Some choice gold coins, including an apparently newly discovered
1854-O Coronet $20 double eagle, will headline Heritage’s March 29 to
April 2 U.S. Coin Signature Auction at its Dallas headquarters.
Exploring the source of a valuable hoard from
the American Gold Rush era reveals almost endless
possibilities. Also in this issue, what is a ‘full
torch’ designation as it relates to coins?
The 1854 double eagle from the New Orleans Mint is a classic rarity
in any grade, with a low mintage of 3,250, of which few survive. The
1856-O Coronet double eagle has a lower mintage, at 2,250 pieces, but
population reports today suggest that the two are comparable in
rarity, and of the two, the 1854-O coin is rarer in high grades.
The low mintages can largely be attributed to the opening of the San
Francisco Mint, which began striking double eagles in 1854. It was
safer and less expensive for gold miners to have their coins struck at
the San Francisco Mint than to ship their raw gold to the New Orleans
facility, and as a result, gold deposits — and gold coin mintages —
rapidly declined at the New Orleans Mint.
The offered example — graded Extremely Fine 45 by Numismatic
Guaranty Corp. — is from what Heritage describes as “an old family
collection.” Heritage reports that its upcoming auction may be this
coin’s first public offering, since the firm could not trace the
history of the piece to any previous public offering.
Nearly all 1854-O double eagles entered circulation since a
collecting interest had not yet fully developed for Mint marked coins,
and today the majority of the 24 distinct examples listed on the
roster compiled by Heritage grade About Uncirculated 50 to AU-55, with
the finest known being four that are each currently graded AU-58.
The offered coin is the sole EF-45 piece in the current listing of
known survivors, which lists an additional 28 examples that, although
they cannot be matched to the 24 in the roster, are nevertheless
likely duplicates. Adding to the confusion is that, in reviewing the
rosters for examples offered at Heritage auctions over the decade, it
seems that several 1854-O double eagles have been upgraded. Included
in these is one formerly graded EF-45 by NGC that was later upgraded
to NGC AU-53.
That one — in its AU-53 grade — sold for $305,500 at Ira and Larry
Goldberg’s February 2017 Pre-Long Beach auction. As the Goldbergs’
description recognized, “Ownership of one of these amazing key coins
places one’s name in the hall of numismatic fame and adds a memorable
quality to any advanced collection,” before challenging potential
bidders with the question, “Why not add your name to the pedigree of
this high grade and important rarity today?”