The 1854-O double eagle is one of the great classics of the Liberty Head series. Today, there are probably fewer than 35 examples known in all grades. Most of the 1854-O double eagles seen have graded just Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The 1854-O double eagle has always been in great demand, but with the recent interest in the field of double eagles, the 1854-O issue has become nearly priceless. Probably the finest example known was found in the wreckage of the S.S. Republic. The coin has been certified as grading AU-58.
With the onset of the California Gold Rush, a new coin denomination was authorized - a twenty-dollar gold piece called a double eagle. It depicted the head of Liberty wearing a coronet, surrounded by stars, for the obverse. The reverse bore a heraldic eagle, similar to the Great Seal of the United States.
With gold rushing in from California, the production of double eagles soared to a level that would not be exceeded until 1861. A large number of coins were produced, but the vast majority of 1851 double eagles did not survive. Of the coins seen today, most are heavily worn. Examples were found on the S.S. Central America and the S.S. Republic, nearly all of which were circulated. High-grade 1851 double eagles are very rare, with only two dozen coins known in choice condition. The highest-grade 1851 double eagle certified to date has been MS-64
The year 1854 was the first time that gold coins were produced at the San Francisco Mint. The 1854-S quarter eagle and half eagle are extremely rare. Most of the production for the year focused on double eagles. The issue was widely distributed and many of the coins seen today are rather heavily worn. A large group of 1854-S double eagles were found in the wreckage of the S.S. Yankee Blade. The treasure was undocumented, but it is believed that around 200 to 300 coins were discovered. Most of the coins were high-grade examples with surfaces that are lightly etched from exposure to seawater. A Proof example of the 1854-S double eagle resides in the Smithsonian Collection.
United States Mint, Philadelphia. Obverse: Liberty striding towards the viewer, bearing olive branch and torch. Reverse: Eagle in flight above the sun. More than half a million double eagles were minted in 1921. Only about fifteen survived the melt down procedure later. This coin is outstanding, both for rarity and condition.
United States Mint, San Francisco. Obverse: Liberty striding towards the viewer, bearing olive branch and torch. Reverse: Eagle in flight above the sun. Over three million double eagles poured out of the San Francisco branch mint in 1927. All but a dozen or so were eventually melted.
United States Mint, Philadelphia. Obverse: Liberty striding towards the viewer, bearing olive branch and torch. Reverse: Eagle in flight above the sun. About two dozen coins have survived from the 1932 double eagle mintage.
The mintage of double eagles continued in large numbers at the Philadelphia Mint in 1853. The date is one of the more common Type 1 double eagles. The treasure of the S.S. Central America contained nearly 30 coins of the date, and the S.S. Republic yielded nearly 100
examples. Only about a dozen in those two groups are of Mint State quality.
Low-grade examples of the 1855 double eagle are fairly common. The issue becomes increasingly rare in high-grade condition. There were examples of the date found on the S.S. Central America and S.S. Republic. Most of these were Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated, but a few were on the low end of the Mint State scale. The 1855 double eagle is a true condition rarity. Nearly all of the known examples of this date are low grade.
As can been seen from the much lower mintage, the 1853-O double eagle is considerably rarer than the preceding double eagles from the New Orleans Mint. While scarce, collectors willing to settle for a Very Fine or Extremely Fine coin will have little trouble locating an example. Most of the coins seen are softly struck in the central portions of the design and high-grade examples are usually prooflike. A very small number was found on the wrecks of the S.S. Central America and S.S. Republic. There are fewer than 10 examples known in Mint State.
The 1856-O double eagle is one of the great rarities of the Liberty Head series. There are thought to be fewer than 25 coins known in all grades. The known coins range in grade from polished Very Fine to Specimen-63. Most collectors of double eagles have given up on this date as the starting price for an attractive example begins in the six figures. The Smithsonian contains two examples. Of the small number of coins known in About Uncirculated condition, most are at least partially prooflike. The collecting of gold coins by mintmark did not start in earnest until decades after the 1856-O double eagles were struck. Today, the issue is considered a “classic.” Note: This coin is included among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (Garrett and Guth 2005).
As a date, the 1896 double eagle is considered common in most grades. Large numbers were minted and examples are found regularly in overseas shipments. Ample supplies of the date are known in all grades from VF (very fine) to MS(mint state -63.) Choice examples are scarce with very few surviving in gem condition.
The 1851-O double eagle was struck in ample numbers and is readily available in circulated grades. A surprising number of examples are offered each year at auction. This is the result of popularity and availability. The issue was widely distributed and heavily circulated with most survivors grading Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The date is scarce in About Uncirculated and very rare in full Mint State. Several examples of the 1851-O double eagle were found on the wrecks of the S.S. Central America and the S.S. Republic. None were of Mint State quality. It is estimated that just 15 to 20 examples would qualify as Mint State by today’s standards.
The rarity of the 1855-O double eagle is often overshadowed by the 1854-O and 1856-O issues. There are fewer than 100 examples of this date known in all grades. This is especially important considering the fact that double eagles are one of the most popular U.S. coins. Most of the coins known for the date are low grade. The treasure of the S.S. Republic featured three examples, all of which grade AU-58. The Smithsonian has two specimens, both of which are About Uncirculated. Mint State coins are very rare and the few that have been certified as such, are barely so
Until the treasure of the S.S. Central America was discovered, the 1861 Philadelphia issue
was the most common Type 1 double eagle. This is the issue most collectors thought of when trying to find an acceptable example of the type. The large mintage, the highest of any double eagle until 1904, makes the 1861 a common issue in most grades. Choice pieces are actually very rare. There have only been about 60 coins certified at that level. The finest known example of the date by far is an MS-67 coin. Nearly 500 examples of the date were found on the S.S. Republic. Most were in grades from AU-58 to MS-62.