The largest ever regular issue United States coin was the twenty dollar coin and came about following the discovery of massive gold reserves in 1848 California. It was called the $20 “double eagle” because the $10 coin, first minted in 1795, was known as the “eagle”.(1)
The first $20 double eagle type was designed by Mint Engraver James B. Longacre. The obverse featured Liberty facing left, wearing a small crown called a coronet, inscribed with the word LIBERTY. The reverse was patterned after the Great Seal of the United States, which had been an inspiration for U.S. coinage since 1797.
Numismatists have named the Longacre twenty dollar coin as the Coronet double eagle. It is often referred to as the Liberty Head type.
Production of Coronet double eagles at the New Orleans Mint commenced in 1850. Operations went fairly well from 1850-52, with annual mintages averaging over 215,000 pieces. Unfortunately, structural challenges that plagued the New Orleans facility since its opening in 1838 started taking a heavier toll.(2)
The building was constructed on unstable ground where long ago the Mississippi River once flowed. The former riverbed provided an unstable foundation for such a heavy facility, promoting settling issues, leaving the Mint is a state of disrepair and in need of large-scale renovations.
Remediations began in 1854 and continued until 1861, when the facility was closed at the start of the Civil War. Double eagle production declined steeply during this period, with mintages falling below the 40,000 level. In 1854, 1855, 1856, 1859, and 1860, production never topped 10,000 pieces.
Double eagles struck at the New Orleans Mint from 1854 to 1861 are among the most prized possessions for collectors. Of this group, the 1855-O double eagle ranks only slightly lower than the fabled 1854-O and the 1856-O. Only 132 examples of the 1855-O are thought to survive today.(3)
Fascinating Fact: The known supply of 1855-O Coronet $20 double eagles increased by three pieces in 2003 with the discovery of the S.S. Republic shipwreck.(4) The sidewheel steamer, laden with $400,000 in gold and silver coins, was lost in a hurricane off the coast of Georgia in October 1865.(5)
The 1855-O double eagle has a magnificent value trend record dating back as far as the eye can see. This is to be expected for one of the rarest coins issued from the oft-romanticized New Orleans Mint.
|Estimated survivors in all grades: 132
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
|PCGS Rarity Scale: 7.6
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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|Trendline Avg = 16.51||GOOD|
Historic Value Trend Charts:
|Last updated 9-13-23||Return to Key Date Coin List|
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