Starting in 1854, $20 double eagle production at the New Orleans Mint plummeted. After the San Francisco Mint commenced operations that same year, bullion supplies were limited because gold from the California mines was not flowing into New Orleans as it once did. Additionally, the southern mint was chronically plagued by structural issues to the facility, resulting in work stoppages for repairs.(1)
Double eagle production at the New Orleans mint continued to slump throughout the rest of the 1850’s and into 1861, when the minting operations were halted a few weeks after the opening salvos of the Civil War. The facility reopened for coinage in 1879.(2)
With a mintage of 30,000 and survivorship of approximately 209 examples, the 1857-O isn’t the rarest of NOLA double eagles from the pre-Civil War era, but is difficult to obtain in any grade.
There have a been a couple of occasions in modern times when the existing supply of 1857-O double eagles has increased. In the early 1990’s, a hoard of 40-50 examples surfaced in Europe. These were promptly gobbled up by hungry collectors.(3)
In 2003, the shipwreck of the S.S. Republic was found 100 miles off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The ship went down in 1865 during a hurricane, carrying $400,000 in gold and silver coins.(4) Salvage operations recovered four 1857-O double eagles, including one specimen ranking among the finest known for this date.(5)
Anytime a rare New Orleans $20 double eagle is placed on the market, collectors worldwide pay attention. Ironically, these same coins were largely ignored for many years, before interest in mintmarks gained traction.
When President Franklin Roosevelt’s Gold Recall order in 1933 went into effect forbidding private ownership of gold, “coins having recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins" were exempted.(6) Coins with certain mintmarks, including the New Orleans double eagles, were legal to own because of their obvious scarcity. Consequently, their popularity (and values) rose rapidly.(7)
Impressive price trends over the last many decades confirms the desirability of the 1857-O continues steadily.
|Estimated survivors in all grades: 209
? 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: 6.9
? 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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