US Coins

New Orleans Mint gold among Legend Regency Auction highlights

Two touchstone issues of the New Orleans Mint struck during the Gold Rush era are among the highlights of Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ Regency Auction 38, which will be held as a live webcast auction on May 14.

An 1856-O Coronet gold $20 double eagle graded Extremely Fine 45 by Professional Coin Grading Service and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker carries the top estimate in the sale, at $300,000 to $350,000. The issue has a low mintage of just 2,250 coins and perhaps 40 have survived in all grades.

Legend praises the featured coin’s color, observing, “Warm and deep olive-green gold patina with wonderful orange highlights. Hints of flashy, somewhat reflective luster survives and clings for dear life to the reverse fields.”

Legend acknowledges, “Like the typical survivor of this rarity, the surfaces are heavily abraded, but unlike a majority of known examples the surfaces have not been dipped or conserved in any way.”

Legend traces it back to Heritage’s 2009 Florida United Numismatists auction where it sold for $276,000. It brought $253,000 at another Heritage sale just a few months later, and it returned to $276,000 in an October 2011 Heritage auction.

The 1854-O Coronet double eagle is another legendary $20 coin, and as Heritage has noted, “The two are oft-compared, and the occasional numismatic rivalry has been played up in various numismatic publications.”

The offered example is graded PCGS Extremely Fine 40 and though it has a slightly higher mintage of 3,250, the overall survival rate is similar to the 1856-O double eagle.

The opening of the San Francisco Mint in 1854 took the pressure off of the New Orleans Mint to strike large gold coins from a far-away gold supply. The rarity of these resulting Mint marked issues was not widely appreciated until the late 19th century when Mint mark collecting became popular.

Despite 20 points of circulation, Legend notes, “This circulation was otherwise generally uneventful, leaving the surfaces free of any significant marks or scratches,” and observes “a couple of minor ticks and a short hairline on the obverse field” that “do not detract from the otherwise great eye appeal.”

The published provenance notes that the coin previously sold for $282,000 at Heritage’s 2014 FUN auction, where it was graded Extremely Fine Details, Cleaned, by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Heritage observed then: “The present coin is a still-attractive specimen that shows XF sharpness on the design elements but displays the lackluster surface quality of a coin that was lightly cleaned long ago.”

Both coins in the Legend auction are from the Blue Hill Collection.

A noteworthy 20th century “O-Mint” issue is a 1909-O Indian Head gold $5 half eagle in PCGS MS-63 with a green CAC sticker estimated to bring $80,000 to $85,000. It is the only Indian Head quarter eagle or half eagle produced at the New Orleans Mint. Just 34,200 were minted. It was the final gold coin produced at this mint.

Legend praises the rich, orange-gold color, writing, “Clearly, unlike the vast majority of these that are seen in the marketplace, this lovely, toned piece has never been dipped, stripped, or otherwise cleaned or conserved in hopes of getting a higher grade.”

Expert Doug Winter has observed that even in Mint State grades, eye appealing examples of this issue are infrequently encountered, explaining, “Most circulated 1909-O half eagles have been cleaned and the resultant coloration is an unnatural light orange-gold hue. Uncleaned circulated examples tend to have a dirty greenish-gold color and are often not very attractive. On the few original, uncleaned Mint State pieces that exist, the coloration is excellent with a blend of orange-gold, greenish and rose-gold hues.”

Citing comparables including a similarly-graded PCGS example with a green CAC sticker that brought $105,750 at a November 2013 Heritage auction, Legend advises bidders, “This coin will instantly vault your Indian Head $5 set into a very high tier, rarely attained by any collector.”

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