Condition Rarity 1861-O Double Eagle
This is a pleasantly sharp example of this rare New Orleans issue, generally one of the weakest struck double eagles from this mint. Some softness is seen in the obverse stars, largely from stars 3 through 8, but even these are all completely outlined, and some are sharp enough to show the centers. The remaining stars are developed enough that all show their centers. The bases of the date digits are also soft, mostly at 18. Interestingly, the base of the 8 seems to have been somewhat crudely strengthened in the die, as mentioned by Doug Winter in Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint 1839-1909, and as seen on one of the two examples owned by Harry W. Bass. The reverse shows much better detail, with legends sharp, all central details well executed for the issue and even the wing tips showing their full separations in the feathers. Generous traces of prooflike reflectivity are seen on the reverse, most dramatically close to the devices where the fields are best protected. On the obverse good luster remains, again in the protected areas. Scattered light handling marks are commensurate with the grade, but none stand out as particularly noteworthy or distracting, a welcomed change from those sometimes seen with heavy bagmarks.
Just 17,741 $20 gold coins were struck at New Orleans this year, but interestingly, it is believed that not all were by the United States. As published by Doug Winter, it is believed that approximately 5,000 pieces were made by the United States, struck from January 1 through January 26, 1861. Thereafter, the forces of the State of Louisiana took control of the facility and continued production with 9,750 coins struck through March 31, 1861. Finally, the Confederate States government took control and struck the remaining 2,991 examples in April. The determination of which coins were produced by which authority remains uncertain, unfortunately. However, it is proposed by Doug Winter that coins seen with a strong date and die cracks are those struck by the Confederate States. It is quite interesting that, as the country descended into the Civil War, someone at the Mint took the time to try to sharpen the base of the 8. It is a bit hard to imagine, but a testament to the level of attention paid to the production of coins at that time.
As mentioned, many examples of this date show heavy marks, and the typical grade tends toward the Very Fine or Extremely Fine ranges. Coins graded About Uncirculated are quite scarce, and Mint State coins are represented by only six grading records at PCGS and NGC, though there could be duplication in those figures. Even the cabinet of the esteemed Harry W. Bass had coins graded About Uncirculated, and he owned two of them after decades of searching.
Estimate: $0.00 - $0.00