Coin Specifications

Category: Liberty Head $20 (1850-1907)
Mint: New Orleans
Mintage: 3,250
Catalog: KM-74.1
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 33.4360g
AGW: 0.9675oz
Melt Value: $1023.13 (11/27/2015)
Diameter: 34mm
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
Link to this coin

1854 O $20 MS obverse 1854 O $20 MS reverse

Expand All    Collapse All


There are no NGC varieties for this coin.

Description & Analysis

The 1854-O and the 1856-O are the two key issues in a collection of twenty dollar Libertys. As Doug Winter states in Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909 (2006), 'Ownership of an 1854-O double eagle is considered a hallmark of a truly great collection of New Orleans coinage.' For years there was dispute among experts about which was rarer, but it now is settled that the 1856-O is the number one issue in the series. But not by much. A diligent search of auction records reveals only 23 different examples of the 1856-O, and the 1854-O has a similarly low estimate of only 25-35 coins known. Each coin is impossibly rare in high grades.

The 1854-O boasts a tiny mintage of only 3,250 pieces, down from a respectable 71,000 examples the year before. Double eagles were produced in small numbers every year from 1854-1861, when the New Orleans Mint was seized by the Confederacy and coinage ceased. The mint was hampered by extensive building repairs and equipment modifications during this time period, which undoubtedly led to production delays. Another, perhaps even more important explanation for the decline might be the opening of the San Francisco Mint in 1854. Prior to the opening of the new facility, the New Orleans Mint was the closest mint to the California gold fields, both by land and sea routes. After the San Francisco facility became operational, the long journey, arduous and dangerous, could be avoided. Deposits of gold bullion must have dropped precipitously at the time, accounting for the low mintage of double eagles during this period.

Collecting large-denomination gold coins did not become popular in this country until the 1930s. At the time the 1854-O was minted, it is doubtful that even a single numismatist was systematically collecting double eagles by date and mintmark. By the time a few collectors, such as John M. Clapp and Virgil Brand, became interested in these coins in the 1890s, the tiny mintage of 1854-O double eagles had been widely dispersed. None of the great collections of the 19th century included an example of the 1854-O, and little information was available about them. Augustus Heaton mentioned the 1854-O in his seminal work on mintmarks in 1893, but he only knew about it from reading the mint reports of that era. Heaton assumed the issue was rare because of the low reported mintage, but he had never actually seen one of the coins himself.

Even in the early 20th century, the rare double eagles of the New Orleans Mint were almost never encountered. In 1909, Edgar Adams published a price list of U.S. gold coins, but he did not itemize Liberty Head double eagles because there was no demand for them. There was no example of the 1854-O in the Mint Cabinet when T.L. Comparette inventoried those holdings from 1912 to 1914. No one exhibited a specimen at the great 1914 ANS Exhibition. To quote the cataloger of the Cicero Sale (New Netherlands, 12/1960), where an 1854-O appeared in lot 8, 'Back in the 1920s, when Waldo Newcomer obtained his, only one other specimen was known.' The earliest auction appearance we have been able to trace is the coin that appeared in the John Nickerson Collection (Thomas Elder, 12/1933), lot 1124:

'1854. New Orleans. Don't believe we ever had it before. It has a sale record of $200. Very fine. Unpriced in Raymond's book.'

The coins began to appear more often in auctions of the 1930s and 1940s. Colonel Green obtained a specimen, possibly the Newcomer example, which was sold to King Farouk via Stack's in a blockbuster private transaction in 1944. Farouk was charged $125 for the 1854-O, which was called 'V.F. Mint Luster.' Auction appearances have continued, with prices rising unabated to the present day.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


Loading... Working...

Use the scroll bar at the bottom of this box to view a summary of the NGC Price Guide, NGC Census, Auction Prices Realized and NGC Registry Scores for each grade.

There was no data found for this Coin.

Select Designation


Select Grade

*To view the Census details for this coin, please sign in or sign up.

Price Guide

Last Updated: 11/9/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1854 O $20 MS
Base $ 65000 75000 125000 180000 285000 375000 450000 585000 750000 - - - - - - - - - -
$ - - - - - - - - - - - - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



Total Graded: 17
Low Grade: 45
Average Grade: 53
High Grade: 58

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
10/13/2011 PCGS AU 55   Heritage Auctions 2011 October 13-16 US Coins Signature Auction #1160- Pittsburgh Session(3), 1160/Lot# 5099 $431,250.00
2/3/2013 NGC Details UNC Details  Goldberg February 3-6, 2013 The Pre-Long Beach Auction, 72/Lot# 1090 $127.00
1/8/2014 NGC Details XF Details  Heritage Auctions 2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando Session(3), 1201/Lot# 5515 $282,000.00
6/4/2014 NGC AU 55   Heritage Auctions 2014 June 4 - 8 US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(3), 1206/Lot# 4897 $381,875.00
8/5/2014 PCGS AU 50   Heritage Auctions 2014 August 5, 7 & 9 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Chicago Session(4), 1208/Lot# 5686 $329,000.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1854 O $20 MS
Registry Image Gallery

No Images Found

Related Articles

NCS & NGC to Feature Select SS Republic Coins

4/16/2004  — Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) have been authorized by Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (Amex: OMR) to release information about select coins being recovered from Odyssey’s SS Republic shipwreck site.
View full article >

NGC Auction Central Disclaimer