This previously unknown specimen is one of only two dozen known of the issue. Its discovery garnered considerable excitement in the numismatic press.
First reported as a front-page story in the July 26, 2010, issue of Coin World, this coin’s discovery is one of the great numismatic stories of the year. The 1856-O $20 is among the most important of all gold coins struck at the New Orleans Mint and a great rarity in the Liberty Double Eagle series. Only two dozen are known in all grades.
This example can be traced back to James Bullock, a farmer from Livermore, Kentucky. When he died in 1923, the coin was passed to his heirs, along with other possessions. It has since passed to three generations of family members. Its present owners weren't aware of its rarity and value until they sent it to researcher John W. McCloskey at the start of this year. The coin was later certified by NGC and is now scheduled for sale in the upcoming Heritage 2010 September Long Beach Signature Auction, where it carries a pre-auction estimate of $300,000+.
“The Bullock 1856-O double eagle is an incredible coin with an even more incredible story,” said Greg Rohan, president of Heritage. “After it was pulled from circulation by James Bullock, a Kentucky farmer, it spent more than 80 years in an Ohio family’s holdings. It was utterly unknown to collectors until John W. McCloskey was asked to examine it earlier this year.”
The coin is one of only 11 examples of this issue certified by NGC, and the only XF 45+. The plus indicates that this double eagle earned an NGC Plus Designation, which NGC awards to coins at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next grade, with above-average eye appeal.