Coin Specifications

Category: Liberty Head $20 (1850-1907)
Mint: New Orleans
Mintage: 3,250
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 33.4400g
AGW: 0.9675oz
Melt Value: $1780.52 (12/3/2020)
Diameter: 34mm
Edge: Reeded
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1854 O $20 MS obverse 1854 O $20 MS reverse
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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.


GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 8/21/2020

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

1854 O $20 MS
  GVGFVFXF505355586061626364656667686970
Base $ 70000 85000 135000 200000 300000 375000 400000 600000 780000 - - - - - - - - - - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The prices listed in the various NGC Price and Value Guides are compiled from a number of independent, third party sources in the numismatic community which NGC believes to be reliable. Prices provided are averages, not specific prices for individual coins. Further, because these prices are only updated from time to time, they do not reflect short term pricing trends, which are quite common and are often quite dramatic, given the volatile nature of the collectible coin marketplace. This is especially true for rare coins, where there are fewer sales and greater variations in sale prices. For all of these reasons, the prices in these guides are designed to serve merely as one of many measures and factors that coin buyers and sellers can use in determining coin values. These prices are not intended, and should not be relied upon, to replace the due diligence and — when appropriate — expert consultation that coin buyers and sellers should undertake when entering into a coin transaction. As such, NGC disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information contained in the NGC Guides. By using the NGC Guides, the user agrees that neither NGC nor any of its affiliates, shareholders, officers, employees or agents shall have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind, including without limitation any loss arising from reliance on the information contained in the Guides.

Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

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

The chart showing 45 series, 50 series, 53 series, 55 series, 58 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 12/1/2020 1854 O $20 MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970Total
Base------32534-----------17
-----------------------
-----------------------
-----------------------
Total------32534-----------17
 ------18%12%29%18%24%----------- 

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1854 O $20 MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base9588105151104713112147511702718125192761985220992226582329923551244923308645764644316640668426704917260274760
9897106921173513658155101739318509194682023221547228722338323865273573731251986650896707969114711957332178498
000000185091946820232215472287223383238652735737312519866508967079691147119500
000000188921966020612221032308523467241783022141538582096574867753698037189800
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 58
Points: 22658
Owner: Andy Nguyen
 
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NGC Auction Central Disclaimer

NGC Auction Central Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The auction prices realized listed in the NGC Auction Central are compiled from a number of independent, third party sources in the numismatic community which NGC believes to be reliable. The auction data listed by NGC may occasionally contain typographical or input errors that can result in incorrect prices realized appearing on the NGC website. Therefore, the prices realized listed in NGC Auction Central are designed to serve merely as one of many measures and facts that coin buyers and sellers can use in determining coin values. These prices are not intended, and should not be relied upon, to replace the due diligence and – when appropriate – expert consultation that coin buyers and sellers should undertake when entering into a coin transaction. As such, NGC disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information contained in the NGC Auction Central. By using the NGC Auction Central, the user agrees that neither NGC nor any of its affiliates, shareholders, officers, employees or agents shall have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind, including without limitation any loss arising from reliance on the information contained in the NGC Auction Central.