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Rare Money Blog

rare 1861 paquet reverse liberty head 20 dollar gold in stacks bowers galleries coin auction

Historic Paquet 1861-S Double Eagle Offered in our June 2021 Costa Mesa Auction

By James McCartney, Senior Numismatist and Consignment Director

Author: James McCartney / Thursday, May 06, 2021 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week

The 1861-S Paquet Reverse is perhaps the most famous collectible Type I double eagle and is recognized well beyond the specialists of the series. Anthony C. Paquet was born in Hamburg, Germany on December 5, 1814, and arrived in Philadelphia in 1848. In early 1857, he took up contract work for the Philadelphia Mint before finally being hired on as an assistant engraver. By far his most well-known work is the United States military's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor instituted by President Abraham Lincoln on July 12, 1861. Among his other projects at the Mint were a series of unsigned pattern coins, including a fascinating copper double eagle pattern, Judd-257. To this day, the reverse dies he prepared for the 1861 double eagles remain the only coin designs that have been positively attributed to Paquet, who left the Mint in 1864.

On January 5, 1861, production of the new reverse dies by Paquet began at the Philadelphia Mint and was almost immediately halted after concerns were raised that the narrow rim of the reverse design would wear poorly. Mint Director James Ross Snowden sent directives to New Orleans and San Francisco to cease use of the new dies and return to using the original Longacre dies. Snowden's directive did not reach the San Francisco Mint until early February, and only after 19,250 double eagles with Paquet's reverse were struck and subsequently issued. The typical survivor is well worn, if not also impaired, and to this day, not a single problem free Mint State example has been confirmed by PCGS or NGC.

We are thrilled to offer a beautiful VF-35 (NGC) 1861-S Paquet $20 in our June 2021 Auction, which is one of only about 250 survivors known. It displays bright yellow-gold surfaces that are accented by deeper honey patina in the protected areas on both sides. The details are uniformly bold with sharp denticles and full definition to Paquet’s distinctive elongated lettering on the reverse.  Alongside several New Orleans issues from the 1850s, the 1861-S Paquet reverse represents a key to this type and we expect considerable excitement when this piece crosses the auction block!

This exceptional 1861-S Paquet double eagle will be featured in lot 2571 of our June 2021 Showcase Auction, hosted at the state-of-the-art auction gallery in our new Costa Mesa, California headquarters. The June sale arrives on the heels of our record-setting auctions in March and April that saw combined prices realized above $60 million. With seven lots from these events exceeding $1 million, the numismatic market clearly remains strong heading into the summer auction season. For questions about the auction or to order a copy of the printed catalog, please contact Stack's Bowers Galleries by telephone at 800-566-2580 or by email at [email protected].

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