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Type 1 Double Eagles - Without Motto on Reverse (1849-1866)

1856-O Double Eagle

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, but these are permanently off the market. 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." An AU-55 example sold in the summer of 2005 for $483,000. Note: this coin is included among the 100 Greatest U.S. Corns (Garrett and Guth 2005).

The acquisition of an 1856-O has been the dream of every advanced specialist in the double eagle series. Only 2,250 pieces were struck, the smallest mintage recorded by any New Orleans $20 coin. These quickly passed into circulation, where most were worn down to such grades as VF and EF. This is probably the rarest New Orleans Mint double eagle, with fewer than 25 known, and perhaps even fewer than 20.
The 1856-O has often been compared to the 1854-O. If one were to play "double eagle whist" and give points for Mint State coins and, separately, for the total number known, the I854-O, of which no Mint State coins are known, would nave the lower score and, thus, would be the "winner" from a rarity viewpoint, as two Mint State 1856-Os have been recorded. On the other hand, there seem to be a few more circulated 1854-Os than there are of 1856-O. The situation may be moot, for both are key issues, both are famous, and both are eminently desirable.

Standard four-digit logotype punch for this year. 4 obverse dies and 2 reverse dies were shipped to New Orleans, a generous supply considering the small coinage of the preceding two years and the loss of the mint's full capacity due to repairs in progress. Only one pair of dies is known to nave struck 1856-O $20 pieces. On the obverse die date logotype is slightly low, with the 1 closer to a dentil than to the bust. The figures are punched deeply into the die, resulting in a "closed 5." On the reverse the O mintmark is high and close to the eagle's feathers. On the reverse the crossbar of the A (STATES) is lightly patched. All known examples are prooflike to one degree or another, diis being true for other New Orleans Mint double eagles of the period— and nothing to do winS being presentation pieces.

Designer: James Barton Longacre
Edge: Reeded
Weight: 33.436 grams (516 grains) (1.075 troy ounces )
Diameter: 34 millimeters
Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper
Gold Content: 30.093 grams (464.4 grains) (0.9675 troy ounces)
Mintmark: "O" for New Orleans. Below the eagle's tail on the reverse.



Oregon Territory, Feb. 22. Indians kill father and sons while holding mother and daughter captive: Geisel Family Massacre enrages settlers
California, Feb. 22. First railroad in slate links Sacramento and Folsom.
Boston, March 26. Operation of first steam trains in New England begins.
United States, Apr. 1. Western Union Telegraph formed to handle Western telegraphic communication.
Texas. Apr. 29. First camels purchased by U.S. Army for experimental duly in Texas arrive (--June 16, IS57).
San Francisco, May 15. Politician James Casey lynched after murdering James King, crusading reformist editor.
Kansas Territory. May 21. Lawrence looted and sacked by pro-slavery forces; one man killed (-Aug. 30).
Bloomington, Illinois, May 29. In a speech. Abraham Lincoln says. "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the lime, hut you can't fool all of the people all of the time."
Boston, May. Emulating large European music festivals, first American festival consists of a chorus of 600 and an orchestra of 78.
Cincinnati, June 6. Democrats end week-long national convention, nominating James Buchanan for president and John C. Breckinridgc for vice president (~*Nov. 4)
Illinois. Sept. 21. Illinois Central Railroad completed between Chicago and Cairo: longest in country with 700 miles of track.
Chicago. Railroad companies employ telegraph to aid engineers and operators.
Terre Haute. Indiana. T.T. Woodruff patents three-tiered berth railroad car; Andrew Carnegie is principal investor.
Richmond, Virginia. Editorial in Examiner is first to warn that fundamental social and economic differences between North and South may lead to civil conflict.
New York City. Freeman Hunt, author of Wealth ami Wurth, predicts that business will become a form of culture.

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1856-O Double Eagle - New Orleans Mint - Double Eagles
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