HEAD (NO MOTTO ON REVERSE) TWENTY DOLLARS OR DOUBLE EAGLE
1854-O Double Eagle
Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins
& Collectibles, Inc.
Double Eagle or $20 Gold
Gold - 90%
Other - 10%
grains (±33.4 grams)
(for New Orleans) below the eagle's tail on the
The 1854-O double eagle is one of the great classics
of the Liberty Head series. Today, there are probably
fewer than 35 coins known in all grades. Most of the
1854-O double eagles seen by the authors have graded
just Very Fine or Extremely Fine. There is considerable
pressure to inflate the grading for this issue as
much as possible. Many of the coins offered years
ago as Very Fine are now considered 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.
A PCGS AU-53 coin sold for $368,000 in early 2005.
The com is a pleasing AU-50. Probably the finest example
known was in the wreckage of the S.S. Repub¬lic.
The coin has been certified by NGC as AU-58 and was
sold by private treaty in late 2004 for $675,000.
Note: this coin is included among the 100 Greatest
U.S. Coins (Garrett and Guth 2005). Key to Collecting: When this variety
was produced, there was no numismatic interest in
mintmark varieties, and not even the Mint Cabinet
preserved an example. Probably no more than 25 pieces
are known totally, or no more than 30 at the outside,
making it one of the rarest of all double eagles.
Aspects of Striking: Usually sharply struck.
High grade specimens show some prootlike surface.
Die Data: 8 obverse
dies were shipped to New Orleans, but probably only
one was used- Serviceable reverse dies were on hand
from earlier times. 1854 Four-digit Medium (a.k.a.
Small Date) logotype: Date with 85 farthest apart
(but still quite close), 18 spaced nearly but not
quite as close together as 85; 54 very close. Uprights
of 1 and 4 both thick. Italic style 5. Used on some
Philadelphia Mint dies (probably the early ones) and
all oranch mint dies.
Number of Appearances:
High Grade Condition Points: 5
Average Grade: VF-35
Auction Records: (1) Unc: Bell 1944
AAA 11/72; Cicero 1960; Atwater 1946
ANA 1979; Auction '79; RARCOA 4-5/76; AAA 6/75; ANA
1974; Gilhousen 1973; Kreisberg/Cohen 6/69; Miles
1968; Shuford 1968; Baldenhofer 1955; MC 1948; Lee
Comments: The 1854-O Double Eagle is one of the most
famous dates in the Double Eagle series and it is
also one of the rarest. In particular, it is the second
rarest O-Mint twenty after the 1856-O and it is comparable
overall to the 1870-CC and business strikes of 1881
and 1885. It is not as rare as a business strike 1882
or 1886 and, of course, it is not nearly as rare as
the 1861 Paquet. However, other than the aforementioned
dates, the 1854-O is more rare than any other regular
issue Liberty Head. (The proof-only 1883 and 1884
are also a bit more rare than this date, particularly
the 1884.) The only specimen ever catalogued as "uncirculated"
was in the 1944 Bell sale. I have not seen that piece
so I cannot say if it is really uncirculated. In fact,
I have not seen a strictly mint state example in any
collection although I have seen three very nice AU's,
the finest being an AU-55 coin in a prominent Dallas
bank collection. When available, and that is not likely
to be very often, the typical 1854-Ois VF or EF with
a partially prooflike or fully prooflike surface.
The exact number of specimens in existence is difficult
to say with certainty but I would esti¬mate the
number to be in the range of 20-25 specimens at most.