack right now. Neat coins tend to bring considerably more than CDN Bid or Trends. Examples? In the recent Heritage ANA sale, an 1882-O eagle in PCGS MS63 brought nearly $38,000. CDN Bid is $14,250. In Bowers and Merena’s pre-ANA sale, a PCGS AU55 1854-O double eagle realized nearly $500,000. Trends is $350,000 in this grade.

Prices are also too low for less spectacular New Orleans coins than these two. Examples? I would be very happy to buy multiples examples of eagles such as the 1849-O, 1852-O, 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O in EF40 and EF45 at levels near their current Trends valuations.

Would an increase in values bring some good New Orleans coins out of the woodwork? It might shake a few coins out but I’m guessing that the answer is a resounding “no.” I think the reason for this is that there really aren’t many old-time specialized collections of New Orleans gold that were being formed five, ten or twenty years ago. If someone was collecting branch mint gold in years past, the chances were pretty good that they were focused on Carson City, Charlotte or Dahlonega and they ignored New Orleans issues.

What do I see as future Trends for New Orleans gold coins? Let’s take a quick look at each denomination.

Gold Dollars are becoming more and more popular and the upcoming Dave Bowers book on this denomination is certain to create new collectors. Given the brevity of the New Orleans series, I think we’ll see more collectors putting together sets. I personally like the idea of buying Finest Known or Condition Census examples of any date as well as nice, solid examples of the key 1850-O and 1852-O.

The New Orleans quarter eagle series is seeing some increases in popularity. Collectors are probably misled by inflated populations of Uncirculated and About Uncirculated coins. This is a series that $2,000-4,000 per coin still goes a long way. At the ANA I sold a gorgeous 1852-O in NGC AU58 to a collector for $2,000. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find better value in this series than coins like this. I still like the value level of the key 1845-O in EF and AU grades and also like issues such as the 1847-O, 1850-O, 1851-O and 1852-O in accurately graded MS61 and MS62.

1854-O Three Dollar Gold Pieces seem to be all over the place and most of the coins I see are poorly struck and vastly overgraded. That said, I will still buy an AU50 and better piece I see that I truly like. At the Milwaukee ANA I passed on a really nice NGC MS62 at $52,500 that quickly sold to the next person who saw it (I made a mistake and should have bought it...) In Stack’s pre-ANA Milwaukee auction, an NGC MS63, which is the single highest graded 1854-O $3.00, brought a record $115,000.

It’s become very difficult to find interesting New Orleans half eagles. I handled just one really significant piece at the ANA (an 1842-O in NGC AU58 which I sold almost immediately to a collector) and can’t recall any exciting examples in any of the pre-ANA or ANA sales. My guess is that there are a number of collectors actively working on New Orleans half eagle sets and that the demand for interesting coins far exceeds the supply. I strongly suggest buying nice examples of any of the key issues (1842-O, 1847-O, 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O) and I like nearly any choice, original No Motto piece from this mint graded EF40 or better.

For the last few years, I was literally begging people to buy significant New Orleans eagles. It appears that at least a few people listened to me as there now appears to be a number of people building No Motto and With Motto date sets. I still strongly recommend just about any better date No Motto coin and just about any common date With Motto in MS63 and higher grades.

Last but not least: the double eagles from this mint. I’m pretty conflicted at this point in time about New Orleans Twenties. As someone who repeatedly touted what a great value these coins were as recently as a few years ago, I’m happy that I was able to help drive this market upwards. But I wonder how much further it can go. As I mentioned above, an 1854-O in PCGS AU55 just brought close to a half million bucks at auction. That’s a whole lot of money for a fairly esoteric coin. I guess what it boils down to is the number of collectors who are putting together sets of these coins. If there are many very wealthy collectors assembling sets of New Orleans double eagles than I guess I can see basal values for the 1854-O and the 1856-O staying at their currently sky-high levels. But if there aren’t more collectors waiting in the wings to fill these holes in their sets than I wonder what the levels will be like in a few years. One last caveat: if you are working on such a set you absolutely positively need to be working with a knowledgeable dealer. At these kinds of prices, you don’t want to be making many mistakes.

The Pinnacle Collection of New Orleans Gold Coinage: An Overview

There haven’t been many truly great collections of New Orleans gold coins formed over the years. This is due to two reasons: a lack of popularity until recent times and the rarity of many of these issues in higher grades. One of the finest collections of New Orleans gold coinage of which I am aware is the Pinnacle Collection which is currently owned by a collector who lives on the West Coast. I have been the primary supplier of coins in this collection and, if you don’t mind a little plug for Douglas Winter Numismatics, I don’t think it would be possible to form a much nicer set than this. Nearly every coin is very high end for the grade and most were selected with the following criteria in mind: originality, excellent overall eye appeal and sharp strikes.

The owner of this collection began assembling it in 2002 and bought the majority of the coins in 2003 and 2004. I was lucky to have been able to purchase a superb collection of New Orleans gold coinage in 2003 of which many pieces went into the Pinnacle Collection. It was clearly a situation that this collector was in the right place at the right time.

The Pinnacle Collection is very nearly complete with the exception of the Liberty Head double eagles. The owner of this collection decided not to focus on this denomination due to the extremely high cost of choice pieces and because he felt that the smaller denomination coins represented better value for the money. His gold dollars, quarter eagles, three dollar gold pieces and half eagle sets are complete while the eagle set lacks just four coins (none of which are especially rare) to be complete.

NOTE: You can view this set on on-line on the PCGS website ( Simply go the Set Registry area, search for gold sets and then for New Orleans sets. The collection is listed as the “Crescent City” collection but it is better known to collectors as The Pinnacle Collection. In my new book “Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint, 1839-1906”, many of these coins are described and photographed as well.


The six coins in this set have an average grade of 63.66 and are very evenly matched and original. They range in grade from MS62 (the 1855-0) to MS65 (the 1849-O).

One coin in this group that really stands out is the 1850-O. It is graded MS63 by PCGS and is one of just five recorded by PCGS in this grade with two better (both MS64). The 1850-O is the rarest gold dollar from this mint yet it remains an issue which is overlooked by many collectors. This is a coin that would be priced at $15,000-20,000+ if it had a C or a D mintmark but it is still valued at well under $10,000 in this grade.

I also really like the 1849-O gold dollar in this set. It has been graded MS65 by PCGS and is one of just four graded as such by PCGS with none finer. It is historically significant as a first-year-of-issue date and it is, obviously, very rare in Gem. The Pinnacle Collection example is unusually well struck and it exhibits lovely natural rose and orange-gold color.


The quarter eagle set contains fourteen coins and every piece except one (the 1845-O) grades MS62 or better. The average grade of these coins is a healthy 61.9 and I would have to think it is one of the two or three best sets ever assembled.

My choice for the highlight of this set is probably not a coin that others might take note of: the 1856-O in MS62. Even though this issue is slightly available in lower grades, it is a major rarity in Uncirculated and the Pinnacle Collection’s example is the best piece ever graded by PCGS. It is really a stunning example for the date and grade with great luster, rich orange-gold color and outstanding surfaces. It traces its origin to the Bowers and Merena 6/01 sale where it brought $19,550 in a much slower market than today.

Two other coins in the quarter eagle set that I think are notable are the 1840-O and the 1842-O, both of which have been graded MS62 by PCGS. The former is pedigreed to the David Lawrence Richmond collection sale while the latter was obtained from my firm via private treaty in January, 2005. Both coins are notable for outstanding strikes and are very original with great green-gold color and thick, undisturbed luster.

The three highest graded quarter eagles in the collection are the 1839-O, 1846-O and 1857-O, all of which have been graded MS63 by PCGS. The 1839-O has a population of seven in this grade with five finer (all MS64), the 1846-O has a population of just one in this grade with one better (an MS64) and the 1857-O is one of four in this grade with a single example better (an MS64). Obviously, all New Orleans quarter eagles are rare in MS63 or higher grades and the fact that the Pinnacle Collection contains three different pieces is, in my opinion, quite impressive.


The Pinnacle Collection contains a PCGS AU55 example of this popular one-year type. It is notable for its excellent strike and originality and it is a much nicer coin than many I have seen graded AU58 by NGC.


Although the average grade per coin of the half eagles in the Pinnacle Collection is not as high as the quarter eagles, I would have to say this is my favorite set. There are a total of sixteen coins which range in grade from a low of AU55 (the 1843-O Small Letters and the rare 1847-O) to a high of MS63 (the 1840-O Narrow Mill, 1844-O, 1845-O, 1854-O the 1894-O). Of the 16 coins in the set, eleven are Uncirculated and the average grade per coin is 60.68.

It’s really hard for me to pick just one highlight of the half eagles, so I’ll focus on two coins. The first is the incredible PCGS MS63 1840-O Narrow Mill that is pedigreed to the famous Pittman collection. It is an amazing coin that I rank as the finest known for the date. Another highlight coin is the MS63 1845-O that is pedigreed to the Bass collection. It is one of just two known examples of this date in this grade (there are none finer) and it is the epitome of a choice, original coin with superb luster and dramatic rich green-gold coloration.

The PCGS MS61 1842-O half eagle in the Pinnacle Collection is one of just three known examples of this date in Uncirculated while the PCGS MS62 1846-O is regarded as the third finest known example of this date. An 1851-O in PCGS MS61 is another extremely rare coin in this grade with just four or five total pieces believed to exist in Uncirculated.

Two final coins are worthy of a quick mention. The 1854-O, graded MS63, is tied with another example as the finest known and it is pedigreed to the Bass collection. The 1894-O in PCGS MS63 is the sole example of this date graded this high by PCGS and it is likely the finest known.

To the best of my knowledge, the only sets of New Orleans half eagles ever assembled that were comparable to the Pinnacle Collection were Ed Milas’ (sold by Stack’s back in 1995) and Charley Tuppen’s (which, as far as I know, is still intact).


Of the various gold denominations produced at the New Orleans mint, the No Motto eagles, struck from 1841 through 1860, is certainly one of the most difficult to collect. Many of these dates are exceedingly rare in higher grades and a number are essentially unavailable in grades higher than AU55 to AU58. There are a total of 21 issues in this set. This includes two varieties of 1846-O (the Normal date and the so-called “Overdate”) and two 1854-O (the Small Date and the Large Date).

The Pinnacle Collection contains 17 of these 21 No Motto eagles. It is missing the 1842-O, 1844-O, 1847-O and 1855-O. Ironically, with the exception of the 1855-O, these dates are not especially scarce from the standpoint of overall rarity.

The No Motto eagles in this collection range in grade from a low of AU53 to a high of MS61. There are three coins in Uncirculated and the majority grade AU55 and AU58.

The two key issues in the No Motto eagle set are the 1841-O and the 1859-O. These are nicely represented by examples that grade AU55. The former has a PCGS population of just five with none better and the latter shows three in this grade and none higher.

There are number of coins in this set that might be readily overlooked by the non-specialist but which are quite scarce and have very low population figures. As an example, the 1849-O in PCGS AU58 has a population of three in this grade and just two better. The 1850-O in PCGS AU58 is even rarer in this grade with just three recorded in AU58 and a single coin graded higher.

The Pinnacle Collection contains 18 No Motto New Orleans eagles with an average grade of 57.05.


After the New Orleans mint was closed in 1861, it reopened in 1879. With Motto eagles were produced, with interruptions, at this mint until 1906. There are a total of 16 issues in this set. Unlike its No Motto counterpart, this set can be assembled in (mostly) higher grades.

The Pinnacle Collection contains fifteen of the sixteen issues. It is missing the 1880-O but it contains PCGS AU58 examples of the very rare 1879-O and 1883-O. Twelve of the sixteen coins in this set are Uncirculated and these range from a low of MS61 to a high of MS65.

From the standpoint of rarity, the unquestioned highlight of this set is the 1883-O of which just 800 pieces were produced. This collection has a lovely orange-gold AU58 which is one of just three graded by PCGS with none better.

The sleeper coin in this group is the 1881-O in MS61. This date has a PCGS population of just one in MS61 and none finer and it is a rare, underrated issue in Uncirculated.

The highest graded coin in this set (and in the entire Pinnacle Collection) is a 1904-O in PCGS MS65. As one might expect, Gem New Orleans eagles of any date are extremely scarce and this coin has a PCGS population of four in this grade and only one better.

The With Motto eagles in the Pinnacle Collection have an average grade of MS62. Many of the late date pieces (i.e. those struck in 1897 and later) are notable for their beautiful, original color and most are quite high end for the grade.

The Pinnacle Collection is truly one of the finest sets of New Orleans gold coins that has ever been assembled. It contains examples from other great collections such as Norweb, Bass, Pittman and Farouk. The collector who assembled this collection can certainly be proud of his accomplishment, especially given the fact that the bulk of the collection was assembled in just three years.

The Ten Most Undervalued New Orleans Gold Coins

It is my belief that many gold coins from the New Orleans mint are undervalued. For the sake of brevity, I am going to focus on what I feel are the ten most undervalued issues. Had I wanted to, I could have made this a list of twenty or even twenty-five coins. More information on these coins (and on all other New Orleans gold issues) will be available in my forthcoming book “Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint, 1838-1909.” Please check back for more information regarding the availability of this book.

1. 1850-O Gold Dollar

The short-lived gold dollar denomination offers the collector some good overall value. This is the only pre-Civil War New Orleans gold that can be purchased in Uncirculated grades for less than $1,000. The 1850-O has always been my favorite date in the series. It has the lowest original mintage figure (14,000 coins) and is rare in Uncirculated with around two dozen known. Interestingly, this is a scarcer coin in MS63 or MS64 than the heralded 1855-O but it is priced considerably less. A smart collector would do well to put away nice MS61 and MS62 1850-O gold dollars at current levels (under $5,000).

2. 1845-O Quarter Eagle

The 1845-O is the unquestioned key of the New Orleans quarter eagle series. Only 4,000 were minted and around 65-75 pieces are known in all grades. In AU, the value of the 1845-O has shot up in the past few years but at less than $10,000 for a nice AU50 to AU53 example, this date seems like good value, especially given the fact that it is the key issue in a short, completable set. The 1845-O becomes extremely scarce in the higher AU grades and I very strongly recommend purchasing this date in any grade as it appears to have considerable upside.

3. 1856-O Quarter Eagle

The 1856-O is the third scarcest New Orleans quarter eagle in AU50 and better. It is still very affordable with nice AU pieces currently selling in the $1,500-3,500 range depending on quality. Unlike some of the other pieces on this list, the 1856-O is an issue that the collector can be particular when deciding what coin to buy. There are enough pieces around in AU that the collector should seek choice, original pieces with good color and luster. In Uncirculated, the 1856-O is extremely rare. I have only seen four to six in Uncirculated and none better than MS62.

4. 1840-O Half Eagle

The 1840-O half eagle isn’t the rarest coin on this list but it is an issue that I like because of its first-year status. It is not scarce in lower grades but it becomes very hard to find in AU and quite rare in Uncirculated. It has a current Trends value that is considerably lower in MS60 than many more available Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagles of this era and I think it is an excellent value. The Broad Mill variety of this date is extremely scarce in all grades and has the potential to be a key to the New Orleans half eagle series some day if it is better publicized.

5. 1892-O Half Eagle

With Motto half eagles were struck at the New Orleans mint for only three years: 1892, 1893 and 1894. The 1892-O is by far the scarcest of these with an original mintage figure of just 10,000. This date is almost never seen in the lower grades but it is almost never seen above MS60/MS61. You can currently but a nice “slider” in the $2,500-3,500 range and a very decent Uncirculated piece for around $5,000. I think this is extremely reasonable in comparison to other New Orleans half eagles. Did you know that this is the third rarest New Orleans half eagle in terms of overall rarity?

6. 1841-O Eagle

This is among the more expensive coins on this list but I think it is still among the better values. New Orleans didn’t get around to producing their first Eagle until 1841 and then only 2,500 were struck. This date is seldom seen above VF20 to EF40 and most higher grade pieces are very heavily abraded. I don’t think that more than a half dozen AU pieces are known and most of these are in strongly held collections. Figure that a nice EF example is going to cost you $10,000 while an AU—if available—will run in the $20,000 to $30,000. Considering the fact that the 1841-O is the rarest No Motto New Orleans eagle in higher grades, I think these price levels are reasonable.

7. 1852-O Eagle

There are a number of New Orleans eagles struck during the 1850’s that I think are very underrated. I would have to put the 1852-O at the top of the list. It is the fifth rarest of twenty-one No Motto issues from this mint and it is the sixth rarest in higher grades. Despite this coin’s unquestioned rarity, it is still relatively affordable. EF examples still trade in the $3000 range and I recently sold a very nice AU55 for less than $7,000. When one considers that this coin is worth just a bit more than an 1852-O double eagle in the same grade, yet is many times scarcer, I think it is a great value. And don’t get me started about this coin in Uncirculated…

8. 1856-O Eagle

As much as I like the 1852-O eagle, I like the 1856-O even more. It is tied for fourth rarest New Orleans eagle in high grades but it is typically ignored by everyone other than specialists when offered for sale. There were 14,500 of which an estimated 80-90 are known today. I doubt if more than 14-18 are known in AU and in Uncirculated the 1856-O is unique. If higher grade pieces are out of your price range, consider an EF. There are around two dozen known in this range but prices are still under $4,000. I have tried to buy every single 1856-O eagle I could find in the past three to five years and I’m not sure that I’ve owned more than four or five pieces.

9. 1899-O Eagle

The 1899-O is the rarest eagle struck at the New Orleans mint after 1883. Unlike many of the issues from the 1890’s and early 1900’s, this date has not been found in large quantities in Europe. The 1899-O is fairly scarce in the lower Uncirculated grades and it becomes very scarce in MS62. Until a few years ago, I was able to buy MS62 examples for under $1,000 which seemed absurdly cheap. Today, this date has doubled in price but I still think it is a good value in MS62 and above. It is the key issue in the “late date” New Orleans eagle series and as this subset becomes more and more popular with collectors, it will bring a nice premium over the more common dates like the 1901-O and the 1903-O.

10. Late Date Eagles in MS64 and Above

In closing, I’m going with a group of coins that is very different than the other issues I have listed. Nearly every No Motto eagle from New Orleans is rare in Uncirculated and most dates are unknown above MS62 to MS63. Small numbers of common dates are known in MS64 and these can still be purchased for under $10,000. These coins are typically very pretty with excellent color and luster. And they are typically very scarce. Even the more common issues from the 20th century have populations of fewer than ten coins in MS64. An MS64 New Orleans eagle sells for a premium of around four times what a generic Liberty Head eagle is worth. Considering it is around fifty to one hundred times rarer makes it a great deal at its current price level.

The Ten Most Popular New Orleans Gold Coins

To get you ready for my forthcoming book on New Orleans gold coinage I am planning a series of articles on these coins. Look for these to run between February and May 2006 and look for the new book to be available around June. These ten coins are, in my opinion, the most popular gold coins struck at the New Orleans mint. They are interesting for one or more of the following reasons:

    Low Mintage Figures

    Unique Design

    Interesting historical association


If a coin possesses more than one of these attributes, it is, obviously, very popular. Simply put, the better the story a coin has to tell, the easier it is to explain to a potential buyer. As a dealer it is much easier for me sell a “self explanatory” coin than one that requires a long, drawn-out story.

Without further adieu, here is the list of the Ten Most Popular New Orleans Gold Coins:

1. 1849-O Gold Dollar: With an original mintage figure of 215,000 the 1849-O gold dollar is probably the most available of the ten coins on this list. It is also one of the most affordable with pleasing AU examples currently selling for well under $1,000. The most obvious reason for the popularity of this issue is that it is the first Gold Dollar produced at the New Orleans mint. Some of the less obvious—but still legitimate—reasons for the popularity of the 1849-O include the fact that it is a very well produced issue and that it can be combined with the 1849-C and 1849-D gold dollars to create a very interesting first-year-of-issue set. We recommend purchasing examples that grade MS62 or better.

2. 1855-O Gold Dollar: Coinage of the Type Two gold dollar began in 1854 and lasted until 1856. During this three year period, the New Orleans mint produced Type Two gold dollars only in 1855. A total of 55,000 examples were struck and survivors are plentiful in lower grades. This issue is scarce in MS60, rare in MS62 and very rare in MS63 or better. In recent years, prices for many high grade Type Two gold dollars have dropped as these coins have proven to be less rare than formerly believed. But prices have risen for the branch mint issues due to their unique design and one-year type status. We strongly recommend purchasing nice original examples in AU50 and above.

3. 1839-O Quarter Eagle: The short-lived Classic Head design was created in 1834 and it lasted until 1839. The only Classic Head quarter eagle was struck in 1839. Coincidentally this happens to be the first year of issue for any New Orleans coin of this denomination. First year of issue, one-year type, unique design…can you say popular coin? Only 17,781 were struck and an estimated 350-400 are known. Most 1839-O quarter eagles are found in VF and EF grades and nice AU’s are scarce. Fewer than two dozen remain in Uncirculated with most of these in the MS60 to MS61 range. We love this date in nearly any grade but recommend examples that grade AU50 and above.

4. 1854-O Three Dollar Gold Piece: Can the story get any better than this: the only Three Dollar gold piece, one of only two Southern issues of this denomination (and the other, the 1854-D is priced out of the range of most collectors) and a coin issued during the first year of this denomination. The 1854-O is common and overvalued in lower grades but it is very scarce in properly graded AU55 and above. This is an issue that is typically overgraded by PCGS and NGC and most pieces in slabs are unoriginal with poor surfaces and unappealing color. Early die state examples which show a full date and mintmark and strong wreath detail deserve to sell for a strong premium over typical later die states.

5. 1893-O and 1894-O Half Eagles: With few exceptions the No Motto New Orleans half eagles produced between 1840 and 1857 are extremely rare in Uncirculated. The With Motto issues produced in 1893 and 1894 are more available in higher grades and more within the budget of most collectors. Of the two, the 1893-O is the more common but this issue is surprisingly scarce in properly graded MS61 or better. The 1894-O is quite rare in Uncirculated and seems undervalued at current price levels. We recommend purchasing nice original pieces graded MS60 and above. Watch out for coins graded MS60 and MS61 that are excessively abraded.

6. 1909-O Half Eagle: After discontinuing production of half eagles in 1894, this denomination was resurrected in 1909. The 1909-O half eagle production was relatively small (just 34,300 pieces) and this issue has an immediate appeal for a number of reasons: it is a one-year type, it is the only 20th century half eagle produced at a Southern branch mint and it was the final gold coin of any denomination produced at the New Orleans mint. In the EF40-AU53 grade range this issue is fairly common and arguably a bit overvalued. But it is a very rare coin in properly graded Uncirculated and examples that grade MS62 or better are among the most coveted 20th century American gold coins. We recommend PCGS graded examples in AU55 and above.

7. 1892-O through 1906-O Eagles: Instead of choosing a specific date from this era, I chose the entire date run of ten coins. These are the most available New Orleans gold coins in higher grades (in this case MS60 or above) due to the fact that substantial numbers of coins were shipped overseas to Europe and did not circulate domestically. The availability of these dates in higher grades is exactly the opposite of the pre-Civil War issues which are nearly unobtainable above MS60. Most of the 1892-O through 1906-O eagles can be found in the lower Uncirculated grades for under $2,000 and these are often attractive coins with good color and luster. Occasionally, dates such as the 1901-O, 1904-O and 1906-O can be found in MS63 or even MS64. Despite the scarcity of these coins they can still be purchased for under $5,000 in some cases. We love the values of all these dates and strongly recommend coins graded MS62 and above.

8. 1850-O Double Eagle: In the past few years, the popularity of New Orleans double eagles has increased tremendously. The formerly-underrated 1850-O has become one of the more popular issues in the series. The major reason for this issue popularity is obvious: it is the first New Orleans double eagle. It is also an issue that is reasonably common in lower grades and has been readily available at auction and via private treaty to new collectors. Most people are still not aware of exactly how scarce the 1850-O is in higher grades. We doubt if more than two or three Uncirculated examples are known and properly graded AU55 to AU58 pieces are very rare. It is still possible to acquire a nice circulated 1850-O in the $5,000-10,000 range but most pieces in PCGS and NGC holders are way overgraded. Minimally abraded pieces with good color are very rare and worth a strong premium over typical examples.

9. 1861-O Double Eagle: There may not be another New Orleans gold coin with the historical significance of the 1861-O double eagle. At various times during 1861, New Orleans double eagles were produced by the Federal mint and by the Confederacy. (Shameless plug: the mystery behind these coins is unraveled in my new book on New Orleans gold due out this summer). Most of the survivors from the original mintage figure of 17,741 are very well worn and this is compounded by the fact that the 1861-O double eagle is a poorly produced issue. In AU, the 1861-O is quite rare and it is extremely rare in Uncirculated with just two to four known. Price levels have increased significantly for the 1861-O double eagle in recent years and we can no longer include this in lists of undervalued issues as we did in the past. However, original EF and AU examples are seldom seen and would make a great addition to any advanced collection of New Orleans gold coins.

10. 1879-O Double Eagle: The 1879-O double eagle is another coin that is desirable for a multitude of reasons: it is the only Type Three issue from this mint, it is the final New Orleans issue of this denomination and it is a very low mintage date with just 2,325 struck (the second lowest figure of any New Orleans double eagle). As with the 1861-O double eagle, the level of popularity (and prices) for this issue have soared in recent years. Any 1879-O with good eye appeal and clean surfaces is very rare and very desirable.

Which New Orleans Gold Issues Are Really Rare?

In 1992, my book "New Orleans Mint Gold Coins 1839-1909" was published. A decade later, the information in this reference is considerably out-of-date. Which gold issues from the New Orleans mint have remained rare and which are now more readily available? 1. Gold Dollars: The 1850-O is still the only gold dollar from this mint that can be called scarce in any grade. Properly graded Uncirculated pieces are quite rare, especially above Mint State-62. I have never seen a gem and only one or two at the Mint State-64 level. The 1849-O and 1851-O are more plentiful in the lower Mint State grades than I previously believed but are extremely rare in gem. The 1852-O remains reasonably scarce in the lower Mint State grades, quite rare in Mint State-63 and very rare above this. Price levels for the 1855-O have increased dramatically in the past decade. This issue cannot really be called rare but its status as the only Type Two gold dollar from New Orleans makes it extremely popular. The supply of high-grade examples (Mint State-62 and higher) has dried up in recent years.

2. Quarter Eagles: The only New Orleans quarter eagle that can rightfully be called rare in circulated grades is the 1845-O. It has proven to be almost impossible to find above About Uncirculated-55 and I still know of just two or three Uncirculated examples. The 1840-O, 1842-O and 1843-O Large Date quarter eagles are very hard to locate in the higher AU grades and all three are very rare in Uncirculated. The 1846-O, 1850-O, 1851-O and 1852-O have proven to be a little more available in Uncirculated than formerly believed but all four are extremely undervalued in comparison to Charlotte and Dahlonega quarter eagles of this era. The 1856-O is still the biggest "sleeper" date of the quarter eagles and I doubt if more than six or seven are known in Uncirculated. The 1854-O, while extremely common in circulated grades, is quite scarce in Mint State-62 and rare in Mint State-63 or better. It remains absurdly undervalued. The 1857-O is more plentiful in high grades than formerly believed but it remains very rare in Mint State-63 and above.

3. Three Dollar Gold Pieces: If one goes strictly by population figures from NGC and PCGS, it seems that the 1854-O Three Dollar gold piece is far more common than once believed in the higher About Uncirculated grades. This is not the case. Properly graded, sharply struck examples with original surfaces are very rare in Mint State and extremely scarce in About Uncirculated-55 and About Uncirculated-58. Many have been submitted to the grading services multiple times and a number I have seen in NGC AU-55 and AU-58 holders have been considerably overgraded.

4. Half Eagles: The 1842-O and the 1847-O half eagles are two of the rarest gold issues from this mint. There are two examples known of the former in Mint State and well under a dozen in properly graded About Uncirculated. The 1847-O remains unknown in Uncirculated and extremely rare in AU. Most of the coins in AU-50 to AU-55 holders are unattractive and considerably overgraded. The 1840-O is still an issue that has not really received its due in Uncirculated. A small group of 1843-O Small Letters (four pieces) was discovered in the late 1990's and these increased the number of high-grade examples known. The 1845-O, 1846-O and 1851-O are very rare in Uncirculated and very scarce in the higher AU grades. The 1854-O has become somewhat more available in high grades and I have seen at least six or seven different Mint State pieces over the last decade. The 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O are all very rare in Uncirculated and extremely scarce in the higher AU grades. The only readily obtainable No Motto issue is the 1844-O.

The three With Motto New Orleans half eagles have gained in popularity (and price) since my book was published. The 1892-O is far and away the scarcest of this trio and is still considerably undervalued in Mint State. The 1893-O and 1894-O have become far more available in the lower Uncirculated grades but are unquestionably rare in Mint State-63 and essentially unavailable any finer.

5. Eagles: With the exception of the 1847-O, every New Orleans eagle from the 1840's remains very scarce in the higher About Uncirculated grades and very rare in Uncirculated. There are still no Mint State examples of the 1841-O known while the 1849-O appears to be unique. The 1846-O is extremely rare in high grades with just two or three known in Mint State. Even issues such as the 1842-O, 1844-O and 1845-O, which are relatively easily to locate in lower grades, are very rare in properly graded AU-58 and extremely rare in Mint State.

A number of the issues from the 1850's have proven to be extremely rare in high grades. The 1859-O is a bit more available in lower grades than formerly believed but it is unknown above AU-55. The 1852-O, 1855-O, 1856-O and 1857-O are all very rare in the higher AU grades and all except for the 1855-O appear to be unknown in full Mint State.

The 1879-O eagle seems to be a bit less rare than its original mintage of 1,500 would suggest but the supply of higher grade (AU-50 and better) pieces has dried up in the past few years. Only a single Uncirculated example is known.

The 1883-O remains the rarest of the post-Civil War issues. It is rare in all grades and examples in AU-55 or higher are extremely rare. No strictly Uncirculated piece is known to me although one or two might exist. The 1880-O and 1881-O remain rare and underrated in Uncirculated grades while the 1882-O is slightly more available in higher grades than once believed.

The New Orleans eagles from the 1890's are far more available in the lower Uncirculated grades than they were a decade ago. This is due to a number of sizable hoards having been uncovered in the mid-1990's. However, all of these dates remain rare in Mint State-63 and very rare in Mint State-64 or above.

The eagles from the 1900's are among the most available gold issues from this mint in higher grade. They are very good value in the lower Uncirculated grades.

6. Double Eagles: As this article is being written (April 2003), double eagles have become the most popular issues from New Orleans. There is currently an unprecedented level of demand for these issues and the two classic rarities, the 1854-O and 1856-O, have seen incredible price increases in the past decade. The 1850-O was formerly a sleeper issue in high grades and was very undervalued. High-grade AU's now sell for $15,000-20,000. The 1851-O and 1852-O are a bit less rare in Uncirculated than formerly believed. Nice AU's are only moderately scarce but they have become hard to locate as a result of strong demand. The 1855-O, 1859-O and 1860-O remain very rare in AU-55, extremely rare in AU-58 and unobtainable in Uncirculated. The 1857-O and 1858-O are more available in the lower to middle AU grades than they were a decade ago. But both remain extremely rare in Uncirculated. The 1861-O has gained in popularity and it is now, along with the 1879-O, a coin that appears on more want lists than nearly any other gold coin from this mint.

In the decade since the release of "New Orleans Mint Gold Coins, 1839-1909", these issues have become far more popular with collectors. While still not as actively collected as the branch mint issues from Charlotte and Dahlonega they have developed an active collector base. Prices have risen considerably, particularly on the major rarities, stand alone issues (such as the 1855-O gold dollar and the 1854-O Three Dollar) and finest known and Condition Census issues. The release of a number of hoards in the mid-1990's and the sale of the Pittman and Bass collections in the late 1990's brought a number of important new coins on to the market that were not known to me a decade before. When my next book on New Orleans gold is released, there will be numerous changes, both in the Condition Census listings and in the rarity estimates.

Which Dahlonega Coins Are Really Rare?

In the six years since the publication of my book "Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint", I have changed some of my opinions about which Dahlonega issues are really rare. The sale of the Bass collection in a series of auctions from 1999 to 2001 brought many exceptional pieces to market. In addition, I was able to purchase a number of collections that contained fresh, high grade examples of coins that I had never previously seen in very high grades. 1. Gold Dollars: In the Type One series, no single issue has proven to be truly rare; at least in terms of its availability in the Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated grade range. The 1850-D remains the rarest Type One issue in higher grades and it is extremely scarce in properly graded About Uncirculated-55 or better. The 1854-D is another issue that is harder to locate than I previously thought. PCGS claims to have graded nine examples in Uncirculated as of January 2003 but I think this number is inflated by resubmissions and overgraded coins.

The 1855-D gold dollar is even rarer than I formerly believed. It is extremely scarce in the lower About Uncirculated grades, very rare in the higher About Uncirculated grades and exceedingly rare in Mint State. The few nice pieces to have come on the market in the past six years have brought record prices and are now stashed in advanced collections.

Many of the Type Three Dahlonega gold dollars appear to be more available in higher grades than I previously believed. The 1856-D is an exception. It remains exceedingly rare in full Mint State and the current population figures at the grading services (twenty-nine alone at PCGS in AU-55 to AU-58 as of January 2003) are absurdly inflated by resubmissions and overgraded coins. Two other issues I still respect are the 1857-D and the 1860-D. The former is very rare and much undervalued in About Uncirculated-58 and better while the 1860-D, despite a fairly high number certified in higher grades, is truly rare when one takes eye appeal into consideration.

2. Quarter Eagles: I still strongly believe that any attractive, original Dahlonega quarter eagle in About Uncirculated-55 or better is rare. And a number of dates have proven to be harder to locate in high grades than I previously expected. The 1840-D and the 1851-D are two issues that I almost never see in AU-55 or better and when one factors eye appeal into the mix, they are nearly impossible to locate.

The population figures for every single Dahlonega quarter eagle in About Uncirculated-55 to Mint State-62 are heavily inflated as a result of resubmissions and overgraded, low-end coins. As an example, the January 2003 PCGS Population Report shows thirty-one 1850-D's in About Uncirculated-55 to About Uncirculated-58. In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that more than a dozen are known in this grade range and this includes a number that are decidedly unattractive.

In my 1997 book, I stated that the 1855-D was the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle. I now believe that the 1856-D is the rarest. A few other facts about these dates have become apparent. Nearly all 1855-D quarter eagles have some sort of mint-made planchet damage. Any nearly all of the pieces that I have seen in PCGS and NGC AU-50 to AU-55 holders are very low-end. The 1856-D is an issue that noone in the world, myself included, knows how to grade. This is due to the incredibly primitive appearance of these coins. They look like buttons and this makes them just about impossible to grade with any degree of accuracy.

3. Three Dollar Gold Pieces: The 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece is an issue that I have really come to know and appreciate. I have a few observations I'd like to share.

It's not as rare as most people think. For whatever reason a surprisingly high percentage of the 1,120 originally struck were saved. Probably ten percent or more of the mintage exists today, which is a remarkably high number in comparison to nearly any other Dahlonega coin.

It's the most overgraded issue from this mint. An 1854-D that was graded Extremely Fine-45 in 1997 is almost certainly an About Uncirculated-50 or About Uncirculated-53 in 2003. And nearly all of today's AU-58's are really no better than AU-50 to AU-53 by the "old" standards.

Almost all of the pretty, original 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces have either been dipped or are put away in strong hands. As a result, examples with good eye appeal are now selling for a significant premium over typical washed-out pieces.

Prices for high-grade 1854-D Three Dollar gold pieces bottomed-out in 2000-2001 and have steadily increased since then. In early 2003, the demand for this coin is extremely strong.

4. Half Eagles: More "fresh" half eagles have come on the market in the past six years than any other denomination from the Dahlonega mint. That said, there are still a number of issues that I feel are underappreciated.

The 1839-D has become very popular due to its status as a one-year type coin. And it has proven to be exceptionally hard to locate in About Uncirculated-55 or better with original color and nice surfaces. The 1840-D is also a major source of frustration for collectors who desire a choice, original example.

The 1842-D Large Date remains a major rarity in About Uncirculated-55 or better. It is quite a bit rarer in choice, original Extremely Fine-45 to About Uncirculated-53 than I formerly believed.

The 1846-D normal mintmark half eagle is now recognized as one of the rarest coins from this mint in About Uncirculated-55 or better. Pieces with original color and nice surfaces are almost unheard-of.

For me, the real surprise in the half eagle series has been the 1848-D. In the past six years, I do not think I have seen more than two or three pieces that were well struck and had original color. PCGS claims to have graded twenty in AU-55 to AU-58 but I doubt if more than a small handful are accurately graded and sharply struck.

Two issues from the 1850's have proven to be harder to locate in high grades than I previously believed: the 1851-D and the 1855-D. Most of the PCGS and NGC examples that I have seen in AU-55 and higher holders have either been very softly struck, are noticeably unoriginal or just plain overgraded. Both dates are really rare and undervalued in higher grades.

In the Spring of 2003, I am planning to publish a fully updated version of "Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint." This book will include all new rarity and Condition Census updates, new photographs, extensively revised die variety information and interesting personal observations on each issue. It should prove to be the essential work for any Dahlonega collector and will provide important current information that the 1997 edition is lacking.

New Orleans Gold Coins: A Date by Date Analysis - Part One

PART ONE: GOLD DOLLARS - HALF EAGLES The New Orleans mint produced gold coins from 1839 through 1906. During this period, twelve different major design types were produced, encompassing six denominations. These coins range from relatively common to exceedingly rare and all are interesting, collectible issues.

I. Gold Dollars

DATES OF ISSUE: 1849 - 1853, 1855 TYPES: Type One (1849 - 1853), Type Two (1855)

1849-O: A popular first year of issue which is common in grades up to MS-61; becomes scarce in MS-62 and rare in MS-63 or better. Usually well struck; often with pretty green-gold color.

1850-O: The rarest New Orleans gold dollar. Scarce in all grades and rare in Uncirculated; almost impossible to find above MS-62. Very undervalued in higher grades. Usually seen with grainy surfaces; often cleaned.

1851-O: The second most common issue and a date that can be found up to MS-62 without much difficulty; becomes scarce in MS-63 and rare better than this. Usually found well struck and a good type coin because of its excellent appearance.

1852-O: A scarce and underrated issue that is usually seen in lower grades; very scarce in lower Mint State grades and rare in MS-62 or better. Often weakly struck at the centers but original coins show lovely orange-gold and green color.

1853-O: The most common New Orleans gold dollar but less available than its mintage figure of 290,000 would suggest. Obtainable up to MS-63 but rare above this; often comes well struck and lustrous.

1855-O: A very popular one year type coin; overvalued relative to its rarity as are all Type Two gold dollars but its high level of demand justifies its price level; Mint State coins are often low end and poorly struck. Population figures for MS-63 and MS-64 coins seem inflated due to regrades and this is a truly rare issue in higher grades.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: This is a short, easily completed series. An AU-55 to Mint State-62 set is well within the budget of most collectors and an all Mint State set is not unfeasible or prohibitively expensive.

II. Quarter Eagles

DATES OF ISSUE: 1839-1843, 1845-47, 1850-1852, 1854, 1856-57 TYPES: Classic Head (1839), Liberty Head (1840-1857)

1839-O: A one year type coin that, like the 1855-O gold dollar, is overvalued but popular enough to justify its price level. A few dozen are known in Mint State and any coin grading MS-62 or better is rare. Two varieties are known: High Date, Wide Fraction and Low Date, Close Fraction.

1840-O: Historically significant as the first Liberty Head quarter eagle from New Orleans and a very scarce coin above AU-50; very rare and underrated in Mint State. Often found poorly struck. Two varieties known: Large Mintmark and Small Mintmark. The best I know of is the Ex: Eliasberg coin now in the Bass collection.

1842-O: One of the rarest New Orleans quarter eagles. Usually seen in low grades; scarce in EF, rare in AU and very rare in Mint State. Most are poorly struck and have inferior planchets; well struck examples should carry a large premium. Two or three exist in MS-63 with the best of these in a Nevada collection.

1843-O Small Date: The most common New Orleans quarter eagle; easily located in most circulated grades but surprisingly rare and significantly undervalued in Mint State. Extremely scarce above MS-62 and unknown in Gem. Often seen with die rust on the surfaces.

1843-O Large Date: Much rarer than its Small Date counterpart and actually one of the rarest New Orleans quarter eagles. Usually seen in Extremely Fine and very scarce in AU. Around 12-15 are known in Mint State; I have never seen one better than MS-62.

1845-O: Only 4,000 struck and easily the rarest quarter eagle from this mint. In fact, this is one of the hardest Liberty Head quarter eagles of any date; very undervalued in comparison to comparable C+D issues. Perhaps a dozen are known in AU plus two or three in Mint State. Original, problem-free pieces are extremely hard to locate. The finest known was just offered in the 1999 ANA sale.

1846-O: Relatively common in lower grades but becomes scarce in AU and very rare in Mint State with around a dozen known. Many are found with very weak strikes. The example from the Pittman sale (later graded MS-66 by NGC) sold for $121,000 which is a record price for any New Orleans quarter eagle.

1847-O: More available than the 1846-O in circulated grades and less rare in Mint State but still a very tough issue with probably no more than two dozen known in Uncirculated. Another issue that is often found with poor strikes. Sharp examples exist and should sell for strong premiums. An MS-65 in a Louisiana collection is the finest known.

1850-O: Similar in rarity to the 1847-O in circulated grades; slightly rarer in Mint State. Around 12-15 known in Mint State with most of these in MS-60 to MS-62 grades; extremely good value in this grade range at current levels. The very choice example from the 1999 ANA sale is the finest known.

1851-O: One of the more available of the "medium rarity" N.O. Quarter eagles but still a very scarce coin in AU and a rarity in Mint State. About 12-14 are known in Mint State. Weak strike are a problem with this date as on most New Orleans quarter eagles. A lovely MS-65 exists and this is in a private collection.

1852-O: Similar in overall rarity to the 1850-O and 1851-O but a bit more common in AU grades; another rare and very undervalued date in Mint State with 10-12 known. Frequently seen with weak strikes but easier to locate with good deal than the 1840's dates.

1854-O: Along with the 1843-O Small date, the only New Orleans quarter eagle that is common in circulated grades. In Mint State, this is a very scarce and surprisingly undervalued issues. I have never seen one better than MS-63 and just two or three at that level.

1856-O: A true "sleeper" and one of the hardest quarter eagles of any date to find in higher grades. Around 6-8 known in Mint State with none better than MS-62. Many are found with weak centers and poor luster. The only Uncirculated example to sell in some time was the NGC MS-61 in the 1999 ANA which was a great value at $8337.50

1857-O: Formerly rare but now relatively common in AU due to a small hoard; still fairly scarce in Mint State but, again, now more available due to the aforementioned hoard.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: This thirteen issue set is completable but very challenging, especially if the collector is not willing to purchase weakly struck examples of certain dates. An all Mint State set is feasible, albeit difficult, while a nice AU set is an exceptionally good value at current levels.

III. Three Dollar Gold Pieces


1854-O: Common in lower grades but very scarce and undervalued in the higher AU grades; properly graded Mint State examples are very rare. Most are seen with very weak strike and a "delicate" appearance due to die lapping and polishing. A popular one year type that still seems to have growth potential from the standpoint of price.

IV. Half Eagles

DATES OF ISSUE: 1840, 1842-1847, 1851, 1854-1857, 1892-1894, 1909 TYPES: Liberty Head, Without Motto (1840-1857), Liberty Head, With Motto (1892- 1894), Indian Head (1909)

1840-O: Unlike most first year of issues, this date was not saved and is rare and undervalued in higher grades. Usually seen well worn, abraded and in deep green-gold. An extremely undervalued coin in Mint State with fewer than ten known; the finest I have seen is the Pittman coin (graded MS-64 by NGC). Varieties are known with a Broad Mill (very rare) and a Narrow Mill.

1842-O: Tied with the 1847-O as the rarest New Orleans half eagle in terms of overall rarity (with around 45-55 known) and the rarest in high grades. This date is still unique in Mint State (the Milas/Eliasberg coin) and there are no more than 9-11 real AU's known.

1843-O Large Letters: The more common of the two varieties. Usually seen with very heavily abraded surfaces and yellowish-green color. Quite scarce in AU and rare in Mint State; around a dozen Uncirculated pieces are known including a few fairly choice ones. There were two lovely Uncs. in the Milas sale.

1843-O Small Letters: Once believed to be of similar rarity to the Large Letters variety but now known to be considerably scarcer. Usually seen in VF-EF grades and often weakly detailed due to die cracks and lapping. Very rare in full AU and an extreme rarity in Mint State.

1844-O: By far the most common New Orleans half eagle of the 1840's and an easily located date in any circulated grade. MS-60 and MS-61 coins are not particularly scarce but this date becomes rare in MS-62 and very rare above this. Often found with excellent frosty luster and superb green-gold or yellow-gold color. A single Proof is known in the John Murrell collection.

1845-O: An overlooked, undervalued date that is typically seen well worn, softly struck and heavily marked. Rare in AU and very rare in Mint State with approximately seven to nine known. Very good value in comparison to comparable Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagles of this era. There is a gem in the Bass collection.

1846-O: A bit rarer than the 1845-O overall and another rare coin in the higher AU grades. In Mint State, this is a true rarity with around a half dozen known. Mostly found with a soft overall strike and unappealing surfaces. The MS-63 Milas/Eliasberg coin is the finest known.

1847-O: Tied with the 1842-O for the rarest New Orleans half eagle overall but a bit more available in AU grades. Unknown in strict Mint State and excessively rare in AU-55 or better. The AU-58 Milas coin is still the best I have seen. Often found with below average surfaces.

1851-O: Comparable to the 1846-O in terms of overall and high rarity. This issue is characterized by excellent luster and nice green-gold color; often weak on Liberty's hair. Rare in the higher AU grades and very rare in Mint State with around seven to nine known.

1854-O: The second most common No Motto New Orleans half eagle but much scarcer in the higher AU grades than realized and quite rare in Mint State. A well produced issue with pleasing green-gold color; sometimes found prooflike.

1855-O: A favorite of mine and one of the most undervalued Liberty Head half eagles of any date; just a bit less available than the 1842-O and the 1847-O and a truly rare coin in AU-50 or above. I know of two or three Uncs. and none of these grade above MS-61 to MS-62. A small hoard of 10-15 coins entered the market in the Summer of 1996.

1856-O: At one time, similar to the 1855-O in terms of overall rarity but more available due to a small hoard found in the mid-1990's; still very rare in AU and extremely rare in Mint State. Often seen weakly struck and nearly always on inferior planchets. The MS-62 Milas coin is currently the best known.

1857-O: The most available of the underrated 1855-1857 dates but still very scarce in all grades and rare in AU; very rare in Mint State with maybe half a dozen known. The best I've seen is a lovely PCGS MS-63 owned by a Pennsylvania dealer a few years ago.

1892-O: The rarest of the three With Motto half eagles from this mint. This date appears not to have seen much circulation as it is usually in AU grades. It is rare in Mint State and appears to be unknown above MS-63. Almost all known are excessively abraded.

1893-O: Common in all circulated grades and not hard to locate in the lower Mint State grades. Becomes scarce in properly graded MS-62 and very rare above this. A hoard of two dozen or so Mint State 60 to Mint State-62 coins entered the market in the mid 1990's.

1894-O: A much scarcer coin than the 1893-O as its lower mintage figure would suggest. Most Mint State examples are excessively abraded and have satiny, slightly reflective surfaces. I have never seen one better than MS-63 and just one or two at that level.

1909-O: The only Indian Head half eagle from New Orleans and very popular as a result. Common in "slider" but very scarce in real Mint State and quite rare in MS-63 and above. The best I have seen is the Price/Eliasberg coin that brought an incredible $374,000 when last sold in May 1998.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: The Liberty Head half eagles from New Orleans are an interesting group of coins. The only two reasonably common Without Motto half eagles are the 1844-O and the 1854-O are neither of these is exactly obtainable in Mint State. This is a very challenging set to collect in high grades. The three With Motto coins are easily obtained in the lower Mint State grades as is the 1909-O.