Is It Still Possible to Put Together A Nice Set of New Orleans Double Eagles?

Is It Still Possible to Put Together A Nice Set of New Orleans Double Eagles?

Let’s say an upscale collector makes a decision to put together a complete 13-coin set of New Orleans double eagles. Putting monetary concerns aside, is it possible in 2018 to even bother to attempt this project?

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So...You've Decided to Collect Type Two $20 Liberty Head Double Eagles...

So...You've Decided to Collect Type Two $20 Liberty Head Double Eagles...

Type Two double eagles are not as popular as their Type One and Type Three counterparts. The reasons for this are not exactly clear, as Type Two issues are very collectable as this article will show.

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So...You've Decided to Collect Liberty Head Double Eagles...

So...You've Decided to Collect Liberty Head Double Eagles...

The decision to collect this series should not be made lightly as Liberty Head double eagles have the distinction as being among the most difficult and longest-lived series in all of 19th/early 20th century American numismatics.

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The 36 Major Gold Types: A Collectors Guide

The 36 Major Gold Types: A Collectors Guide

Between 1795 and 1933 a total of 36 major gold types were issued for circulation. I’m going to discuss each type in more detail with suggestions on how and what to buy and some “alternative” dates to spice-up a type set.

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How Rare are Non-Shipwreck Gem Type One Double Eagles?

How Rare are Non-Shipwreck Gem Type One Double Eagles?

In the recent Stacks Bowers 2016 ANA Sale, I was fortunate to purchase an amazing 1860 double eagle, graded MS65 by PCGS, which was part of the Bull Run Collection and earlier was sold as Lot 900 in the famous October 1982 Eliasberg Collection auction.

After I bought this coin, I told another dealer that the Eliasberg 1860 “was the finest non-shipwreck Type One double eagle I had ever owned.” This got me to thinking: just how rare are non-shipwreck MS65 and finer double eagles of this type?


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What's the "Next Big Thing" in Rare Date Gold? Five Suggestions:

What's the "Next Big Thing" in Rare Date Gold? Five Suggestions:

In the last decade, we have seen a number of Next Big Things in the rare date gold market. We’ve seen New Orleans double eagles and Carson City double eagles. We’ve seen Civil War issues, and we’ve seen No Motto San Francisco eagles. In most cases, we’ve seen big demand spikes and subsequent price increases in these areas. What could be the Next Big Thing and why? Here are five suggestions with explanations.

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CAC and Type One Liberty Head Double Eagles

CAC has had a profound impact on the rare date gold market, and one of the series which has seen significant changes as a result of CAC is Type One Liberty Head double eagles. Auction results and private transactions for coins with CAC stickers, especially rare dates, show a strong price appreciation; sometimes as high as 40-50% for those coins with stickers. But this article isn’t a price analysis. I am more interested in focusing on the number of coins with CAC approval for each date and looking for “surprises” within the context of these numbers.

For the sake of convenience, we can divide the various Type One dates into three groups. The first bunch—or Group A—consists of coins with CAC populations of fewer than 10 in all grades. The second bunch—or Group B—consists of coins with CAC populations between 10 and 25 in all grades. The third and final bunch—Group C—consists of coins with populations of 25 or higher.

Let’s take a look at Group A.




1. 1854-O 1
2. 1860-O 3
3. (tie) 1856-O, 1862 4
5. (tie) 1855-O, 1858-O, 1859 5
8. 1859-O 6
9. 1861-S Paquet 7
10. (tie) 1861-O. 1866-S No Motto 10

1860-O $20.00 PCGS EF40 CAC

This first group contains some surprises. I wouldn’t have expected only three 1860-O double eagles to have been approved by CAC, and I certainly didn’t expect there to be one fewer of this date with CAC approval than for the celebrated 1856-O. I’ve handed two of the three CAC’d 1860-O double eagles and now that I realize how “special” these are, I wish I had asked a greater premium when I sold them!

I am surprised that only five 1858-O double eagles have been approved by CAC  (none of these in higher grade) as I have personally handled some very nice About Uncirculated examples of this date. The rarity of the 1859 and 1862 Philadelphia issues doesn’t surprise me as these two dates tend to come bright and bagmarked; two things which do not score points with the finalizers at CAC. I am very surprised that seven 1861-S Paquets and ten 1866-S With Motto double eagles have been approved. If I had to venture a guess, I’d suggest that these numbers are inflated by resubmissions.

Now let’s look at Group B.




1. (tie) 1854 Lg. Dt., 1857-O 12
3. 1853/2 13
4. 1854-S 16
5. (tie) 1858, 1863 18
6. 1853-O 20
7. 1864 21
8. 1855 22

I am surprised by a few dates on this list, both for how many have been approved and how many have not. In the former category, I find it odd that twelve 1857-O double eagles have been approved by CAC as compared to just five for the 1858-O. These two dates are very similar in rarity, both overall and in high grades. It is possible that this represents some resubmissions to CAC. I am also surprised that as many as twenty 1853-O double eagles have been approved as this is a date which, even in VF and EF grades, doesn’t tend to have the “look” that CAC favors.

1863 $20.00 NGC MS61 CAC

The 1863 and 1864 are a bit less hard to locate with CAC stickers than I would have expected, but this is partially due to there being some nice higher grade examples from the S.S. Republic shipwreck.

The real surprise date in Group B is the 1858 with the same total number of coins approved by CAC as the much more pricey 1863. Only three Uncirculated 1858 double eagles have been approved by CAC and even About Uncirculated pieces are harder to locate than I would have expected.

1854-S $20.00 NGC AU58+ CAC

The one date in Group B which deserves special mention is the 1854-S. Most of the CAC approved examples I have seen are from shipwrecks, and I doubt if more than three or four examples with original surfaces have been approved by CAC.

Let’s close out this article by looking at Group C.




1. 1856 29
2. 1850-O 29
3. 1857 31
4. 1861-S 33
5. 1852-O 34
6. 1860-S 38
7. 1864-S 40
8. 1858-S 41
9. 1863-S 42
10. 1854 Small Date 43
11. 1859-S 47
11. (tie) 1862-S 47
11. (tie) 1851 47
14. 1851-O 49
15. 1860 55
16. 1865-S 62
17. (tie) 1853, 1865 63
18. 1855-S 85
19. 1852 88
20. 1850 91
21. 1856-S 128
22. 1861 163
23. 1857-S 515

In looking at Group C, I almost wonder if the cut-off list shouldn’t have been higher than 25 coins as the first few dates (1856, 1850-O, 1857, 1861-S and 1852-O) instinctively feel “scarcer” with CAC stickers than the other dates included in this group.

As you can see, Group C is populated by common dates and/or shipwreck issues and this is responsible, obviously, for higher CAC populations. The former category is best illustrated by the 1861 while the 1856-S and the 1857-S are the respective poster children for the latter.

1863-S $20.00 NGC AU58 CAC

The two shipwreck dates with lower CAC populations than I would have expected are the 1863-S and the 1864-S. Both issues have a number of higher grade survivors from the S.S. Brother Jonathan and the S.S. Republic and it surprises me that there aren’t at least twice as many examples for each date with CAC stickers.

1855-S $20.00 PCGS AU58 CAC

The two dates in Group C that strike me as having higher CAC populations than I would have expected were the 1850-O and the 1855-S. I have handled numerous 1850-O double eagles and I’d say that no more than 10% of the ones I have owned have been CAC quality.  The 1855-S is one of the most frequently seen Type One issues with CAC approval. This is most likely due to shipwreck coins but I can’t recall having seen all that many non-shipwreck pieces with CAC stickers.

One of the many things that CAC has done for the Type One market is to get collectors better focused on choice, original coins. The price premiums for the low population Group A coins have, in some cases, greatly exceeded the levels for “typical” coins and this is the case in nearly all grade ranges. The price premiums for the Group B and Group C are not as profound (yet) but as more collectors seek CAC approved coins, the premiums for these may increase to levels close to those seen on Group A dates.


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

Finest Known Type One Double Eagles: Part One, 1850-1858

While doing the research for my new online reference about Type One double eagles, I began to look for finest known examples for each specific issue. For some Type One double eagles this is easy as there is a clear finest known coin. For others, this is difficult as there might be a few examples bunched at the top of the Condition Census which are hard to separate.

It is my opinion that the highest graded coin is not always the best coin. That’s why you will see, from time to time, an MS63 on this list which is rated as a “better” coin (in my opinion) than one graded MS64. It should also be pointed out that this list contains the finest known specific coins of which I am aware. I haven’t seen everything and it is entirely possible that there a coin (or even coins) which is nicer than the one listed for a specific date below.

Please note that this list is for business strikes only; Proofs will appear in another article which is planned for 2015.

1850: There are some really outstanding 1850 double eagles known. The best that I have personally seen is an NGC MS65 which was last sold as Lot 3698 in the Heritage 1/07 sale (it realized $161,000). It is earlier ex Bowers and Merena 5/00 (Bass III): 757 ($62,100; as PCGS MS64) and it was obtained by Bass in the New Netherlands April 1972 auction. NGC shows a second coin graded MS65 in their population report but I am inclined to think it is the same piece.

1850-O: This is a difficult issue to definitively state which specific coin is the finest known. The highest graded at PCGS is an MS61 which sold for $111,625 as Heritage 6/14: 4890, but I have seen at least two or three others in lower grade holders which I liked better. Two PCGS AU58’s are real standouts: the example in the Crawford collection (likely ex Dallas Bank collection) and an example in a New England collection which was obtained from me via private treaty.

1851: There are two or three known which grade MS64 but the best of these, in my opinion, is the PCGS coin in the Crawford collection. The other PCGS MS64 is a coin in an Old Green Holder which is ex Bowers and Merena 8/10: 1811 ($34,500) and earlier Heritage 1/04: 3078 ($29,900).

1851-O: There are around four or five properly graded MS62’s known for this issue and a few are choice for the grade. The two which stand out to me are the Crawford coin (probably ex Stack’s 1/84: 835, Amon Carter collection), and a coin I sold to a New England collector which is ex Heritage 2006 ANA: 5576 ($48,875). NGC has graded one coin in MS63 which I haven’t seen in its current holder; it is almost certainly a coin which was upgraded from an MS62 holder.

1852: There are three or four known which grade MS64 but I think these can be ranked in order. The best 1852 double eagle I have seen is the Crawford coin which is in a PCGS MS64 and which has superb color and surfaces. The next best is the Heritage 2012 ANA: 5408 coin ($82,250) which is ex Bowers and Merena 9/08: 822 ($35,650). It is also in a PCGS MS64 and has been approved by CAC. The third best is an NGC MS64 with CAC approval which was sold as Lot 5241 in Heritage’s 2011 sale and it was from the Henry Miller collection. It realized $60,375. NGC has a population of one coin in MS65 and it is likely coin #3 on this list after an upgrade.

1852 Repunched Date: The finest known example of this variety is a PCGS MS63 which was in the Gilded Age collection; it was aggressively reserved and it did not sell at the auction. I sold a PCGS MS62 to a New England collector in September 2014, which is the second finest I have seen.

1852-O: The clear finest known for this date is the Henry Miller coin, graded MS65 by NGC, which was obtained privately from Stack’s in the 1970’s; it later brought $276,000 as Heritage 2011 FUN: 5243. The next best is an NGC MS63 from the Dallas Bank collection. There are four or five graded MS62. These include the Crawford coin (PCGS MS62) obtained from the Norweb sale, a PCGS MS62 which I sold to a New England collector which is ex Heritage 2006 ANA: 5580 ($48,815), and a PCGS MS62 which is ex Stacks Bowers 2014 ANA: 12005 ($94,000), ex Gilded Age collection, Bowers and Merena 5/00: 771 (Bass III), Harry Bass collection.

1853: The unquestionable finest known for this date is an NGC MS65 which last sold as Heritage 8/14: 5683 ($152,750); it was earlier Superior 5/05: 5333 ($66,700; as NGC MS64). The next best is a PCGS MS63 owned by Bill Crawford.

1853/'2': The highest graded coin for this variety is a single NGC MS62 (ex: Heritage 2004 FUN: 3082 at $41,400), but I don’t regard this coin as being any nicer than the three or four different PCGS MS61 examples which I have seen. The specific example which stands out as being slightly better is the CAC-approved PCGS MS61 last sold as Bowers and Merena 2012 ANA: 11752 ($46,000).

1853-O: The finest known 1853-O is, by a large margin, the PCGS MS63 owned by Bill Crawford. It was purchased as Stack’s 5/91: 1674, where it sold for $28,600. An NGC MS62 (pedigree unknown to me) is likely the second finest, but it likely doesn’t remotely compare to the remarkable Crawford example.

1854 Small Date: This is another date where the single finest known is head and shoulders finer than the next best. The William Crawford collection contains a splendid gem graded MS65 by PCGS.

1854 Large Date: The finest known is owned, again, by Bill Crawford and the coin is graded MS64 by PCGS. It was purchased, as an NGC MS64, as Bowers and Merena 9/08: 831 ($96,600) and it was earlier Heritage 8/07: 2010 ($80,500). The second best of which I am aware is an NGC MS62 that I sold to a Rhode Island collector; I bought it directly out of the Pittman I sale in 1997 where I paid $10,450.

1854-O: This is a frustrating date to reach a conclusion about a finest known example as there is no clear-cut “best coin.” The highest graded are four AU58’s at NGC (most likely two distinct coins) and three AU55’s at PCGS (likely two distinct coins). The best I have seen include the NGC AU58 owned by Bill Crawford, the PCGS AU55 in a New England collection (obtained from me as Bowers and Merena 8/07: 1906) and Heritage 10/08: 3012, a PCGS AU55 which set the current auction record for this date at $603,750. Until I have an opportunity to compare the best examples of this date in person, I am not able to conclude which is the finest.

1854-S: This is another date which is challenging when determining which is the finest known. This is due to the fact that many of the highest graded 1854-S double eagles have finely granular surfaces from exposure to seawater. Of these coins, the three best are two PCGS MS65’s (one is in the Crawford collection and the other brought $115,000 as Heritage 10/08: 3013) and a PCGS MS64 from the S.S. Central America (last sold as Stack’s Bowers 2014 ANA: 12010 and sold by me to a New England collector). There are three or four known in Uncirculated with non-seawater surfaces. The two best I know of include an example in a New England collection graded MS61 by PCGS which is ex Heritage 11/07: 61779 ($21,850), Bass III: 781 ($10,925) and an NGC MS61 owned by Connecticut collector. Both were purchased from me.

1855: This date has a clear finest known and it is the PCGS MS64 in the William Crawford collection. It is ex ANR 3/06: 1704 and it sold for $126,550. The next best is a PCGS MS63 which sold for $69,000 as ANR 8/06: 1607. It is an interesting coincidence that the two finest known 1855 double eagles appeared for sale within a few months of each other in 2006 and both were sold by the same firm.

1855-O: The highest graded 1855-O is an NGC MS61 which recently sold for $141,000 as Heritage 2014 FUN: 5517. However, I think that the PCGS AU58 coin in the Crawford collection is a nicer coin and I would rank it as the finest known without much hesitation.

1855-S: The unquestioned finest known 1855-S double eagle is the PCGS MS66 from the S.S. Central America which sold for $120,750 as Christie’s 12/00: 90. Interestingly, this coin has not been sold at auction since its one and only appearance in 2000, and it would be interesting to see what it would bring today.

1856: Two or three exist in MS63 and these are the highest graded 1856 double eagles. The best of these is probably Stacks Bowers 2014 ANA: 12013 ($41,125) which was obtained by the consignor from me in March 2002.

1856-O: The undisputed finest known 1856-O is the famous NGC SP63 which last sold for $1,437,500 as Heritage 5/09: 1989. The second finest known is a PCGS AU58 in the Crawford collection which is ex Eliasberg: 889. The third finest is a PCGS AU55 in a New England collection, which I sold in 2009.

1856-S: The finest known is a PCGS MS66 from the S.S. Central America which was last sold as Christie’s 12/00: 92 where it brought $57,500. The other PCGS MS66, last sold as Heritage 1/12: 5033 at $74,750 is not as appealing, in my opinion.

1857: I haven’t seen this coin in person but the finest known is likely the PCGS MS64 which was last sold as Stacks 10/08: 1464; it realized $40,250 and was then graded MS64 by NGC. The second finest is a coin I sold to a New England collector and it is ex Heritage 2013 ANA: 5899. It realized $47,000 and was graded MS63 by PCGS.

1857-O: The finest known is the PCGS MS63 in the Crawford collection. It is from the Bass III sale and was earlier in the Kaufman collection. The second finest is an NGC MS63 which is ex Heritage 2011 FUN: 5251 where it sold for $172,500 as an NGC MS62.

1857-S: Of the thousands of Uncirculated 1857-S double eagles found in the S.S. Central America treasure, it is virtually impossible to select a coin which is the clear single finest known. PCGS has graded 11 in MS67 with none finer. The only one of these to have been approved by CAC is ex Heritage 2014 ANA: 5692 where it sold for a remarkable $172,500.

In Part Two of this article, which will be published sometime in November 2014, we will look at the 1858-1866 Type One double eagles and list specific finest known pieces.

Do you know about any coins with claims to finest known that might not be known to me? I would appreciate your input, whether in a comment added to this article, or as an email sent directly to me at


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

How To Collect Type One Double Eagles

Type One double eagles have become the single most popular area of collecting in the rare date United States gold coin market. With the discovery of over 10,000 high grade, formerly rare issues in the S.S. Central America, S.S. Brother Jonathan, and S.S. Republic shipwrecks, Type Ones have received tremendous publicity in both the numismatic and non-numismatic press. This is clearly a design type which is destined to remain popular with a number of future generations of collectors.

The 2002 edition of my book An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles represented ground-breaking research on the series. I had previously written on New Orleans double eagles in my book New Orleans Gold Coins: 1839-1909 (published in 1992 and revised in 2006). Prior to this, collectors had to rely on the Breen Encyclopedia and David Akers’ trailblazing work on Liberty Head double eagles which was published in 1982. The 2002 edition of this book filled a great, need but it soon became outdated and needed to be revised.

After numerous starts and stops, I decided to revise the book in 2014 but with a twist: instead of publishing it in traditional book form, it will be released as a web-based project, and we will announce its availability (and URL!) later this year. (Here is the new site!) This was done for a number of reasons. The first is flexibility in updating. With a traditional book, updating it is a major chore. With the web-based format, it will be easy for me to continually update things like Condition Census, Auction Price Records, certified population figures, hoards, and important new discoveries. A web-based double eagle book will have a far greater reach than a traditional published book, and this might serve to bring more new collectors into the series. It will also enable me to have interactive features such as a comments section where collectors can add their input to each issue, and expanded potential to include more high-quality color photographs than in a traditional printed book. The possibilities are endless.

Type One double eagles appeal to collectors for a variety of reasons. They are the first type of double eagles produced and the highest denomination struck for circulation. They are large and attractive with a high intrinsic value which appeals to the “gold bug.” They were struck during an extraordinary historic era (1850-1866), and have wonderful back stories. Many issues are available in collector grades and a number of issues can found in presentable grades for less than $3,500 per coin. At the same time, there are a number of rare to very rare dates which appeal to advanced collectors.

There is a host of ways in which to collect this series. I’d like to suggest a few that I have found interesting and add some practical suggestions from years of experience with assisting collectors in this series.

1. Collecting Type One Double Eagles as a Type Coin

Type collectors seek to obtain a representative example of a specific type or design. For Type One double eagles, a type collector would most likely focus on an issue such as an 1856-S or 1857-S from the S.S. Central America, or a non-shipwreck date such as the 1861. A nice SSCA coin can be purchased for $7,500-10,000, while a high-quality circulated 1861 currently is valued in the $4,000-5,000 range.

A type set could be made more interesting by expanding it to two coins: including a common date from the 1850’s and the 1860’s, the two decades in which this design was produced. The most common issues from the 1850’s are the 1851 and the 1852 and, thanks to the shipwrecks mentioned above, the 1856-S and the 1857-S. The two Philadelphia issues can be easily located in all circulated grades and a very presentable example will cost the collector $3,000-5,000. The 1861 is the most affordable Type One from the 1860’s, and the collector can either purchase a pleasing circulated example or an Uncirculated coin in the MS60 to MS62 range.

If you are taking the time to read this article (and are looking forward to the new double eagle website I mentioned above) you are likely to have enough interest in this series that you will be more involved with them than as mere type coins. But if you have decided to participate solely as a type collector, I suggest you spend a bit more money and buy a scarcer date. In my opinion, the issues which offer the biggest “bang for the buck” include the 1854 Small Date, 1855, 1856, 1857, and 1858.

2. Collecting Type One Double Eagles by Mint

Type One double eagles were struck at three mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Some collectors focus on issues from one of these three mints and assemble complete sets of dates and major varieties.

The Philadelphia mint produced 17 collectable double eagles (this figure does not include the 1849 and the 1861 Paquet, but it does include the 1853/2 and the 1854 Large Date). This is not an easy set to complete in circulated grades. The five hardest issues to locate are the 1853/2, 1854 Large Date, 1859, 1862, and 1863. All five of the dates are scarce to very scarce in Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated, and all are rare to very rare in Uncirculated.

In Extremely Fine, this set should run at least in the $55,000-65,000 range, and more if the collector is picky and seeks choice EF45 coins with CAC stickers. An About Uncirculated set (with the five keys in the AU50 to AU53 range and the more common dates in the AU55 to AU58 range) should run in the $110,000-130,000 range, and more if the collector is picky and seeks choice coins with CAC stickers. An Uncirculated set is possible but it would require considerable patience and some of these issues (notably the 1853/2, 1854 Large Date, 1859, and 1862) are very rare and seldom offered for sale in Mint State. A collector can figure on spending at least $300,000 on an average quality set and considerably more if he wants the majority of his coins to grade higher than MS60 to MS61. An Uncirculated set with all the coins having CAC stickers is certainly possible but it might take many years—and a deep wallet—to assemble.

The New Orleans mint produced a dozen Type One double eagles between 1850 and 1861. Two of these (the 1851-O and the 1852-O) are common, two are moderately scarce (1850-O and 1853-O, three are very scarce to rare (1857-O, 1858-O and 1861-O), three are rare (1855-O, 1859-O and 1860-O), and two are extremely rare (1854-O and 1856-O). Many collectors are forced to skip the 1854-O and the 1856-O due to their extreme rarity and prohibitive prices. However, for those fortunate collectors with the means to acquire one or both, history has proven their worthiness as performing assets.

An Extremely Fine set of Type One New Orleans double eagles is the most realistic for most collectors. Excluding the 1854-O and 1856-O, this set costs at least $175,000-200,000. An About Uncirculated set of Type One New Orleans double eagles is extremely difficult to assemble but it can be completed with patience and a deep pocketbook in a three to five year window. To keep costs down, the collector might buy AU55 examples of the moderately scarce to scarce dates and AU50 to AU53 examples of the very scarce to rare issues. Such a set would cost at least $250,000-300,000+. AU50 to AU53 examples of the 1854-O and the 1856-O would add another $750,000-1,000,000. An AU set with all 12 coins having CAC stickers might be possible, but it would require working with a world-class expert as many of these dates have very low CAC populations.

Between 1854 and 1866, the San Francisco mint produced 14 Type One double eagles. This includes the 1861-S and the 1861-S Paquet reverse. With the exception of the 1861-S Paquet and the 1866-S No Motto, all are reasonably easy to locate in circulated grades. Before the discovery of the three shipwrecks cited above, assembling a high grade set of Type One San Francisco double eagles would have been nearly impossible. Today, it is far more realistic. It is still theoretically impossible to finish this set in Uncirculated, as no 1861-S Paquet reverse double eagles have been graded MS60 or higher by the two services as of the middle of 2014.

A complete set of Type One San Francisco double eagles in EF40 to AU50 costs at least $125,000, with around half of this amount dedicated to the 1861-S Paquet and the 1866-S No Motto. An AU55 to AU58 set costs at least $250,000; again with a significant amount of the cost focused on the two rarities. A set with all of the coins grading at least MS60 except for the Paquet (which would grade AU55 to AU58) would cost in excess of $600,000.

If I had to rank the popularity of the three mints as of the middle of 2014, I would list them as follows:

  1. New Orleans
  2. San Francisco
  3. Philadelphia

3. Collecting Type One Double Eagles by Year

A popular way to collect this series is to obtain one example from each year in which the Type One design was produced. In this case, such a set would consist of 17 coins.

In a Type One year set, it is advisable to select the most affordable issue produced during a specific year. For example, three mints struck double eagles in 1861: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Most year sets include the 1861 Philadelphia as it is easier to obtain than the other issues and it can be found in comparatively high grades for a reasonable sum.

The most difficult (and least flexible) year is 1866. The Philadelphia mint’s production of double eagles in 1866 consisted exclusively of the new Type Two (or “With Motto”) design, while San Francisco produced a limited number of Type One coins before switching to the new design. The 1866-S Type One is exceedingly rare in Uncirculated and very rare in any grade higher than About Uncirculated-50 to About Uncirculated-53.

A complete year set can be assembled in Extremely Fine grades for around $75,000, with at least one-third of the cost going towards an 1866-S No Motto. A set with all of the coins in About Uncirculated can be assembled for $150,000 and up, with around half of the cost going towards the 1866-S. A set with all of the coins in Uncirculated would be very difficult to complete due to the rarity of the 1866-S. It would cost upwards of $425,000-450,000 to complete with, once again, a significant portion of the cost going towards the 1866-S.

4. Assembling a Complete Set of Type One Double Eagles

For some collectors, Type One double eagles become their primary focus and they seek to assemble a complete set. Such a set consists of every issue struck between 1850 and 1866 (not including the excessively rare 1861 Paquet reverse). Including the 1853/2, 1854 Large Date, and the 1861-S Paquet, there are a total of 44 issues.

Depending on a collector’s budget, the grades for a complete set of Type One double eagles will range from Extremely Fine-40 all the way up to Mint State-65. The more common issues are generally represented by coins in comparably higher grades while the rarities are represented by coins in slightly lower grades. The rarest issues in the set include the 1854-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, 1859-O, 1860-O, and 1861-S Paquet. The rarer issues tend to be very difficult to locate and the most available of these six coins are rarely available at prices lower than $40,000-50,000.

There are some practical guidelines which the collector assembling a complete set should follow. A complete set should be as well-matched as possible. The collector should also attempt to obtain coins with as much visual similarity as possible.

A complete set should not be “all over the map” as far as grades are concerned. It makes no sense to assemble a set which has VF30 coins alongside MS62’s

Many Type One collectors are guilty of “overbuying” the common dates and “underbuying” the rarities in order to save money; I feel this is a mistake. Instead of spending $50,000 on a high-grade example of a mundane date such as an 1851, buy a nice coin one grade lower for $15,000, and use the money you’ve saved to put towards a rarity. Conversely, instead of filling the 1854-O and 1856-O holes with “no grades” or problem coins, try to find the best examples of these you can possibly afford. A set of coins is judged on the quality of the rare issues, not by the common ones.

Don’t assemble a set of Type One double eagles with unrealistic expectations. A collector who has previously worked on more common sets may approach Type Ones with the idea that he can race through set in higher grades. Since a number of Type Ones are unknown in Uncirculated and extremely rare in the higher About Uncirculated grades, certain allowances have to be made. The collector must learn what is realistic for each issue. It isn’t realistic to find an 1856-O in Mint State-60. But it is realistic to find an 1856-S in this range or even higher.

In Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated-50, a complete set of 44 Type One Liberty Head double eagles is going to cost a minimum of $1,000,000, and probably quite a bit more once the collector finishes upgrading coins he isn’t satisfied with. If the collector decides to eliminate the 1854-O and 1856-O, at least half of this expenditure will be eliminated. A set which included all the coins in About Uncirculated-50 to About Uncirculated-58 would cost at least $1,500,000. Eliminating the two ultra-rarities would again remove at least half of the cost. A set in which the majority of the coins grade Mint State-60 and above and the rarities grade at least About Uncirculated-55 is going to cost upwards of $2,000,000-2,500,000, and possibly quite a bit more.

5. A Shipwreck "Mini Set"

A number of shipwrecks containing Type One double eagles have been located since the late 1980’s. These are designated by PCGS and NGC, and they are extremely popular with collectors. A shipwreck mini-set most likely would contain just three coins and would be constructed as follows:

  1. S.S. Central America. This is the most famous of the three shipwrecks discussed here as it contains thousands of very high quality coins. Most collectors seek a nice Uncirculated 1857-S, typically grading MS63 to MS65. I have a few buying tips for such a coin. First, only buy a piece in the original gold foil holder. Second, be patient as there are thousands of potential coins for your set. Wait for a coin which appeals to you and look for one with bright, flashy surfaces which lack haze or cloudiness. Third, buy a coin with all the “bells and whistles.” By this, I mean look for a coin that has all its original packaging and which has been approved by CAC as well. Finally, don’t overpay. There are hundreds of auction price comparables for these coins, so you should be able to figure a smart price to pay with relative ease.
  2. S. S. Brother Jonathan. This shipwreck featured Civil War era San Francisco Type One double eagles. The coins tend to be a little less attractive than the S.S. Central America pieces and are harder to locate in the original packaging. The two dates which seem most plentiful from this shipwreck are the 1863-S and 1865-S. The buying tips I mentioned above mostly apply to these coins as well, except original packaging is non-existent.
  3. S. S. Republic. The third shipwreck in the set is the one which is least interesting to me as the quality of the coins tends to be less nice. That said, there are some interesting coins which come to market from time to time with this pedigree.

6. Collecting by Die Variety

For most Type One double eagles, a number of different obverse and reverse dies were used. As one die became worn or damaged, it was replaced by a new die. The different die combinations created various die varieties which range from significant to very minor.

The field of gold coin die variety collecting is fertile. Little has been written about the varieties of United States gold coins, and almost nothing has been written about the die varieties of Type One Liberty Head issues. A number of interesting and potentially rare die varieties exist. Many are discussed in my book(s) on Type One double eagles. Others wait to be discovered by sharp-eyed collectors.

In order to study double eagle die varieties, the collector should pay careful attention to date and mintmark placement and other more subtle die characteristics such as breaks and die scratches.

Collecting varieties of Type One double eagles has become more popular in the last decade, and part of this is attributable to the fact that some of the major varieties are now recognized by PCGS and NGC. In addition to the widely accepted varieties (1853/2 and 1854 Large Date), the following are often collected alongside “regular” coins:

  • 1852 Double Date
  • 1853 Repunched Date
  • 1854 Small Date, Doubled Date
  • 1855-S Small S mintmark
  • 1857-S Large S mintmark
  • 1859-S Double LIBERTY
  • 1865 Blundered date

7. A Civil War "Mini Set"

One of the most popular theme sets in the Type One series is the 11 or 12 coin Civil War set. This includes the following issues, all made during the Civil War years: 1861, 1861-O, 1861-S, 1861-S Paquet, 1862, 1862-S, 1863, 1863-S, 1864, 1864-S, 1865, and 1865-S.

Due to the fact that this set has multiple levels of demand, many of the double eagles from the Civil War have seen considerable increases in price.

There are some difficult issues in the Civil War set. The 1861-O is the only New Orleans double eagle from this period and it is extremely popular. The 1862 is the rarest Philadelphia double eagle from this period, followed by the 1863 and the 1864. The San Francisco issues are more available with the exception of the rare 1861-S Paquet. The price of this variety might cause some collectors to not include it in the set. This makes sense, given that a “normal reverse” 1861-S can be an acceptable substitute.

An 11 piece set in Extremely Fine grades should cost in the area of $80,000. Adding the Paquet reverse would make the set cost over $100,000.

An 11 piece set in About Uncirculated would be challenging but it is completable. It should cost at least $150,000 and could run quite a bit more if the collector seeks choice, original coins with CAC approval. Adding a nice AU55 Paquet will require around a $150,000 commitment.

This set could not be completed in Uncirculated as the Paquet doesn’t exist in this range. However, the rest of the coins do, and here are my suggestions for the best value grade for each date:

  • 1861: MS62 to MS63
  • 1861-O: MS60 (if available)
  • 1861-S: MS61 to MS62
  • 1862: MS60 to MS62
  • 1863: MS61 to MS62
  • 1863-S: MS62 to MS63
  • 1864: MS61 to MS62
  • 1864-S: MS61 to MS62
  • 1865: MS62 to MS63
  • 1865-S: MS62 to MS63

8. Collecting Proof Type One Double Eagles

A tiny number of Proof double eagles were struck prior to 1859. From 1859 to 1865, very small numbers were made. Fewer than 350 proofs were struck for the entire type, and fewer than 75 are known.

The rarity of these coins makes them very appealing to a small segment of wealthy collectors. It might be possible to assemble a complete date run of Proofs from 1859 to 1865. This would require patience, luck, and a very healthy coin budget.

Most of the Proof Type One double eagles which appear on the market are in the Proof-63 to Proof-64 range. Gems are exceedingly rare, and are generally offered for sale at the rate of maybe once per two or three years.

Do you buy rare gold coins?

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Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at