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LIBERTY HEAD DOUBLE EALGES (1849-1907)

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

1861-O Double Eagle

1861-O Double Eagle

The 1861-O Double Eagle is a Type 1 Liberty Head or Liberty Head, No Motto. Made from 1849 to 1866, No Motto Liberty Heads are different from the next type in that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST has not yet been added. James B. Longacre designed the Liberty Head double eagle. Its obverse shows a profile of Liberty facing left wearing an inscribed coronet. Her hair is tied in the back, and two curls flow down her neck. Thirteen stars surround her and the date is below. Dentils are on both sides of the coin at the periphery.

The double eagle reverse shows a heraldic eagle with elaborate motto inscribed scrolls on both sides of the shield. The left one says E PLURIBUS, and UNUM is on the right. Since this design is the first double eagle, the scrolls were added to symbolize it. An oval of thirteen stars is above the eagle with an arc of rays from wing tip to wing tip behind the oval. The required inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above the eagle and the denomination TWENTY D. is below. The mintmark is between the tail feathers and the N of TWENTY.

Because of the large discoveries of gold in California in the late 1840’s, large quantities of gold were coming into the Mint for coinage. In 1849 Congress authorized the double eagle denomination. It was felt that a coin of this size would facilitate interbank and international transactions as well as large domestic ones. Weighing 33.44 grams, double eagles were comparable to the coinage in use in several Latin American countries.

Authorized to produce gold and silver, the New Orleans Mint struck quarter eagles and dimes in 1839. The New Orleans Mint operated from 1838 to 1909. In that time period 427 million silver and gold coins with the O mintmark were coined. By the mid 1850’s denominations made in New Orleans included three cent silver pieces, half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars, silver dollars, gold dollars, quarter eagles, three dollar pieces, half eagles, eagles, and double eagles. The first deposit was of Mexican dollars which amounted to more than 32,400 dollars. The first coins struck were Liberty Seated Dimes. Each year between the beginning of August and the end of November, the mint closed because of the annual outbreak of yellow fever.

During the Civil War the New Orleans Mint was held by the Confederacy and used to produce its coinage. It was the only mint to produce uniquely identifiable Confederate coinage, the 1861 half dollar with Confederate reverse and the copper-nickel cent of the same year. In 1862 the New Orleans Mint was captured by United States Marines commanded by Commodore David Farragut and closed as a minting facility.

Although it is impossible to tell with any certainty because they were made from the same dies, it is likely that most of the 1861-O coins were made when the Mint was under the control of the Confederacy. Most likely those made by the Confederacy are the ones showing weakness at the base of the date.

The 1861-O Double Eagle is a rare coin in any condition. In their population reports, both major grading services have certified a total of 213 coins in all grades. Of course this number does not account for crossovers and resubmissions.



Double Eagles for Sale


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